Written by Matt Kindt
Illustrated by Clayton Crain
The fall of the 41st century! The ultimate battle is here as Rai and Father clash among the stars for the final fate of the future?and Earth along with it! As New Japan’s despotic ruler and its former protector enter their final showdown, will the orbiting satellite nation finally fall back to Earth? As the war for 4001 A.D. claims lives on both sides, who will live to greet the brave new world that lies ahead? And what will become of Rai, of Father, and civilization itself? The Valiant Universe of 4001 A.D. is forever changed right here as forces new and old prepare to rise from the ashes of New Japan! New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (DIVINITY II) and superstar artist Clayton Crain (RAI) present the white-hot finale to Valiant’s biggest event yet!
We come now, at last, to the conclusion of “4001 A.D.”. Twelve issues, four one-shots, four “Rai” issues, and the four issues of the main series. It has been a very bumpy road, with some good highs and some damning lows. All of it has led up to this final write up. Now, strap in, readers, because I’m going to break down the good and bad things about not only this issue, but this event as a whole.
That is actually where I am going to have to start with. Event. This is the fourth -what I would consider- “event comic” that Valiant has done in as many years and the diminishing returns of it have really begun to settle in. “Harbinger Wars”, one could argue only needed to be a crossover between Harbinger and Bloodshot. I’d argue that we got a complete story within the mini-series proper, but you could make the argument. “Armor Hunters” felt like an event. Like, the lid was blown off the Valiant Universe and now all the world knew about these superpowered individuals. But then “Book of Death” came along and, in hindsight, didn’t need tie-ins (despite one of those being a personal favorite of 2015 for me). And now “4001 A.D.”
To put simply: This did not need to be an event. It should have just been the last arc of Kindt/Crain’s “Rai” series (which, this really did feel like the conclusion to their run). This is the first time one of Valiant’s events felt like it was just a story arc that was expanded (or bloated) too a summer event level in order to have some Big Thing. And I have to say, with “Civil War II” being such an awful shit show on multiple levels, the biggest being interrupting the whole line of smaller stories, seeing this artificial expansion is concerning. Line wide events, tie-ins, appealing to the Wednesday Warrior direct market, they’re not the way of the future and seeing Valiant do this is just really disappointing.
And if it seems like I’m spending a lot of time talking about this is because, to be quite frank, there is not much to talk about in regards to “4001 A.D.” #4. The conclusion to this story is seen with the end of issue #3 as Rai deals the near final blow to Father and the various sections of New Japan come hurling down to Earth and the aftermath of the event. Matt Kindt gets to revisit several of the themes he explored throughout this 20+ issue run, including technological vs. natural, the importance of being well-informed, the importance of people being allowed to make their own choices and mistakes and so on. At the end, it is all left wide open. The future is unknown, as it should be for this re-fledgling humanity, having to start over again.
The big weakness here is that, because so much space is dedicated to visual recaps (even with a text recap page, as I’ve mentioned before) as well as the real final confrontation between Rai and Father, there is actually a very minimal amount of space for the aftermath. It’s very exposition heavy, with Lulu narrating and Crain being able to depict some very different, and very pretty, environments showing off the various groups of New Japan survivors trying to make new homes. Lulu’s narration does drive home the points, but most of New Japan citizenry outside of Lulu always felt static and-Continued below
Wait, hang on. Just typing that statement made me realize something: Whatever happened to Momo, the leader of the Positronic uprising during the leadup to 4001 A.D? She was a pretty big supporting character in the book (even smooched Rai, in a move that felt a bit out of nowhere) and I don’t seem to recall what happened to her. She and her cohorts just seemed to have fallen off the face of the Earth! Nothing at all in regards to the PTs is discussed in this issue at all, which is strange considering artificial intelligence and technology being big focuses of this series.
Clayton Crain’s artwork did get a bit muddy midway through this series, but he does end it strongly. Being allowed to depict a variety of different widescreen landscapes as opposed to cramped combat really shows off his skills of painting beautiful and weird places. Even the people in the second half are depicted a bit smoother and more lifeful, being able to finally get a respite after massive change. And, I got to admit, I have always been kind of up and down with the faces Crain gives his characters, but there’s this one near the end with Lulu in a big enough shot that we do get to see a lot through just expression. Her weariness mixed with a sense of hope and it is done with little to no words.
At the end of the day, this issue did help recover some of the midway slog it went through, even if it did have some pacing problems. But as I have said: on the whole, when I look at this event as a whole, I am beginning to see diminished returns when it comes to Valiant’s “events”. I’m grateful that the next big one, “Bloodshot U.S.A.”, is just its own thing, no tie-ins, no “Bloodshot Reborn” continuing parallel to it with a story that ends up to be unnecessary. Just keeping it simple.
Also, I never want to hear Jessica, Alice and James complain about having to review an entire event ever again. You had help.
Final Verdict: 7.2- The ending is predictable, but it does a good job depicting the end to Kindt and Crain’s time with 4001.