Open Mike Night - Book of Death #1

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by Mike Maillaro and Mike Weaver


Book of Death #1

Written by: Robert Venditti
Penciled by: Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite
Colored by: David Baron with Brian Reber
Lettered by: Dave Lanphear

Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro: I give the comic industry a lot of credit for their restraint.  Typically the summer is event heavy, but not this summer. No sir!  We’ve only had...CONVERGENCE, SECRET WARS, SWORDS OF SORROW, WORLDS UNITE, and now BOOK OF DEATH.  Uhm...yeah.  In all seriousness, I think the industry needs to stop overwhelming the customer like that.  Can’t we spread these massive crossover events out a little bit?   Do they all have to come out at the exact same time??



BOOK OF DEATH is Valiant’s latest crossover.  It builds on a lot of the storylines that started in THE VALIANT.  At the end of that book, in order to try and save the world, Gilad the Eternal Warrior brought a future Geomancer back to our time to assume power after the current Geomancer was killer.   In BOOK OF DEATH, we find out that his plan didn’t quite work as expected.  There seem to be two Geomancers as a result.  And one of them is under the control of a mysterious powerful evil force.’s Master Darque!

But, Gilad’s ability to deal with this problem has been limited because his Unity teammates are after him, believing that the Geomancer he brought back from the future is the real danger.

Weaver: Be careful what you wish for.  Spread out crossovers would mean we’re back to the days when Marvel would lead a crossover into another crossover into another crossover and keep the big event machine turning 24/365.  Crossovers are a double edged sword.  A crossover is a great marketing tool and gets readers to try out books they might otherwise shy away from, plus it’s an extra issue of sales.  And most of them end up being the best selling issue of the week they come out.  But I do wish they weren’t coming out with this frequency.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get into Book of Death because I have only a general knowledge of the Valiant Universe.  It ended up not really being a problem at all.  There were a few things I felt a little underinformed about, like Unity’s giant robot, but in general, this was an easy story to pick up.  One of the good guys goes rogue because he sees it as the only way to protect someone he feels can stop the end of the world, the other good guys feel that individual is causing the end of the world, they chase the rogue good guy around, try to reason with him, and so on, meanwhile, the bad guy is trying to influence events in his own way.

It’s a good story so far, and gives us what we need to know if we’ve only read a few Valiant comics before, but I’m left this necessary?  I think that Marvel and DC need to keep shaking things up so that they have more marketable properties, but Valiant basically is what it is, and doesn’t seem to need this.

Maillaro: That actually is a real good question.  I also wonder how this impacts things going on in other Valiant books.  I do appreciate that the commitment for BOOK OF DEATH is far less than most crossovers.  A four issue mini series and a handful of self-contained tie-ins.  You don’t need to buy BLOODSHOT: REBORN to follow BOOK OF DEATH, you just need to buy the stand-along “BOOK OF DEATH: FALL OF BLOODSHOT.”  It sure beats CONVERGENCE’s 80 tie-in issues.  Or SECRET WARS, which I have completely lost count at this point.

I am a regular Valiant reader, so I appreciated all the cool teases, but I was kind of wondering how it would read to someone less familiar with Valiant.  That is a huge part of the reason I suggested it for this week’s column.  I’m actually glad you were able to keep up with it.  I try not to make my picks too frustrating for you.

Weaver: I never show you the same courtesy, so I do appreciate that.  Hopefully we’ll get back to the original format of one issue suggested by each of us, but I can’t commit to that until probably the start of the school year.

I feel like a four issue mini series and a few tie ins feels like something that will wrap things up near the status quo going in.  Maybe a new title will arise from it, maybe an old title will be cancelled, but I have to think that they’re going to play it a little safe with that sort of thing.  The pageantry of a big event without the mess of a big event. Which then again buys into the whole idea of...was this necessary?

When I was growing up, DC and Marvel had dedicated “team-up” comics every month, where Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and the Thing would team up with a pretty eccentric group of guest stars.  There weren’t as many big events back then (I hesitate to say none, but there weren’t many) so it was a decent way to promote lower selling titles, stick Batman on the cover, and call it a day.  I wonder if the current glut of big events could be mitigated by something like that.  Then again, a big problem with those was continuity.  Brave and the Bold in particular was referred to as “the Haney-verse” because Bob Haney gave not one crap about what was going on in other DC titles.  So now that there’s so much written devoted to continuity and getting on Marvel or DC’s ass when a character says chaos magic doesn’t exist, I don’t know if that would work as well.

