Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Clayton Crain, David Mack
Release Date: May 4th 2016
I have to confess, at BCP towers I’m still a bit of a newb when it comes to Valiant’s content. And, as I slowly familiarise myself with their universe and characters I find myself consistently surprised by two things; just how polished and impressive their content is, and why people are not crying from the heavens about just how polished and impressive their content is. Honestly, it’s like comic’s best kept secret.
One of the (many) things that Valiant do in their line-up is an introduction in every issue. It’s a stunningly simple thing, but makes so much difference when you pick up one of their series. It gives you just enough background to the character and current story that you can read and enjoy the issue without feeling like you are missing out or stumbling around in the dark. I had only read volume 2 of Rai previously, so the four-issue gap between the end of ‘Battle For New Japan’ and ‘4001 AD’ is part of the summary as we begin this event series. Usually it’s a one page summary and that’s enough, but for 4001 AD we are spoiled. The three-page summary of Rai and New Japan’s background is gorgeously illustrated by David Mack. It’s almost like a statement of intent, and it definitely warrants your full attention.
It’s a wonderful thing when a writer and an artist gel. There is a kind of synergistic energy that is palpable in a comic when this happens, where the reader understands that there is something truly great in their hands, even if they can’t exactly pinpoint why. This is precisely the feeling that 4001 A.D. elicits, even from the first few panels. Matt Kindt opens with a couple of residents tracking a T-Rex in the Hunting Sector of New Japan, stalking the beast as Father talks to the New Japan Board of Directors. He is explaining why he’s just about to kill these people and how it pains him to do so. It’s a chilling monologue that hints just slightly of megalomania. There is no room for doubt here in the slightest, Father is a totalitarian ruler disguised as the benevolent servant of the people and he is in absolute control. He’s a fantastic antagonist, and the way Matt has portrayed him is both thrilling and creepy. He’s jettisoning whole sectors of New Japan, killing thousands, maintaining that this is the only way he can contain the virus in his systems, the only way he can save the people. All the while he is rationalising this to the Board (to himself?) that it’s for the greater good. It’s incredible.
We then catch up with Lula on the run from Father after dropping the virus into his systems. Matt’s writing continues to impress on how much control Father has in New Japan. Even when she does reach her parents safely they want to turn her in, believing Father to be benevolent and forgiving, and that this can all be sorted out amicably. The themes of control are constantly reinforced as the utopia/dystopia point is rammed into the reader. Meanwhile, Rai, Lemur and The Eternal Warrior are back on a dying Earth searching for something they hope will help them defeat Father and liberate New Japan.
Clayton Crain has been drawing Rai for the entire run, and looking at the level of detail in his drawings I really question whether he has time to do anything else. I jest, of course, but the point I’m trying to make is that the art is something that has to be seen to be appreciated. The first four pages we have dinosaurs on a spaceship; it’s downright nuts, but it’s so good. The hunting sector breaking away from the New Japan station where the sky rips open into deep space just looks … well … real. There is an incredible sense of verisimilitude and care in the drawing and it’s all beautifully coloured. It’s not just this scene in which Clayton gets to flex his creative muscles, he nails the dinosaurs, the space scenes, the neo-urban build-up of various sectors in New Japan, and the scorched landscape of Old Earth with a consistently high level of quality as standard. It’s a visual treat for the reader in conjunction with Matt Kindt’s great script.
I really am a little in awe of Valiant’s crossover event here, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I chose this title to review and I am so very glad that I have discovered this. As an introduction piece I have to say it’s pretty much flawless, anybody could pick this up and read it with no prior knowledge of the Valiantverse and thoroughly enjoy it. The writing and art are of the highest caliber and you can immediately tell that this will be a critical story, there will be a significance here to those familiar with the world of 4001 A.D. I think. And yet, at the same time, for people like me who are not completely up to date on the happenings here, this title is no less enjoyable. It’s an event story too, so I’m pretty sure that two other Valiant immortals – Armstrong and Bloodshot – are somewhere in this era and I’m sure they’ll pop up. So, while I wait for that to happen, I’m emailing my comic book retailer to get Rai Vol 1-3 added to my pull list.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom