Up close and personal

Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes
Colourist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

In this issue we learn more about Exarch Fane, the Book of Shadows, why the werewolves are taking souls and what they might do to stop the evil devouring the earth. It’s very much an issue of exposition. That’s not a bad thing since we do need some of that. The first issue was very much just throwing a lot of characters into the mix so although this issue is full of action it is useful that we have some more breathing space, well as much as you can get when there’s a world threatening apocalypse on the horizon.

We open with the same battle we sae at the end of the last issue We have Exarch Fane unleashing the power of The Book of Shadows and there’s nothing that our ragtag group can actually do to stop him as they try all the weapons in their arsenal. From Shadowman’s scythe to The Ring of Solomon wielded by Punk Mambo to Abyssal sword Gilad is trying to use. There’s a lot of power being thrown around but it’s not enough to defeat Fane.

The battle scenes themselves are really well drawn and coloured. Supernatural battles involve lots of different elements from physical weapons to spells and sheer power. You can really see the impact of Fane’s attacks and there’s a feel of weight behind the scythe and sword swinging. The impact of Shadowman being blown back is also effective with the feeling that it is a proper blow. All of this complimented by a wide range of colour palettes from the blue lightning style power of the Book of Shadows to the yellow glow of the hands coming out of the ring of Solomon to the orange glow of the Abyssal sword. It all keeps things visually interesting.

Of course our heroes must retreat. To the Shadow cave. Okay not the Shadow cave but that little joke was possibly my favourite panel. The levity was needed because this is a very dark issue with some very dark themes. You’ve got the heroes struggling to defeat sheer evil in a straight fight and having to retreat even as the world is at risk. So any opportunity to lighten things a little is most welcome.

What is also welcome is the backstory to who Exarch Fane is. He is an original character for this event but his past relates directly to long established hero Gilad, the Eternal Warrior. I appreciate the fact Gilad’s weird rebirth and immortality is explained. He does die and he has to fight back to life. This is really useful for new readers, or readers not familiar with him. It gives some strong insight into Gilad’s character which I think as needed. I hope to see something similar for the others at some point.

We learn though that Exarch Fane as a necromancer. Gilad left him for dead but Fane and his hellhounds survived. There are still questions regarding Fane – how did he end up in the Veil? How did he get the book? But those can wait as we do at least get the main backstory. We have an understanding of Fane as a ruthless being and the way he is drawn very much reflects that. His deign is very intimidating.

What I do like is that toward the end of the issue Doctor Mirage, who has been one of the quieter characters, finally comes through. Her knowledge and skills proves increasingly important and likely will be with things to come. I am glad to see that she is more pivotal and is included for some very good reasons. It also gives a reason to split our heroes into two teams for a two pronged attacked. it’s an interesting move but hopefully will allow some dynamics to play out.

This was a very solid second issue that really builds on the first in the best ways. It gives us some answers, deepens the lore a bit more and we learn more about the main nemesis. Still there’s some twists and turns as well and a few surprises along the way. Now the main set up is out of the way I look forward to seeing how our heroes move forward as they seek to defeat the power of The Book of Shadows.

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