Eric's Boom! Studios Comic Review: VALEN THE OUTCAST #1
Published: December 5, 2011 - 7:57am
One dollar can't buy much these days, but this week Boom! is offering up Valen the Outcast #1 for that very price. Add the fact that the story and characters are pretty good and it makes a worthy addition to any pull list. With a few tweaks it could even be great!
One really can't go too wrong with a $1 comic, which is a smart strategy Boom! Studios has employed before to introduce new titles. The fact that Valen the Outcast #1 is actually pretty good is just icing on the cake. With this story, Michael Alan Nelson combines subject matter from his run on 28 Days Later and Robert E. Howard's Hawks of Outremer. In order to sell the whole “king in exile” concept, the writer works in an excellent viscerally heroic opener that provides a baseline from which his fall from grace occurs. Readers get what Valen is working toward and what he has lost. Even though there's a layer of menace to the protagonist, one can't help but root for the guy. The same quality of work is also applied to about every other principle character featured in the comic. There's a vivacious violent vixen, a smart smarmy smuggler (witty as well but didn't want to mess with the alliteration), and a conflicted former cohort.
The book's antagonist isn't exceptionally compelling, but it is a first issue. The main critique here is that these archetypes have been seen before and there hasn't been enough time with which each can be distinguished with quite a bit going on over 32 pages. Nelson's put together a tight, but basic (seedy tavern and all), fantasy narrative mixing Tolkien, Howard, Martin, and Goodman. Subsequent issues will be needed in order to allow this title to find a voice of its own as it does come off as a bit generic. This issue does, however, set it self up well and everything is quite engaging.
One thing that this title isn't is slow. Readers will have to be on their toes to keep up with this book. In this introduction alone, about 5 main characters are introduced each with his or her own motivations and/or goals. That means that there's a lot of room to expand upon this world, but it leaves quite a bit for confusion as well. Again, this being a first issue, it doesn't delve into anything too much in order to hit all of its primary points and get a good sense of mystery, so time will tell as these fictional relationships develop.
Matteo Scalera's visuals are nice when capturing a solitary moment, but the results are mixed when the few action sequences hit full swing. These instances are best when a technique similar to anime is used where key points are given a more static feel. When the artist goes for more of a sense of movement, things can get a bit too busy and confusing. Some panels don't seem to transition well in continuity with one focusing on an empty hand, while the next features a weapon. It's little, but noticeable things that might detract some people's attention, yet there's nothing hugely offensive. The work on the whole is pretty good and all of the narrative's notes are hit.
The $1 price point makes this almost a no-brainer for fans of adventure comics before it goes up to $3.99 in a month. With a few tweaks and further development, this could be something not only good, but great.
Story: Michael Alan Nelson
Art: Matteo Scalera & Archie Van Buren
Cover: (A) Liam Sharp (B) Cary Nord (C) Ale Garza (D) Trevor Hairsine
32 Pages/ FC
On Sale December 7, 2011!