When Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, was reintroduced in “Archer & Armstrong” earlier this year, the character was already on the right track. Defending and helping the Geomancers, the character’s fight to help Earth as a whole was a strong hook that was quickly laid out for readers. Two issues into “Eternal Warrior,” though, and this series feels a little off-track. I understand why Greg Pak, Trevor Hairsine and Clayton Crain present an Eternal Warrior who no longer wants to help Mother Earth, but it doesn’t make for the most riveting comic.
The archetypal story of the reluctant hero being coaxed out of retirement is a familiar trope, and maybe if this were the first glimpse of Gilad in the new Valiant, it would make sense to begin here. With the character already running around elsewhere, though, this sullen, grumpy, “I don’t want to help anyone” version of Gilad feels a tiny bit at odds with the depiction seen up until now. While Pak’s approach to the character is certainly legitimate, it’s also jarring.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s not the most exciting of renditions of the character. Two issues into the series and it’s hard to see why fans would want to keep reading about this guy. You understand why he decided to stop helping the Earth — the flashback to 1877 makes his walking away from his duties very understandable, with the whole “could you kill Hitler as a child?” chestnut dusted off — but it doesn’t change the fact that the title character of “Eternal Warrior” is more sour than a box full of lemons. It’s just not fun.
Hairsine’s art is very minimal here, and while I like its start nature, I feel like it’s also slightly at odds with Brian Reber’s colors. All the color gradients on Xaran’s face feel overly rendered; this should be a simple, flat color here to match Hairsine’s approach to the art, but instead it makes it feel like the colors are trying to make up for the clean and open faces. The end result is we’ve got two talented artists who just aren’t on the same page on how the book should look; either go for the very detailed and realistic approach, or stick with the simple and clean look, but not both. Interestingly enough it’s the portion of the book that Crain works on — an artist whose work sometimes feels a little too murky for my tastes — that I think is the winner, here. It serves as a good contrast to the modern-day portion, and there’s something about the deep, rich colors that Crain chose that make Oklahoma’s blue skies and yellowing grass that makes the entire thing burst to life. It’s a fun way to mark off the switch between time periods, and I’d love to see Crain do this for future issues.
“Eternal Warrior” #2 is a book that feels a little out of sorts, but not to the point where it’s a deal-killer. Overall, the new Valiant’s been doing a good job, so I’m willing to give it a couple more installments to hopefully shake the Eternal Eeyore version of the character. Most likely the second storyline will have Gilad back to his old self, but for now, this doesn’t feel that inviting.