Review - Book of Death #1 (@ValiantComics)

"A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once."

It seems as if every publisher has a cadre of characters who are the upper echelon of that publisher's universe. And while the majority of the time they're on the same team, it's always exciting to mix things up every now and then by pitting them against one another. It's even more exciting when the stakes are alarmingly high, as they are in Book of Death #1 from Valiant Comics. The issue is written by Robert Venditti, illustrated by Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite, colored by David Baron and Brian Reber and lettered by Dave Lanphear.

The Valiant heroes. X-O Manowar. Bloodshot. Ninjak. The Harbinger Renegades. Unity. This is how they lived. This is how they died. Now we know. The Book of the Geomancer has recorded it all. But only a young girl - the last in a line of the enigmatic mystics who protect the Earth known as Geomancers - has seen this future come to pass, from the coming cataclysm to the dawn of the 41st century. Alone with her sworn protector, the Eternal Warrior - a soldier battle-forged across five thousand years of combat - the duo must defy their allies to stop the Dark Age that now threatens to eclipse our world. Together, they are the number one target of every hero and villain on Earth. Either the Eternal Warrior hands her over... or they take him down. But can even he single-handedly protect one child when the entire Valiant Universe wages war against him?

The Valiant universe has no shortage of courageous and capable fighters, but the Eternal Warrior might be the one who's truly seen it all. Venditti uses his history as a protector of Geomancers as a way of steeling him for what appears to be a battle against the entire Valiant universe. Most of the issue features those other heroes confronting Eternal Warrior about his decisions, as there's a tension when the confrontations occur surrounding his lone wolf mentality. A cloud of urgency is pervasive throughout the issue, as Venditti wastes little time impressing upon the reader that the stakes in the issue are alarmingly high, even by Valiant standards. Many of the books from Valiant bear a weight to them that reflects a "sky is falling" mentality in a way that's not overbearing, but extremely effective at ratcheting up the drama to stratospheric heights and Book of Death #1 is no exception.

For a book that features a lot of monologuing, Gill and Braithwaite do an excellent job of rendering pages that still feel as if they're action-packed. Familiar characters are easily recognizable and you'll find few artists who can meticulously display a swarm of ants in a way that looks terrifying. There are quite a few "hero shots" peppered throughout the issue that effectively convey the sheer force the heroes bring with them in any situation. For instance, Gill and Braithwaite depict X-O Manowar landing to meet with Eternal Warrior in a way that emphasizes the weight of his armor; he lands with a force that requires Eternal Warrior stand strong to avoid being knocked backwards from the impact. And the colors by Baron and Reber are strong, accenting the artwork through vibrant blues and greens in some settings and sharp yellows for others.

Book of Death #1 is a great first issue with characters who are immensely powerful. Valiant Comics is seemingly pulling out all the stops in the issue, preparing for what's shaping up to be an epic four-issue miniseries. Venditti does a fantastic job of setting the stage and introducing the reader to all the key players, pacing the issue methodically to prepare future tensions. The artwork is top-notch, with Gill and Braithwaite rendering characters who are expressive and ready to fight. Book of Death #1 is a strong first issue that both Valiant fans and those new to Valiant will definitely want to check out.

Book of Death #1 is in stores now.