The Eternal Warrior’s job is never ending, but what happens when he forgets to do his job?
Written by Robert Venditti
Illustrated by Renato Guedes
Colored by Ulises Arreola
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
Cover by Clayton Crain
It is a time before civilization…On the brink of carving out victory in the most violent battle of his life, Gilad Anni-Padda suffers a devastating injury. He awakens weeks later in a strange land, nursed back to health but with no memory of his past. A tribe has shown him compassion in an age of cruelty, and he will return their gift in kind. Now the real violence will begin…New York Times best-selling writer Robert Venditti (Hal Jordan & The Green Lantern Corps.) and acclaimed artist Renato Guedes (Bloodshot Reborn) lead a celebration of the Eternal Warrior’s 25th anniversary here with the second of four standalone specials honoring the most famous Valiant tales ever told!
Continuing with Valiant Comics’s qausi-25th anniversary one shots is “Eternal Warrior: Awakening.” Unlike last months “Immortal Brothers,” “Awakening” lacks referential novelty. Writer Robert Venditti and artist Renato Guedes instead get down to brass tacks and tell a quintessential story of the Earth’s Fist and Steel. While long time readers will likely get a feeling of sameness with “Awakening,” it provides an excellent encapsulation of the character for the fabled new reader. “Awakening” isn’t about ‘how’ the Warrior became the way he is, but the mythic nature of his existence.
As “Awakening” opens in ancient Mesopotamia, Gilad has forsaken his duties in lieu of new ones he isn’t nearly as good at. With this comic being a one shot, the necessity for efficient and synergistic storytelling is raised. There is a delicate balancing act of assumed and exposited knowledge that Venditti and company mostly get right and even justify some of normally clunky exposition. Venditti opening on Gilad in the role of idealized agrarian farmer in the middle of a drought is a quick efficient red flag to readers that all is not well in world. It as if the gods have forsaken this patch of land for a failure of duty.
Artist Renato Guedes does an excellent job representing Gilad before and after his titular awakening, and representing that disconnect between the two states. The foundation of this contrast is developed by using the Warrior’s body against him. His well-muscled body out of a sword and sorcery story appears entirely out of place behind the plow of a dirt farm. (When in actuality this is fairly accurate if you look at pre-Marian reforms Rome and the ancient Mediterranean in general.) Guedes however only uses the big wide screen images that contrast the land and figure once or twice.
Predominantly Guedes method to tell us something is wrong is in Gilad’s body and its framing. While he is still “asleep” Gilad is drawn to be utterly passive. He never meets the gaze of others, always looking away or at a downward angle. He is shown to have his back turned to people. His posture is rounded, not erect. He is going through the motions and not very well. After his awakening, Guedes draws Gilad in the opposite position. He stands tall, never turns his back to people, meets their gaze and is taking action. He moves with purpose again.
Colorist Ulises Arreola uses the perfect shade of blue for his eyes, which aren’t deadened just bored and looking for something more. Arreola manages to emphasize them to the reader and keep them unified with the pallet overall. Guedes gets a surprising amount of detail in his faces when they call for it, Gilad and the Geomancer are awash in detailed lining. Characters of a more morally shallow variety are similarly less detailed but still well represented.
Everything about this story is on the right side of functional, but none of it is amazing or ground breaking. This feels most apparent in regard to the antagonist of the piece the Fell Legion and their leader Alpha Hyamm. The Alpha is functional in the way MCU villains are functional, if not super interesting. He’s the dark mirror of what Gilad could be with that power and none of the empathy and heroic altruism. How this delineation is developed is probably the least functional page in the book. It’s just cramped with paneling and word bubbles that emphasize their oral differences between the two while their physical contest feels disconnected. His marauding band of fantasy barbarians are generic in an inoffensive manner. There was an opportunity to riff more on the O’ll “Skulls for the Skull Throne” brand of barbarism that was missed, it may have given them some more personality.Continued below
Unlike his time displaced or adventuring brothers, Gilad Anni-Padda has an actual job and a pretty sweet title to go with it. It’s a bit monotonous, but still highly skilled manual labor enforcing the will of the Earth Mother. This external body he is responsible to makes him unique among Valiant’s heroes, instead of being tied to a nation state he is tied to something more global. “Awakening” dose a good job of gesturing towards what that kind of wandering existence means, and to a degree the monotony of his job. The generic evil of the Alpha Legion echoes Maz Kanata’s thoughts on seeing evil take many forms across the galaxy. The job of capes is a never-ending battle and for Gilad that’s all too true.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – “Eternal Warrior: Awakening” is a fine spotlight on Gilad Anni-Padda and what makes him unique. In that regard “Awakening” is a fitting celebration of 25 years of Valiant.