New Japan has gone to hell and it is up to Rai and his comrades to put an end to its despotic ruler before the entire citizenry pays the price. How does it continue? Check out our spoiler-free review.
Written by Matt Kindt
Illustrated by Clayton Crain
The most ambitious comics event of 2016 brings war to the 41st century – with Rai leading the charge! Rai is smashing headfirst into New Japan with his team of hardened rebels including the Eternal Warrior and a giant X-O Manowar mech-armor that’s been dormant for centuries! But when Father transforms New Japan into an impenetrable space dragon as a defense of last resort, what hopes will the united heroes of 4001 A.D. have of freeing the citizens of New Japan from Father’s brutal reign? Will Rai have to destroy New Japan?to save it? New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (DIVINITY II) and superstar artist Clayton Crain (X-Force) bring their startling vision of the year 4001 A.D. to new heights?with the fate of New Japan floating in the balance!
If “4001 A.D. #1” was all about catching new readers up to speed with the going-ons in this side of the Valiant Universe, then issue #2 is about hitting full throttle on the action with Rai, Eternal Warrior and Lemur in the reactivated X-O Mech vs. the transformed New Japan Robo Dragon Thing. And when I say “full throttle” I do mean that, the majority of this issue is action. Perhaps a bit too much action. There is a giant battle in this issue and the beginnings of the next battle, with scant, and I mean really scant character work in between It actually started me thinking on something that I have meant to talk about in further detail.
Over the last few years of reading and watching Valiant grow and push what you can do with the superhero genre, there has been something I have noticed. Many, many, many of their story arcs are four issue arcs. It is to the point that I am curious if there is some mandate at Valiant that requires story arcs to be that length since it makes for a decent sized collection. I am not necessarily saying that is a bad thing; four issues can make for a nice story… if the story calls for that. Because I have seen in the past with some Valiant stories -such as “Imperium: The Vine Imperative”, “Ninjak: The Shadow Wars”, “Rai: Battle for New Japan” and even Valiant’s last event “Book of Death”- where it’s a four-issue arc but really felt like it should have been five issues to give it proper time to breath.
I say this because with the very quick nature of this issue I began to get the same feeling. It’s all good action in the blockbuster-ey way, but I fear it will come at the expense of character work. There is a scene in this issue, a more quiet scene, where it asked you to have an emotional response to it, but I cannot help but think of this from the perspective of a reader who did jump on with the beginning of the series and not achieve that response. Even when I consider the twelve “Rai” issues that led up to this, it still felt lacking because we as readers barely knew this character. Kindt tries to remedy this with a few panels of flashback and narration, but it feels a bit token. The necessity for action undermining deep character moments isn’t as egregious here as it was in “Uncanny Inhumans #9” last week, but I won’t lie when I say I feel like it happens here.
There is some other small moments, like Father commanding from his citadel at the “top” of New Japan. Him coldly choosing one Sector over another to jettison by a mere discrepancy in population count all the while insisting that Rai pushed him to this, all the while willfully ignorant that he could stop this at any time he wanted. It is more of the culmination of Father beginning to crack, showing very human emotion after millennia trying to understand it.Continued below
Like I said before, it’s not bad action at work and Clayton Crain’s artwork is pretty on point. Such a heavy painting style could run the risk of being static, but there has always been a fluidity in Crain’s work and how he shapes people and creatures that does help create such chaotic action scenes. Having said that, there is some trouble with character expression. Going back to the aforementioned, trying to get an emotional response from your audience is made more difficult when some of the character expressions are a bit muddled. Like, we should see the responses of other characters from this event to be what is supposed to be sadness, but the art doesn’t make a clear scene of that. And Crain will choose to zoom out for greater perspective, making character expressions a bit more difficult to ascertain.
“4001 A.D. #2” is not a bad issue. It has great action, nice art for the most part, well-done dialogue. But it is like those action scenes in blockbuster movies that can run a bit too long. Especially when you consider we are now halfway through this event and, looking at it through as its own stand-alone story, has been a bit anemic on the character development for a good chunk of a pretty expansive cast. I sincerely hope this near-breakneck speed at which this series is going isn’t going to cost the book, and Valiant, in the long run. It’s a bridging issue, which can be fun even when they are a bit frustrating.
Final Verdict: 6.7 – Some pretty decent action with nice, fluid artwork but with the problem that the character work feels secondary.
“4001 A.D. #2” will be released June 1.