Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Amilcar Pinna
Colours: Ulises Arreola
Lettering: Jeff Powel
Release Date: 27th March 2019
Vexanna The War-Monger was a foul-mouthed, sarcastic, blood-lusting badass introduced in Matt Kindt’s Unity run (a personal favourite of mine). She was an immortal force of chaos, unable to be killed and always making a mockery of the Unity team until they figured out some creative way to kill her or keep her immobilized for a while.
Now up-and-coming comics superstar Tini Howard is working alongside Vexanna’s original character designer Amilcar Pinna to draw on both the character’s past and present predicament to kick off a whole new story, suitable for readers old and new alike, which proves once again that Valiant’s villains are some of the most captivating on the market.
Split between two different periods, this first issue spends half of its time in the present day, telling the story of a group of marine biologists on research vessel far out in the ocean. A typically ordinary crew, who have been paid an exorbitant amount of money by an anonymous investor to recover some particular lost artefacts buried on the sea floor. While the importance of this location is obviously well-known to those familiar with her exploits in Unity, it’s a good piece of intrigue for those new to character, and for continuing readers it helps set up another layer of mystery with the identity of the investors and their particular interest in this location.
In the other half of the comic, Howard spins a whole new tale of the War-Monger’s adventures during Genghis Khan’s reign, and the glory of the Mongol Empire. Immortal and bored, Vexanna comes to Khan in the hopes of working together with the warlord for some much needed bloodshed, and maybe even looking for a worthy opponent. And when she does meet the one person who could be worthy, what does this mean for Vexanna?
This tale of Vexanna in Mongol empire is designed and executed impressively as an introduction to the character, as well the start of a great story. Her first meeting with the Khan and the way she instantly asserts her power over him is brilliantly done. In these scenes, we are told of her origins and her powers, and are keenly introduced to her mannerisms, ideologies, wit, sarcasm, and everything else you’ll love about this equally wonderful, wild, assertive and laissez-faire character.
What’s more, with Howard’s seemingly instant mastery of this character, this introduction is never boring, with Howard’s own distinctive voice within the narration serving as another fantastic guide to Vexanna’s character and the powers that be.
Equally measured in the strength of this opening issue is Amilcar Pinna’s art. Unique and distinct even among Valiant’s current crop of talent, Pinna brings a brilliant mix of traditional comic artistry and an almost painterly approach. It works beautifully in the strong and expressive character profiles, and well as helping to deliver some of the best swords and sorcery artwork on the shelves. It makes the Mongol-era parts of the story so much stronger through this deftness alone, and there’s a definite feeling that Pinna would knock it out of the park just as much on a Conan or Red Sonja comic.
While acting as purely an opening for the story to come, and an introduction to this character, The Forgotten Queen #1 sells itself gracefully on the strength on Howard’s writing and Pinna’s artwork. And with the seeds planted and the characters established, the cliff-hanger this issue ends on leaves me incredibly excited to see just where this story is headed.
The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP