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Review: Incursion #4

Incursion #4

In Incursion #4, it’s time for the boss battle: Eternal Warrior vs. Imperatrix Virago! Young Tama’s life hangs in the balance during this otherworldly battle. Will she survive, or will the Earth need to choose a new Geomancer? It’s the epic conclusion of Valiant‘s miniseries.

My first question when starting this comic was whether it would be as good as the previous issues. A series that has, for my money* has been one of the best things Valiant have published in awhile.

Incursion is about an alien ivader Imperatrix Virago. She’s a being who extends her life span by devouring the life energy of planets and uses reanimated corpses as her armies. She has fatally poisoned Tama, the Geomancer – the voice of the Earth; and the Eternal Warrior’s quest to save the Tama, and consequently the world.

But there’s a lot more to it than that; Incursion isn’t just a battle to save Tama’s life; it’s also a story about saving two souls. It’s a story about an immortal guardian and his mortal charge. But it’s also story about family.

The finale of this series gives us three or four stunning set pieces. Each had me at the edge of my seat for most of the twenty odd pages of the comic. It’s capped off with an epilogue that serves to tie up the story. It also sets the stage for Gilad Anni-Padda and the Earth going forward. In other words, Incursion #4 is one of the best concluding chapters to a miniseries that I have read from any publisher in some time; delivering on and frequently exceeding expectations in both the writing and art.

Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel  have crafted a wonderful story that will likely end up among my top five Valiant stories once I’ve given it some time to soak my brain after the third of fourth reading. The relationships between the protagonists, the oddly tender moments from Gilad and the line that had me grinning early in the comic that opened with “I’m Gilad…” were like the sprinkles on a chocolate strawberry. But that’s not to say that there isn’t any action here; as one would expect from the finale of any story featuring such brutal combat as Incursion, there are several great fight sequences within the comic.

The art, and the fight choreography, once again is phenomenal. Doug Braithwaite must be one of the most consistently brilliant artists in comics; his near photo-realistic facial expressions add a level of emotional understanding that you instinctively grasp; Braithwaite’s work means that Diggle and Paknadel don’t need to spoon feed you the story, which means that the words they use have a greater impact because of the lack of over saturation.

Incursion #4 rounds out a fantastic four issue series, one that keeps the stakes high in regarding the consequences of Gilad’s failure, but never once feels as though he has any choice but to act (almost) alone. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and hope that we get to experience the next step on the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer’s journey very soon.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel Art: Doug Braithwaite
Colours: Diego Rodriguez and Leonardo Paciarotti
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

*because despite getting access to the review pdfs I will still buy then floppies.

Review: Incursion #3

The cosmic and supernatural sides of the Valiant Universe collide on Earth! Oh my!

Having crossed over into the Deadside, the Eternal Warrior comes face to face with Syntilla, the young girl who poisoned Tama on behalf of her master. Will the Eternal Warrior save his young charge or will the world suffer another catastrophic loss? Meanwhile, Doctor Mirage and Hwen do their best to keep Tama alive. Will the doctors find the right medicine or will the young Geomancer perish before help arrives? There is only one world left to conquer…

In the interest of full disclosure, I actually went into this comic expecting it to be a touch lower in quality than the first two because the first half of this series was remarkable. I was wrong – so far three out of four issues of Incursion are rating at a Must Buy for me.

The broader story centers around Imperatrix Virago, a necromancer who devours the life energy of planets and uses reanimated corpses as her armies; and the Eternal Warrior’s quest to save the Geomancer – a young girl who has been poisoned by the Imperatrix from succumbing to the sickness that rages through her.

To do this, Gilad Anni-Padda cut through the Deadside and Virago’s legions to find the one person that could save the Geomancer. Incursion #3 diverges a little from the action packed second issue to bring us a little more exposition and fewer scenes where Gilad is hacking apart soldiers. The balance between the plot progression and the action is struck perfectly, with each serving to crank the tension of the series as a whole up higher and higher.

Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel  have crafted a story that is on pace to be one of the very best Valiant have to offer. Which brings me to an aspect of the comic that is unlikely to be missed; the dialogue between Gilad and Doctor Mirage. It’s incredibly well written, with each character clearly owning their own voice, culminating in an almost terrifying question for the Valiant universe (though the answer, one can argue, can be gleaned from The Valiant).

The art once again is phenomenal. Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez are a wonderfully complimentary pair, with each bringing their A game to a comic that has an ethereal beauty. There are fine details from Braithwaite that Rodriguez highlights that seem almost too subtle to be intentional. The look in Gilad’s eyes after his final confrontation (this issue) is oddly haunting. Once again, this comic is packed with subtle visual details that enhance the story.

With Incursion #3, Diggle and Paknadel et al have delivered upon the promise of the first half of the miniseries, and use the penultimate issue to set up an explosively powerful conclusion that could very well leave readers with something to think about long after the final page has been turned (speculation, obviously, but this series feel much more personal than it should given the stakes involved).

Incursion #3 is, once again a great comic. With one issue to go, there’s a better than average chance that this will be hailed as one of Valiant’s top offerings from the last couple of years.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel Art: Doug Braithwaite
Colours: Diego Rodriguez Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Incursion #2

Incursion #2

There is only one world left to conquer…

Entire planets have suffered and died at the cold, close-fisted hands of the alien Imperatrix Virago – and now her gruesome sights are set on our world. As Earth’s chosen protector, the Geomancer named Tama fights for her life, while the Eternal Warrior goes on the ultimate mission through the perilous realm of the Deadside to find the secret to saving her…and the entire planet in the process.

This is an exciting time for Valiant. The long anticipated The Life and Death of Toyo Harada is due to hit shelves any day now, Livewire is beginning to pick up steam, and The Forgotten Queen is looking to be a sleeper hit. But it’s Incursion that has this reviewer most excited; chiefly because it features Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior (though I can’t deny LADOTH isn’t high on my list, either).

Conveniently enough, Incursion is what we’re talking about today, and, spoiler alert, it’s pretty freaking great.

Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel  wasted no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the story in the first issue, and they keep the plot rolling here at a steady pace. Picking up almost immediately after the conclusion of the first issue, we follow Gilad as he seeks aid for Tama’s condition. The ensuing scenes show a subtly touchy (and touching) Gilad as he fusses over the young Geomancer, with his advanced years and experience showing through in an interesting, yet almost throwaway line about the sound of dry leaves over flagstones. Which brings me to an aspect of the comic that could easily be over looked; the dialogue between Gilad and Doctor Mirage. It’s incredibly well written, with each character clearly owning their own voice, culminating in an almost terrifying question for the Valiant universe (though the answer, one can argue, can be gleaned from The Valiant).

The reason the dialogue can be over looked so easily is because Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez are working with an almost symbiotic relationship – there are fine details from Braithwaite that Rodriguez highlights that seem almost too subtle to be intentional. The furrow in Gilad’s brow when he’s leaning over Tama, the concern in Doctor Mirage’s eyes… and the gradual scrapes and tears to Gilad’s clothing. Subtle details that add more to the story than you’d expect.

Up until this point, I’ve only been talking about the first nine pages of the comic; there’s a lot of comic here to dissect, a lot of comic to absorb – you certainly get a good bang for your buck here. The rest of the comic remains at a consistently high quality level, although there are moments of pure brilliance sprinkled throughout – whether it is from the art, the dialogue or the plot as a whole, this comic offers something very special.

If you wondered, you don’t need to be a Valiant fan to enjoy this story (of course, it helps). You can read this easily as a standalone story because the creative team are able to easily impart the depth of Gilad and Tama’s relationship and the weight it bears. The stakes in the comic are world-endingly high, but because the central pillar of the story is the relationship between Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior, the one against many nature of the story doesn’t seem out of place or conceited. It feels just right.

Incursion #2 is, once again a great comic. The series is on pace to end up as one of my very favorite Valiant stories – and certainly one of Valiant’s very best.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Diego Rodriguez
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: Incursion #2

Incursion #2

There is only one world left to conquer…

Entire planets have suffered and died at the cold, close-fisted hands of the alien Imperatrix Virago – and now her gruesome sights are set on our world. As Earth’s chosen protector, the Geomancer named Tama fights for her life, while the Eternal Warrior goes on the ultimate mission through the perilous realm of the Deadside to find the secret to saving her…and the entire planet in the process.

This is an exciting time for Valiant. The long anticipated The Life and Death of Toyo Harada is due to hit shelves any day now, Livewire is beginning to pick up steam, and The Forgotten Queen is looking to be a sleeper hit. But it’s Incursion that has this reviewer most excited; chiefly because it features Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior (though I can’t deny LADOTH isn’t high on my list, either).

Conveniently enough, Incursion is what we’re talking about today, and, spoiler alert, it’s pretty freaking great.

Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel  wasted no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the story in the first issue, and they keep the plot rolling here at a steady pace. Picking up almost immediately after the conclusion of the first issue, we follow Gilad as he seeks aid for Tama’s condition. The ensuing scenes show a subtly touchy (and touching) Gilad as he fusses over the young Geomancer, with his advanced years and experience showing through in an interesting, yet almost throwaway line about the sound of dry leaves over flagstones. Which brings me to an aspect of the comic that could easily be over looked; the dialogue between Gilad and Doctor Mirage. It’s incredibly well written, with each character clearly owning their own voice, culminating in an almost terrifying question for the Valiant universe (though the answer, one can argue, can be gleaned from The Valiant).

The reason the dialogue can be over looked so easily is because Doug Braithwaite and Diego Rodriguez are working with an almost symbiotic relationship – there are fine details from Braithwaite that Rodriguez highlights that seem almost too subtle to be intentional. The furrow in Gilad’s brow when he’s leaning over Tama, the concern in Doctor Mirage’s eyes… and the gradual scrapes and tears to Gilad’s clothing. Subtle details that add more to the story than you’d expect.

Up until this point, I’ve only been talking about the first nine pages of the comic; there’s a lot of comic here to dissect, a lot of comic to absorb – you certainly get a good bang for your buck here. The rest of the comic remains at a consistently high quality level, although there are moments of pure brilliance sprinkled throughout – whether it is from the art, the dialogue or the plot as a whole, this comic offers something very special.

If you wondered, you don’t need to be a Valiant fan to enjoy this story (of course, it helps). You can read this easily as a standalone story because the creative team are able to easily impart the depth of Gilad and Tama’s relationship and the weight it bears. The stakes in the comic are world-endingly high, but because the central pillar of the story is the relationship between Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior, the one against many nature of the story doesn’t seem out of place or conceited. It feels just right.

Incursion #2 is, once again a great comic. The series is on pace to end up as one of my very favorite Valiant stories – and certainly one of Valiant’s very best.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Diego Rodriguez
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Incursion #1

Limited event series! A new villain approaches!

Incursion #1

Beyond the margins of human reason lies a realm known as the Deadside, where the souls of the dearly departed linger – and where demons wait for us in the dark. For countless ages, Earth’s chosen protectors have guarded the veil between both worlds – but there are other doors to the Deadside, through which gruesome terrors from galaxies untold can trespass… With the planet’s freedom at stake, can the reigning Geomancer and her steadfast Eternal Warrior stand together against an invasion unlike any they’ve ever witnessed?

The book that finally sold me on Valiant‘s comics was the 2016 Book of Death four issue mini series that focused primarily on the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer as the former sought to protect the latter from a mystical threat. The story still holds up today. Needless to say, when I saw the blurb and art for Incursion, I was excited to see the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer facing another threat – although this time slightly more alien in nature.

Andy Diggle, fresh of his run on Shadowman, takes the scripting helm here with Alex Paknadel  and wastes no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the following three issues. We don’t know a lot about the antagonist, yet, but what we do know is just enough to tantalize. The preview text (the first paragraph above) hints at an epic confrontation between the Geomancer, a person with the ability to commune with and utilize the powers of the Earth, and the Eternal Warrior, the Earth’s immortal champion, and a newly introduced antagonist who seems to hunger for life force in a way not too dissimilar to Marvel’s Galactus. However, by the time you’ll make the comparison, you’ll notice a very specific, and perhaps more horrifying, difference; where Galactus takes moments to devour a planet, Virago seems to take years (this is only a minor spoiler for the first few pages, which have been previously revealed in the back of other Valiant books or preview pages).

The writing duo have set up the following story wonderfully with a well paced opening that doesn’t fall into the familiar trap of too much exposition and not enough story progression. Instead we have a comic that’s about as complete a comic as any first issue can be; that is to it checks every box it needs to.

Speaking of checking the boxes, the comic is very nice to look at.  Doug Braithwaite‘s art seems to have very minimal inking, and based on the comic’s credits at the beginning, that’s because he penciled the book and Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez were on colour art duties. There’s no specific mention of an inker, nor is Braithwaite credited with anything other than penciling the book. I mention this because there’s a very soft edge to the art that works really well. With the definition feeling far more… I don’t want to say classical/high art style, but that’s exactly what it feels like.

I’m normally hesitant when it comes to multiple writers on the same project as in my experience aside from Eliot Rahal and Donny Cates on The Paybacks, the results are usually average at best. At best. With Incursion #1, however, Diggle and Paknadel have delivered a comic that’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be, if not more so. For some context, the series I’ve read featuring the Eternal Warrior as a prominent character (Book of Death and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) are some of my absolute favourite so my expectations are naturally higher for any comic with the character as a focal point. And yet, I loved this issue, and am happy to say that Incursion #1 is a great comic.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez 
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advance Review: Incursion #1

Limited event series! A new villain approaches!

Incursion #1

Beyond the margins of human reason lies a realm known as the Deadside, where the souls of the dearly departed linger – and where demons wait for us in the dark. For countless ages, Earth’s chosen protectors have guarded the veil between both worlds – but there are other doors to the Deadside, through which gruesome terrors from galaxies untold can trespass… With the planet’s freedom at stake, can the reigning Geomancer and her steadfast Eternal Warrior stand together against an invasion unlike any they’ve ever witnessed?

The book that finally sold me on Valiant‘s comics was the 2016 Book of Death four issue mini series that focused primarily on the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer as the former sought to protect the latter from a mystical threat. The story still holds up today. Needless to say, when I saw the blurb and art for Incursion, I was excited to see the Eternal Warrior and the Geomancer facing another threat – although this time slightly more alien in nature.

Andy Diggle, fresh of his run on Shadowman, takes the scripting helm here with Alex Paknadel  and wastes no time in establishing the threat and setting the tone for the following three issues. We don’t know a lot about the antagonist, yet, but what we do know is just enough to tantalize. The preview text (the first paragraph above) hints at an epic confrontation between the Geomancer, a person with the ability to commune with and utilize the powers of the Earth, and the Eternal Warrior, the Earth’s immortal champion, and a newly introduced antagonist who seems to hunger for life force in a way not too dissimilar to Marvel’s Galactus. However, by the time you’ll make the comparison, you’ll notice a very specific, and perhaps more horrifying, difference; where Galactus takes moments to devour a planet, Virago seems to take years (this is only a minor spoiler for the first few pages, which have been previously revealed in the back of other Valiant books or preview pages).

The writing duo have set up the following story wonderfully with a well paced opening that doesn’t fall into the familiar trap of too much exposition and not enough story progression. Instead we have a comic that’s about as complete a comic as any first issue can be; that is to it checks every box it needs to.

