Artist:Clayton Crain , David Mack
Valiant Entertainment’s latest event comic, ‘4001 AD’, following last year’s hit event ‘Book of Death’, follows one of Valiant’s best and most underrated series ‘Rai’. If you don’t know who or what Rai is (if you are only reading the big two and you aren’t following the Valiant universe, you are missing out big time), he is a character set in the distant future of 4001 where Earth is forbidden and the population of the world now lives in separated sectors on a sentient country in space called New Japan. New Japan is ruled and operated by the sentient technology known to all as Father, and Rai is the protector/police enforcer of New Japan who was created by Father. Rai is a half-human/half-machine samurai who was designed this way to inspire the humans that Father rules over, however Rai is only the latest model in the line of protectors. The series has gone to some wild places as to reveal that Earth is more hospitable than Father advertises, that New Japan is housing a citizen who is this generation’s Geomancer, and the last big twist in the story where Father was infected with a virus program while Rai has been cast to Earth without his life support system, New Japan. This is important information before launching into the ‘4001 AD’ event as Rai has teamed up with Valiant’s toughest immortal Gilad who is the protector of the Geomancer, and this virus running through Father’s system has driven him crazy and Father is now aborting entire sectors of New Japan full of innocent citizens killing all life in those sectors. If you are already a Valiant reader you should be picking this book up as ‘4001 AD’ will surely feature lots of universe secrets & twists and bring all the pieces together, showing us what a Valiant universe would be like in the year 4001.
4001 AD starts off with some prologue pages done by David Mack in the style of Japanese scroll stories which is done up with beautiful black brush strokes and explains the story of Rai in essential detail leading up to the 4001 AD event. David Mack will also be doing the covers for Rai’s next story arc so I am happy to get more of his work (Mack recently did brilliant covers for the sequel comic Fight Club 2 under Dark Horse comics). The first issue then begins with Father rejecting pieces of New Japan sending entire sectors flying through space and disintegrating all life forms in the sectors and evacuating people in other sectors. We are shown Lulu, now a wanted criminal in New Japan keeping a low profile, and we see her visiting her parents one last time before running away forever but she discovers that her parents are much too subservient to Father’s rule. The story then shifts to Rai, Gilad the Eternal Warrior and their child-minded friend Lemur on Earth who are headed towards a cave where the Eternal Warrior has found a giant X-O mech suit deactivated and ages old. Rai makes contact with the mech and happens to activate the giant mech, thus entering it and blasting off into space to stop Father from killing more sectors of New Japan. When Rai enters into space this alarms Father and Father proceeds to activate the “Komodo-Protocol” and kills the entire council of people in charge of running New Japan and enforcing Father’s will. Rai in the X-O suit discovers he can’t save sectors by themselves falling to Earth but rather decides he must find another way to save New Japan… but now Rai faces a new challenge… he must fight New Japan itself which has transformed its sectors into a giant space dragon with Father at the helm of its control.
It goes without saying that Clayton Crain does amazing art that is accentuated by the beautiful colours in his work. I find that Crain’s art work is in fact too detailed that when his work is printed into a comic book sized format that his work loses some of its magnificence and the art has a slight blur to it? With that being said, Crain does amazing scale work and his splash pages are excellent, especially his giant two-paged splash page where you see the true scale of the giant space dragon in relation to Rai in the X-O mech and the Earth which is visually my favourite pages in this book. David Mack brings out the Japanese overtones in this and the Rai series with his prologue pages which really helps to bring out the uniqueness that comes with the Rai series. Matt Kindt is the hardest working writer at Valiant and they really couldn’t have chosen a better writer to write 4001 AD as Kindt deeply knows the Valiant universe. On a side note, Matt Kindt has also been writing Valiant’s excellent series ‘Ninjak’ which has a James Bond/Ronin 47 vibe to it. 4001 AD effectively makes the Valiant universe easier to jump into for new readers/sci-fi and folk story fans than ever before with an attractive deep story that is essentially a rabbit hole for discovering other great Valiant stories. Valiant loves to go above and beyond to hype their books and with 4001 AD they have produced a retailer only item that is a locked briefcase/container with a timer set for it to open when the last issue of 4001 AD releases which when it opens promises to feature a lot of unique things for Valiant fans to geek out over. The only real negative thing to me is that the covers of 4001 AD do not have the beautiful glossy print (much like the Book of Death and Bloodshot Reborn: The Analog Man covers) that their other series have done and that is a huge miss on Valiant’s part. Book of Death’s well produced covers were a huge reason for me to purchase each cover of each issue during that event even though I wasn’t that into the Book of Death event. Not doing the same with 4001 AD has me very disappointed as Rai is my favourite Valiant series and I was extremely excited when I heard that 4001 AD was going to get a similar treatment as Book of Death. This problem is a problem only to collectors like myself and does not impact the excellence of 4001 AD, so if any of what you read in this review excites you, go out and order your copy today!
~ T.J Head