by Greg Pak (Writer), Robert Gill, Victor Olazaba (Artists), Guy Major (Colorist)
The Story: It’s tough to refuse a request from a little girl, especially when said request is to kill a being who enslave people.
The Review: Opening an arc with a great hook is something that must be hard. To provide just enough intrigue, action and a direction that can sustain itself for a few issues is certainly something that must require a lot of thoughts and work. Still, what must be even harder is to continue in the same vein, with the same qualities and a consistency that makes the ongoing tale as interesting as it was in its beginning.
To say that this issue is as good as the previous one would be an unfortunate lie on my part. While there are indeed a lot of qualities to be found here, it seems that Greg Pak has the unfortunate task of trying to continue the world-building while at the same time bring a better focus on just who Gilad and Caroline are. While not as good as the opening, does this issue provide enough to make sure readers might want to continue with this arc?
One of the qualities that might ensure it is how Pak writes both Gilad and Caroline as well as their dynamics. The mix between brutality and kindness is fun to read in Gilad’s action and reaction, but it is even more so when it can also be seen in Caroline’s own. The bond between them and how they perceive and educate each other makes for a particularly effective duo, making them interesting but also utterly likable in the process. How Caroline reacts to the slave-trade, how Gilad tries to explain his plan and how everything goes makes for some great character moments, making this story as much about them as it is about the world of 4001 AD in the Valiant universe.
Another thing that is present in ways that is certainly entertaining is a huge deal of action. With plenty of fighting against slavers, huge robots and what-not, the warrior side of the character is reflected very well in the pages, with Pak writing him as kind of a force-of-nature of his own. The agility, violence and the mix between what he does how he is perceived through that and the general style of the action makes it definitely enjoyable.
What’s a bit less enjoyable, though, is the very minimal world-building here. While there are still some discoveries here and there in term of information, the manner in which Pak does so through dialogue instead of a more visual approach renders this aspect of this issue a tad disappointing considering how well done it had been previously. The way Big Town function, how its people live and the few key discoveries indicating an even larger scope to this arc makes the eventual revelations all that more intriguing, yet it isn’t as fascinating in its approach here. It’s decent, but certainly not great.
The art of Robert Gill here is also a bit of a step-down in terms of quality too. While certainly not incompetent in the slightest, the strength he had shown in the latest issue is almost without a presence here, with his atmospheric panels drowned in the sea of action to be found here. While his action is decidedly fluid thanks to a good method of switching focus and perspective, there is an inherent focalization on the cramped locale of Big Town that does not manage to give the same majesty and mystery that a more diversified locale might have given. His Big Town, though, is very aptly put together, with a good sense of composition and with some panels with a larger scope that proceed to present things in ways that manage to make this town a bit more impressive.
Where he seems to work a bit better, not losing his touch, is with the characters. Their emotions, poses and general demeanour are particularly efficient, especially with the action and their reactions to the Eternal Emperor. The way characters interact with each other, especially Gilad, looks very human, with anger, comprehension, playfulness and a good range of emotions being displayed in a manner that is visually correct and appealing.
What’s a little bit more disappointing is the colorization of Guy Major, who brings a certain lack of diversity that hurts the book a bit in the visual department. While his shading is subtle and particularly efficient, there is an over-emphasis on brown, grey, beige and a few types of warmer colors that doesn’t bring out the best in terms of clear contrasts. While there are some elements like the radioactive reactor and the robots that bring out some more colors to the dullness of Big Town, their presence aren’t particularly striking enough to provide that much of a difference. Guy Major is decent here and shows his talent, yet the palette simply doesn’t let him impress the readers that much.
The Conclusion: While not as impressive as the previous issue, this one does keep the readers interest thanks to some good characterization, some great action and enough material to provide more interest in the developing world of Valiant in 4001 AD. Good, though not great.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière