By Robert Venditti, Raul Allen, and Patricia Martin.
“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”
― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior is a very different series (both stylistically and in scope) than what many long-time Valiant readers and fans have traditionally come to expect. It is certainly a departure from what has been seen in the past with Gilad-centric stories. Some fans have complained about the story and/or artistic style; however, it is important to judge a book such as this for what it actually is, as opposed to what one expects it to be.
Judged on its own, as a story, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior explores a spiritual aspect of its protagonist, that has not been previously explored. While there has certainly been blood, gore, and an abundance of wrath, writer Robert Venditti’s story (as has been true with a number of Valiant’s story arcs) has focused more on the character and motivations of Gilad as opposed to his actions by themselves. He is building a level of background depth to Gilad so that readers get to know, understand, and connect with on an emotional level that has at times been difficult to do.
This is a bold, but necessary move that must occur if Valiant’s tier-one characters are to grow. Venditti is clearly the right man for the job, as he has a history and understanding of Gilad that most writers simply do not. It should also be noted that writer Jeff Lemire’s work on The Valiant and Bloodshot: Reborn did the exact same thing on Bloodshot with Ray as a character, and writer Matt Kindt has also worked the same magic with his run on Ninjak with Colin King as a character. Valiant is clearly building and expanding their universe in both breadth and depth with the release of each new title. As a result of this focus, Venditti’s story for Wrath of the Eternal Warrior is less about smashing skulls (which he certainly does) and more about the man who is the Eternal Warrior and what compels him to be the hero that he must be. It is a story that deals with the concepts of duty to self, family, and humankind, as well as the contradictions that exist with split loyalties where each must weigh his or her own comforts against what they believe is the greater good (see also, ethics: utilitarianism). This also comes in the wake of 2015’s Book of Death and the recent releases of Ninjak: Operation Deadside and The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives where Valiant has made a noticeable shift towards exploring elements of spirituality, magic, and the afterlife. Wrath of the Eternal Warrior matches that same movement, so its focus and content should not come as a shock to readers and/or fans.
Within this context, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #4 is an enjoyable read, and one that will work well when released as a trade paperback as issues #1 through #4 seamlessly blend together, with the end of #4 being a clearly defined break between the first story arc issue and the next.
Artistically, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #4 (identical to issues #1 through #3) is drawn and colored with a simple but effective style that has certainly appeared throughout the history of comics, but has not been particularly common in the pages of Valiant. Artist Raul Allen’s work is a departure from what longtime Valiant readers and fans have come expect; but this statement should not in any way be taken in a negative way. Allen’s style does a fantastic job matching the story; showing movement, emotion, and everything that matters most in this book. Allen’s artwork is quite good, with each page placing the spotlight on what is actually occurring and the characters involved. While the background is clearly present, Allen does not attempt to take anything away from the actions or events that are the center focus. Instead, he has used an effectively classic, no-frills art style that features an incredible mastery of shadows, light, and contrast. Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #4 is not intended to look “real” but rather it is intended to visually tell a story; a task which Allen achieves without overkill or excess.
Colors are vital to the success of Allen’s pencils and ink. Colorist Patricia Martin is a perfect match in every way with Allen. Martin takes a color (e.g. sky-blue, fire-red, electric-green, etc) and adjusts the saturation and/or hue slightly to where it absolutely works. Simultaneously the palette manages to appear uniquely different by the slightest of degrees to such a point where each page appears fresh and interesting. Martin further employs color-themes to each setting. While in the peaceful afterlife, the colors used are warm earth-tones; lush shades of green, browns, and golden-yellow. Events in Hell are initially cold, icy-blue with a lifeless feel and/or void-like appearance to show a sense of despair (with a strong use of shadows for the antagonist, as well as the contrasting of orange to create fire and heat during the battle, as well as yellow for blood)*. But perhaps the best used of colors is when Gilad awakes in a strange place with Martin employing only two to three colors at best to a magnificent effect. It is the color that sets the mood, and cues the reader to what location Gilad has found himself in. It is the colors that provide the feel and transition from one world to another. Well done to both Allen and Martin! In the same artistic style and tradition of artist Frank Miller’s Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #4 is much better than many might realize.
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #4 is the character-driven capstone chapter for a well crafted saga that explores the heart of the Eternal Warrior.