Search This Blog

Monday, March 4, 2013

Valen the Outcast. Volume 1:Abomination. Michael Alan Nelson (Writer), Matteo Scalera (Art), Archie Van Buren (Colours, Ed Dukeshire(Letters), Trevor Hairsine (Cover Art). BOOM! Studios (2012)

A classic sword and sorcery story with a really strong idea driven by first rate execution. Valen Brand, once king of Oakhaven is killed and resurrected by Korrus Null as his undead slave. With the help of an old friend Valen breaks the hold that Korrus Null had on him and sets off to reclaim his soul from the necromancer. Oakhaven has splintered after his death as rival fight each other for power, all are united in their hatred and disgust for the undead ex-king. This makes his journey across Oakhaven rather difficult and his needs the help of Zjanna, who helped him escape the leash on Korrus Null and a drunken smuggler, Cordovan.The action is forceful and sharp, the reveals are very well staged, there are enough nicely set up lose ends and story hooks to give the story depth and force.
Originality is not a major requirement for sword and sorcery, it is the execution that carries the weight and in this case Michael Alan Nelson executes the story with tremendous flair and conviction. The twist that the hero is a self-aware zombie looking to recover his soul and exact his revenge on a wonderfully nasty villain is great. It gives the rest of the story a slightly off-kilter edge that is never squandered or, thankfully, overused. The rest of the classic pieces are all in place, the beautiful female witch warrior and the drunken outlaw who is handy enough in a fight, they too are given a chance to be characters as much as cliches. The whole cast is lively and vigorous which is vital in a story like this, there is very little room for ambiguity in such a straight driving narrative, what is needed is that the cast have a relish for their roles. Best of all Valen himself is given the opportunity to show why he was genuine leader in his living days, the same force of character and ability to inspire loyalty is still there. This gives his quest a nice bite against the the repulsive Korrus Null.
Matteo Scalera's art takes a little getting used to, his page layouts are not always obvious, they do have an energy that captures the and amplifies the momentum of the story. The cast are given individual identities and move with menace and grace as required. The colours by Archie Van Buren are astonishing, they gather the story and the art and raise everything up to fever pitch. This is a story that needs to be told at full volume and the colours give it that, from blinding lights to cunning shadows, the world gets a feel that is dirty, hard edged and dramatic in all the right proportions. Ed Dukeshires letters are a subtle and enjoyable pleasure, they never obscure the action while they give added depth to the cast.
Wonderful fun. The quote on the cover suggests an "Undead Conan", a great idea which this comic has no need to try and use, it has its own splendid, bloody life and deserves the credit for it.

No comments:

Post a Comment