Maillaro: Valiant already kind of has a Team-Up book in Unity, so you are right about that.  I love those quirky team-up books, and it definitely could go a long way towards reducing the number of events.

I think the other problem tends to be that these events pretty much sell without fail.  No matter how people complain about CIVIL WAR, AXIS, FEAR ITSELF, and on and on, SECRET WARS is still selling gangbusters.  Right now the only thing that is even coming close to selling those numbers is STAR WARS.  

Valiant is never going to do those kinds of numbers, but these crossovers must be helping boost their viability too.  It actually wasn’t all that long ago that Valiant did ARMOR HUNTERS which was real close in scale to BOOK OF DEATH.

Weaver: Anyway.  I really loved the art in this book.  The tree massacre at the beginning was beautifully rendered.  Maybe there’s something wrong with me when I call a bunch of people with tree branches stuck through their chests beautiful.  I’m not opposed to admitting that.  But all the people looked distinct, and that’s a place a lot of artists fall down on with crowd scenes.

Maillaro:  My favorite part of the art was the glimpses into the Book of Death and all the teases of “Days of Valiant’s Future.”  I will admit freely I couldn’t figure out everything we were looking at, but it did look really cool and engaging.  

Weaver: Semi-apocalyptic futures frequently look cool and engaging.  What I liked on that angle was that apparently some Valiant heroes...Ninjak in particular...believe that the whole thing is a hoax, that the Eternal Warrior did not bring the other geomancer from the future, and everything is some perfectly understandable plot going on in the present.  That’s usually missing from these kinds of crossovers...once stuff starts going down, most people buy into the popular narrative.  Obviously, as readers, we’re pretty sure it isn’t a hoax, but it’s a neat perspective to least for me.

Maillaro:  We have talked a lot about that over the years.  That characters aren’t always right (even though readers don’t always get that). I thought it was a fun perspective too, and completely kept in character with Ninjak.  That guy has been conditioned by a life of getting kicked in the balls to trust nothing at face value.   

I also liked the stuff with X-O and Eternal Warrior.  When Valiant had announced they were taking fan stories on Amazon, I was really tempted to do a story where X-O and Eternal Warrior had met back in Ancient Rome.  I never got around to doing it, and a few months later Valiant did a similar story, which felt very vindicating for me.  I love their relationship.  In the original Valiant universe, X-O had that type of relationship with Turok.  Gilad has filled that role real well in the current Valiant.

Weaver: X-O was a title that a lot of my friends were really into during original Valiant, and I never gave it a shot.  I have no real idea why.  I think I just hated the name.  Of the original Valiant series, it’s the one I am least familiar with.  But I did like that same scene, even with no preconception of X-O.  It read really authentic.

So I’m torn here.  I like this book.  But I don’t know if it was needed.  Maybe that’s just big event burnout.  Writing about three mediocre Secret Wars tie-ins a week may do that for you.

Maillaro: LOL!  Yeah, I totally get that.  Though you volunteered for that army, soldier, so I take no blame.  All right, yeah, I have to take all the blame.  I know you only do it because you’re an awesome friend.  

I enjoyed this story as the next step in Valiant, though I definitely see the argument you are making, and I find myself hard pressed to disagree with it.  It’s never good when the nicest compliment I can give is “well, at least it’s not 80 issues long.”   For the writing, I will go a 4/5 with a 4.5/5 for the art.

Weaver: I’m going to take your normal role and say, “Those scores seem very fair, I’m giving the same.”


Maillaro:  We haven’t done a flashback book in a while.  And nothing next week new is all that inspiring for me.   I suspect you know what I am going to suggest based on our conversation this morning...

Weaver: Transmetropolitan it is!  I’ve always meant to read it.

Final Scores


Maillaro – Story (out of 5)

Weaver – Story (out of 5)

Maillaro – Art (out of 5)

Weaver – Art (out of 5)

Book of Death #1