When Valiant announced they were bringing back the Eternal Warrior Gilad Anni-Padda, I was pretty darn excited. A man who lives forever and constantly fights isn’t the most original idea ever (see also DC’s Vandal Savage), but that doesn’t really diminish the coolness of the concept, or Valiant’s general dedication to quality. The team of Greg Pak and Trevor Hairsine was just a cherry on top, and generally, the writer and artist don’t disappoint in this inaugural issue.
Pak’s writing, however, is a bit frustrating. Much was made in the run-up to this release about how it’ll focus on Gilad turning his back on his destiny as the Fist and Steel of Earth. This was the big angle that would set this iteration of the series apart from what’s come before. And it’s there — but it’s given two or three caption boxes, and that’s it. None of the actual action of the comic revolves around Gilad deciding to retire, and there isn’t even really a hint that there’s a mystery there to be explored in coming issues, though I certainly hope Pak is planning to reveal the story as the series goes on.
So if that angle is off the table, what’s the comic actually about? Well, it spends a lot of time on Xaran, Gilad’s daughter from way back in Mesopotamian times. She’s a complex character, who chafes under a society that dismisses women warriors but is driven by a dark and brutal bloodlust. I certainly appreciate the fact that Pak refuses to fall prey to the noble shield-maiden stereotype, which readers have seen a thousand times. The trouble is that the comic can’t seem to show both these sides simultaneously. As the book starts, she’s an Eowyn-like frustrated warrioress; in the middle she’s suddenly a bloodthirsty villainess calling for the slaughter of children and opposed by her father and brother; and at the end, she’s apparently a would-be heroine who’s tried to keep the world safe in her father’s absence. It’s jarring, but it also creates a mystery that’s much more intriguing than that of the title character.
If the plotting is a bit frustrating, Trevor Hairsine is doing fantastic work on the art. His frames are violent, dynamic and powerful, with plenty of gory detail where necessary. Some of them reach levels of real beauty in their composition. Hairsine has clearly put a lot of time and effort into the art, and hopefully this is a sign of Valiant’s dedication to the book.
The publisher’s dedication will be the ultimate test for “Eternal Warrior.” It has a bit of a rocky start, but it shows a lot of promise. I’m a big fan of Greg Pak, and like everybody else I really want to see him teaming up with Fred Van Lente again now that they’re both playing in the Valiant Universe. This book could be awesome, depending on whether it can get over its first-issue awkwardness and give itself the room it needs to really explore the inner life of its title character. And more Trevor Hairsine art of him chopping off people’s arms.