Valiant’s Book of Death event is off to an excellent start. The first two releases, Book of Death #1 and Fall of Bloodshot #1, were both fantastic issues and really set the bar high for the event overall. One of the more controversial aspects of this event, though, has been the inclusion of the four issue mini-series Legends of the Geomancer. This book is a 1:25 issue, meaning a comic shop had to order 25 issues of Book of Death #1 to receive one issue of Legends of the Geomancer #1.
Legends of the Geomancer offers fans a glimpse into the origins of the Geomancers, who are pivotal to the Valiant universe, especially in The Valiant and Book of Death. Unfortunately, due to the limited printing of this book some fans might have a difficult time tracking one down. For that reason we decided to wait a little while to launch our review of the first issue so we could also include a spoiler-filled synopsis for those of you who haven’t been able to locate a copy or didn’t want to pay the $30 price tag most sellers were asking, but still want to know about how the Geomancers came to be.
I really enjoyed this book. Fred Van Lente is a great writer. His work on Valiant’s Ivar, Timewalker is both intelligent and accessible. Unlike some writers out there, he is able to write an incredibly complex story, while also dumbing it down enough for us plebeians to understand. Legends of the Geomancer is rather simple when compared to the mind-bending adventures of Archer & Armstrong or Ivar, Timewalker, but that’s what the story calls for – so far, at least. Juan José Ryp’s art is unique and has this raw simplicity to it that lends itself nicely to Van Lente’s story. The characters are well designed and the set pieces are pretty incredible. Ryp does a great job making the world feel ancient, lived in, and dirty.
The book opens in ancient times with a wide shot of a nomadic tribe traveling across a dusty tundra. In the middle of the pack a wild boar leads a bound woman with blue and white hair. As they come to the edge of a village, the tribal chief’s herald announces the arrival of Nergal, the Noon-King. If they wish to survive, the village must pay tribute or be slaughtered by the tribe of Nergal.
Once the tribe enters the village they discover that the Earth has risen up against the villagers and enveloped them with roots, turning them into some sort of zombie trees. When they approach, roots shoot from the tree-zombies (trombies?) and begin wrapping around the terrified tribesmen. The trombies are only stopped when the tribe uses fired to burn the village to the ground. A member of the tribe blames the captured woman for turning the Earth against them and tries to attack her before being killed by Nergal, who’s herald reminds his tribe that she is to be sacrificed to the gods at the temple.
As they settle down for camp, a member of the tribe leave the fire and brings the woman, who used to be the shaman for the tribe, food. He thanks her for comforting his mother when she was sick. She tries to convince him to give her a weapon, but he is told to quit fraternizing by the herald who calls him Padda. Upon hearing his name the shaman introduces herself as Anni (will we finally learn the origins of the Anni-Padda brothers: Ivar, Armstrong, and Gilad?).
In the morning, the tribe begins ascending to the temple on the cliffs above. While climbing they are set upon by teratorns (think giant crows). The teratorns rarely work together, but have united against the tribe. The members of the tribe that weren’t hurled off the mountain to a horrible, rocky death, finally arrive at the temple.
As Anni’s head is placed on the stone table by the executioner she begins telling him that she sees his wife on the dead-side, and the Nergal seized her before she could lead her though to bliss. He raises the axe, but instead of beheading her he cuts the rope that bind her hands and asks her to send his wife a guide through the dead-side. She promptly sends the wife a guide by kicking the would-be executioner off the cliff. The issue ends with Anni, quite possibly the first of the Geomancers, jumping at the tribesmen with the executioner’s axe held high.
Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed this book. The creative team create a simple, well-told story, and it feels like they are setting up an extremely interesting story about some of Valiant’s most enigmatic characters. That being said, since this book is so rare and is going for around $30 for a relatively short story, the book might feel a little anti-climactic. Ultimately, I am happy my local comic shop ordered enough copies of Book of Death for me to get a surprise issue in my subscription box (I am one of the few Valiant readers at my shop so they saved me a copy).