The Old Testament is a treasure trove of crazy stories waiting to be retold. And Rob Liefeld and Matt Horak do just that in “The Covenant” #1. Check out our review below and watch out for mild spoilers!
Written by Rob Liefeld
Illustrated by Matt Horak
In ancient times there was no weapon more devastating than The Ark of The Covenant, containing a power that collapsed enemy nations and destroyed hostile invaders. The Philistine army, led by General Thane, seeks to crush the Israelites as they populate the surrounding territories. A bold move on the field of battle robs the Israelites of their mythical weapon, empowering their most deadly enemy. A young priest, Samuel, determines to steal back the Ark and assembled a group of mercenaries to aid him in the most daring raid in history. An untold tale of the Bible that shifted the balance of power in history.
“The Covenant” #1 starts with the Last Priest of Israel, Samuel, and three of his Dragon Age style companions interrogating a Philistine over the whereabout of the Ark of the Covenant. The prisoner retorts that he will not betray his god, the snake deity Dagon, so Samuel and his friends unleash a live snake on his face, steal his swords, and find the temple where the ark is anyway. And for a second, I think we have the perfect Biblical heist comic. Until the wave of exposition comes, at least.
Rob Liefeld’s an incredibly polarizing figure in comic books and it’s easy with a biblical book to go the anti-religious route and call him a right-wing nutbag or something. That’s not true at all. Liefeld’s clearly done his research on the Old Testament and the various figures and lore within it. Compared to books like “New Mutants” and “Youngblood”, this seems to be his passion project. An art house version of a Liefeld comic. The problem is that Liefeld seems to be incredibly invested in the research he did for this project and could not let any of it go for the sake of storytelling.
After Samuel, Leliana, Morrigan, and Alistair find Dagon’s temple, the narrative immediately flashes back to before the Philistines were attacking the Israelites. Specifically, it goes so far back as to reintroduce the concept of the Ark of the Covenant which, to be fair, is the driving point of the series. But then, after a clumsy introduction of the Bible’s greatest heroes, we’re treated to a scene where Samuel stands around, is happy about peace, and then dismayed to find the Philistines are attacking. Afterwards, there’s a scene with the Philistines where they also reveal they will be attacking. Shocking. From the interrogation scene at the top of the comic, I thought they were just over for tea.
The major problem with “The Covenant” is that its almost afraid to pull the trigger on its own story. The premise is established right in the beginning – the Ark of the Covenant is stolen and these four heroes ARE TAKING IT BACK. Raiders of the Lost Ark didn’t need a half hour to reveal the Nazis took the Ark. They just did it. Like we expected them to. Here, you’ve got three separate scenes with the message of “The Philistines will (or have) attack(ed)!” 300 didn’t have a scene where Gerard Butler was shocked the Persians attacked Troy because they had a goddamn story to get to. “The Covenant”, meanwhile, just feels like its stalling for time.
And that’s a real shame because that opening segment really does show some promise, particularly from Matt Horak who can draw a particularly vicious snake bite. His art style is fairly reminiscent of Liefeld’s albeit with a more accurate sense of anatomy. And while he does create a nice sense of scale in wider shots, particularly the temple of Dagon, his characters come off as rather plastic, without much authenticity. That’s to to say he has no sense of design, the two giants who follow around the Philistines are particularly inspired. Just that is somewhat underwhelming.
Truly, “underwhelming” might be the most accurate word to describe this comic. For a premise with such a large potential for interesting characters, grand ideas, and insane battles, “The Covenant” #1 takes the easy way out and doesn’t give the audience much. It’s just a lot of pages. I can’t even call it filler because that would imply there was a story to stall on in the first place. Instead, “The Covenant” promises one story and swaps it out for a miniature historical lesson that could probably use a couple citations. And really, Liefeld and Horak have to go one way or the other. Either deliver a heist story about stealing back the Ark of the Covenant or redraw the entirety of the Old Testament.Continued below
No seriously. Rob Liefeld, if you are reading this: please redraw the entirety of the First Testament.
Final Verdict: 4.7 – After a stalled first issue, there is room for the series to grow into something grander. But this first issue leaves the impression that we’d be dragging our sandals through the mud if we were to continue reading.