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by Thegreatmagnet on June 14, 2017

Writer: Rafer Roberts
Artist: Francis Portela
Color Artist: Andrew Dalhouse
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Expectations are important. When this comic was announced a few months back, it was billed as an homage to Rai 0 from the 90’s, which is widely understood to be the most important single issue in the original Valiant run. Rai 0 is highly revered, because it offers concrete explanations about the history between the 90s timeline and the future timeline of 4001, which has always been a significant feature of the Valiant universe. It was an issue that was literally overflowing with enticing details for the obsessive fan. As this release neared, I was tantalized about the prospect of a dense and significant read. In retrospect, I wonder if Valiant might have done themselves a disservice by soliciting the book in this way, since there’s very little new content for the longtime fan.
Let’s start with the positives. It was great to see Rai and the 4001 characters again. They’ve been off the board since the 4001 event last year, and are likely to remain unseen for the remainder of 2017 (barring any appearances in War Mother this fall). This issue is ostensibly a personal history lesson from the Book of Geomancer to Karana, the geomancer from 4001, who has been isolated from her heritage and from the source of her power, the Earth. Gilad, the eternal protector of the geomancer assists in the teaching and Rai participates as an observer. I hope that Gilad and Karana are given plenty of screentime when 4002 adventures resume next year, since Gilad’s best stories tend to involve his service to the geomancer. Beyond that, the Earth in 4002 is in dire need of rehabilitation by a geomancer, after centuries of nuclear assault from New Japan. Perhaps this issue was a new chapter in the journey of a pivotal geomancer.
I must admit I’m a bit puzzled about the contents of the story that the Book of the Geomancer unveils to Karana. Given the source, you might expect that the book to discuss, you know, geomancers. They show the first geomancer in an early panel, but offer no hint about her origin story or her relationship to Gilad, which would arguably be valuable to casual readers (this story was confined to a retailer incentive comic that is not widely available). Beyond that, only two other geomancers are shown, though they are at least mentioned by name. Gilad was moved discussing Kay McHenry, who was murdered by the Immortal Enemy, but does not mention the three other geomancers the we saw murdered in the same fashion. We’ve now seen a number of geomancers over the years originating from different ages, so it’s disappointing to see so few mentioned in the text of the geomancers.
Rather than being a history lesson about the legacy of the geomancer, this story is essentially a quick recap of Valiant continuity from 2012 until the present (May/June 2017). Valiant has told so many stories in the last five years about so many different characters that it’s difficult to give anyone more than a superficial nod or two. Having seen a few excerpts from the Book of the Geomancer in various comics, perhaps vagueness is somewhat baked in. Unfortunately, once we reach the current day of Valiant storylines, the narrative of the story jumps almost instantly to 4001, the stomping grounds of Rai. This comic does little to fill in the 2000 year gap, aside from confirm some storylines previously hinted in “Fall of Ninjak”. This puts it in stark contrast to the commodity of the original Rai #0, which is the definitive text for many plot points in the original Valiant days. Is the Book of Geomancer implying that nothing of substance occurs between the years that New Japan is launched into space and the time when Rai chooses to rebel?
I feel that the art by Portela was very strong, and undoubtedly a highlight of the issue. His work on the 4001 characters is very enjoyable, and I’d love to see his contributions on future 4001 series (he previously made excellent futurisitic contributions in Ivar, Timewalker). Unfortunately, as a longtime fan, I can’t help but notice how many of these images I have seen before. A huge number of the panels in this issue come directly from other Valiant issues, covers, although it’s clear Portela has re-drawn them. I can’t help but think that even minor changes to the perspective of these scenes might have helped to alleviate the deja-vu of reading this issue. The colors by Andrew Dalhouse are beautiful and striking: one benefit of the narrative changing from panel to panel is that there is a huge range of moods and thematic colors on every page. Dalhouse covers it all beautifully, although admittedly, like the line art, there was surely lots of reference to draw from in the original issues.
This is the greatest hits of the new Valiant, plus a few hints of cool stuff from 4001. This kind of thing would be bread and butter for a FCBD issue geared at new readers. However, for longtime readers that are expecting Rai 0, this has almost nothing new. I’ll even acknowledge that the new Valiant has already released their own version of Rai 0, in the form of the “Book of Death” mini-series and it’s “Fall of” tie-in issues. I’m just puzzled why they would compare this issue to Rai 0, when it’s clearly just a brief recap of the Valiant universe up to today. If this issue had been solicited differently, I might have had a much more positive reaction. Unfortunately, having compared this issue to the best issue of classic Valiant, I think they set themselves up for disappointment. Expectations are important.

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