Speaking of checking the boxes, the comic is very nice to look at.  Doug Braithwaite‘s art seems to have very minimal inking, and based on the comic’s credits at the beginning, that’s because he penciled the book and Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez were on colour art duties. There’s no specific mention of an inker, nor is Braithwaite credited with anything other than penciling the book. I mention this because there’s a very soft edge to the art that works really well. With the definition feeling far more… I don’t want to say classical/high art style, but that’s exactly what it feels like.

I’m normally hesitant when it comes to multiple writers on the same project as in my experience aside from Eliot Rahal and Donny Cates on The Paybacks, the results are usually average at best. At best. With Incursion #1, however, Diggle and Paknadel have delivered a comic that’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be, if not more so. For some context, the series I’ve read featuring the Eternal Warrior as a prominent character (Book of Death and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) are some of my absolute favourite so my expectations are naturally higher for any comic with the character as a focal point. And yet, I loved this issue, and am happy to say that Incursion #1 is a great comic.

Story: Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel
 Pencils: Doug Braithwaite 
Colours: Jose Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez 
Letters: Marshal Dillon 
Story: 9.3 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: B.E.K: Black Eyed Kids #1

STL000944This issue sets out to establish tone more than anything else. Focusing on a young sleepwalking boy named Michael, the story also encompasses locals noticing the appearance of black-eyed kids (yes, even if it’s in the title, I still have to say it) as they make their presence known in the community.

Mostly just by walking around being black-eyed kids.

This book is #1.99. In an era of rising prices, with DC and Marvel hitting the $4.99 mark, $1.99 is a big deal. So, here’s the $1.99 review: This book is a fast read that delivers on its creepy-kid concept. It’s dark and doesn’t shy away from violence. Hopefully once the story builds, this horror concept will make this a gripping book. For $1.99, it is well worth the investment and the fun.

Here’s the review without any consideration of price: The book is called Black Eyed Kids and it delivers that and only that. Who are the black eyed kids? They’re… the kids with black eyes. What do they want? I… I don’t know. Who’s Michael? Well, he’s the main character, I guess, which is to say he’s the only character who has his name said more than once. He sleeps walks and has a sister and neither of those statements are always true.

So, the problem is, if you aren’t holding that book in your hand aware of what an amazing deal you got it… if you’re one of those people who grabs a stack of books and pays for them without knowing what each one cost… you’re going to feel gypped. This book fails to go much further than its pitch. Actually, it doesn’t get that far because a pitch usually has a twist or a plot summary. This is somebody saying, “I read a creepy pasta about kids with black eyes and I think I know someone who could draw that.”

That sounds super cynical. Maybe it is. When I started buying comics they were a dollar. If Magneto bloviated through most of the issue, it didn’t matter, it was drawn by Jim Lee and I’d only spent a dollar. If the artist broke his hand halfway through but kept drawing, it didn’t matter because it was only a dollar. If it was ridiculous that Batman was fighting a guy with marionette, it didn’t matter because it was a dollar. The era of rising prices means we get to demand more from comic books. Marvel and DC see it as a way to cover their losses, not an obligation to match their quality to their price.

It’s not a bad thing to say B.E.K.: Black Eyed Kids #1 is $1.99 and worth every penny. It’s a good thing. We’re supposed to be able to pick up a bunch of comics for $20 and go home and enjoy them, not four books for $20 that “pave the way” to a tie-in to a movie based on a story I’ve already spent $50 on!

Sorry… Back on topic.

Pick this book up and enjoy it. It’s only $1.99!

Disagree? Thing I’m old because of what comics used to cost? Care to tell me how much they were when you started buying? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter.

Story: Guy Major Art: Marshal Dillon
Story: 5 Art: 7 Overall: 6 Recommendation: Buy (Seriously, just do it!)

Aftershock Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review