A sword and sorcery book with a hint of zombie? How can that work? As far as this first issue goes, very well.
Credits & Solicit Info:
SPECIAL $1 FULL FIRST ISSUE!
The King is dead - long live the Dead King!
King Valen Brand was a just king and a great warrior until he was killed by a Necromancer in battle and resurrected as one of the walking dead. Now he's considered an abomination in his own realm, an outcast with only one purpose: to restore his lost soul!
From the mind of fan-favorite creator Michael Alan Nelson (28 Days Later, Robert E. Howard's Hawks Of Outremer) comes Outcast, a visceral new ongoing series that blends 'epic fantasy' with 'sword-and-sorcery.' Perfect for fans of A Game of Thrones and Conan.
Valen the Outcast is a standard sword & sorcery quest, with the caveat that one of the lead characters is dead. Far from being a shambling 'walker,' the walking dead here are actually reanimated by sorcery and make up a despised part of society. Stories like these rise and fall on the strength of the characters, and based on what we see here this one will rise just fine. The art is a huge plus as well: moody without being too dark, with action that sings on the page.
The story opens with the death of Valen, the lead character. Valen is apperantly important to the story (and this world) and is quickly resurrected by the leader of his enemies. The story is then the quest to reclaim his soul.
It seems that this kingdom is plagued by a necromancer who raises the fallen to serve him. Thus the walking dead are despised by the living and probably re-killed on sight. I say probably because there are indications in the story that the risen dead are a fact of life, a plague that people also have to deal with, or at least shun. These elements of the story enrich the world and create an interesting place, a place I want to read more about. For a first issue this is a good trick to pull off.
Another thing that makes me want to read more of Valen the Outcast are the characters. While they slot easily into common genre types—the questing warrior, the witch in the woods, the cavalier thief—they are written with humor and some crisp dialogue that makes them real on the page. Because I like them by the end of the issue I want to read more- again, a very good idea for a first issue.
The art is the real star here. It's dark and moody, with not-quite-Mignola levels of black space which create a nice sense of place and time, and it has a good balance of realism and fantasy. The depiction of action - especially in the battle scenes - is really good, nicely cinematic, displaying a real sense of motion. It's a shame that the interior artist didn't get one of the eight (!) covers.
A couple of the covers convey the inside story well, but of the eight most don't really give me a reason to pick up Valen the Outcast. (Cary Nord made a great image, but it looks like they didn't tell him anything about the story. Ale Garza's, well, what it sells will probably make it a very popular variant.) Joe Jusko's cover does a good job if you can find it, since Boom! burned the unsold print run. I can't say I'm in favor of that stunt, but it did make me aware of Valen the Outcast. Not aware enough to pick it up, but aware (if I'd flipped through it in the store the art may very well have sold me.)
Bottom Line: A solid sword & sorcery quest book, well told in an intriguing new universe. Interesting characters and solid art make this a book to check out, especially if fantasy is your thing.
For Fans of: Conan&Kull, DC's Demon Knights, Northlanders, every syndicated sword & sorcery show ever.
Review by: BD Montgomery