If you haven’t finished The Book of Death, beware of spoilers because they’re coming up right after this sentence.
Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, has done the one thing he cannot do: died. The Book of Death was steeped in blood and horror that ultimately claimed the life of an immortal defender of the earth. So where do you go from there? Looking at Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, it’s apparent that you take a memory-infused trip into a potential afterlife filled with symbolism and unclear metaphors. That may sounds confusing (and it is a bit) but in the hands of writer Robert Venditti and artists Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, it’s really an opportunity to take a look inside Gilad’s life and gain some sympathy along with all of the action.
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #1 is an issue designed to be read as part of a whole. The premise, setting, and purpose of the series is hinted at, but nothing is truly clarified. From the start there’s a disconnect between time and space as Gilad’s story jumps from an encounter with demonic creatures to four distinct sequences of awakening. Reading this issue isn’t about following the plot but experiencing the life of one character, and the structure of the issue makes that clear.
Allen and Martin formulate a page layout that is repeated throughout the issue, always beginning on a single black panel, that situates readers within the headspace of Gilad. When his eyes open, so do theirs. It’s a clever way to simultaneously frame the point of view and cue readers into the dreamlike state of the comic. Even when the perspective shifts outside of Gilad’s headspace and shows him playing with his children, watching his son, and making love to his wife, it is his experience that feels most important.
That significance also comes through in how they frame Gilad’s form. He is almost always centered and it is his expressions and acting that comes across most clearly. The children present, with a single exception, are simply joyful to see their father. Their lives are defined by their relationship to him, possibly hinting at the unreality of what is occurring. Everything is real to Gilad though and his pain and consternation are clear on the pages.
Venditti’s choice to obscure the purpose of this series and its direction tempts fate, but he structures individual scenes so well that they provide ample encouragement to follow the story. Gilad’s interactions with his wife are touching and gentle. They hint at history that remains subtext, but has obviously been imagined. The action and horror that frames the softer moments of the issue also provide ample reason to stick around. If this truly is some form of afterlife, then Venditti has not disconnected it from hell. There are still battles to be fought and Allen and Martin have designed some otherworldly monsters to challenge the Eternal Warrior.
Whether Wrath of the Eternal Warrior represents a return to battle or a denouement for one of Valiant’s favorite heroes, it’s a series (like so many others from the publisher) that promises to be unlike anything else on comics stands. Venditti, Allen, and Martin are crafting a hallucinatory experience that invites readers to experience each level of this legendary protectors life. Even if the direction is unclear, the journey is promising and it’s advisable to stick close to Gilad as he walks beyond the veil of life.