By Zack Quaintance — I’m a big fan of Valiant’s comics, rarely missing an issue that the publisher with the other other superhero universe puts out. I find their characters have a freedom of consequence a bit grander than the larger corporate-owned superheroes. By that I mean they have freedom to suffer real consequences, freedom to evolve and change, freedom to experience new status quos with the potential to last longer than a big line-wide event cycle or two with impacting sales.
I’m not saying evolution never happens at DC or Marvel, but at Valiant you can feel a sense of possibility in each story’s individual DNA. This is, perhaps, what made the 4001 AD summer event story a few years back so compelling. The writers and artists within that were saying this is how things are going to be for the entire freaking world, this is what’s left of earth and what happens and why. As a reader, you got the sense that it all meant a little bit more than alternate timelines often do in other superhero stories. At least, that’s how I personally experienced it at the time.
Then a couple years went by (Valiant underwent some of its own lasting changes on the backend...which is another story), and we didn’t see much (or anything really), from the consequential 4001 future. Until now, that is. The Fallen World #1 is here to follow up on that story, and what a follow up it is. In this single debut issue—the first of five—we get rapidfire string of updates about relevant Valiant characters, all of them fitting well with a newly-launched plot that builds upon everything that came before.
In this first issue we see many long-time Valiant characters, and we get them all coming into contact quickly in the service of a new conflict that has grown from the ashes of the last chapter back in 2016. For those who didn’t read 4001 AD or who maybe have forgotten it, there are a couple of brief pages at the start doing the summary and exposition thing. Humans left earth for a series of orbital space stations called New Japan that were run by an AI called Father. Divisive and oppressive class systems developed up there, Father took too much control, and his robotic samurai protector/son Rai rebelled, bringing it all crashing down at the end of that story.
Where The Fallen World #1 picks up is with the survivors of those crashes. This gives the comic a natural pacing and momentum, expertly doled out by writer Dan Abnett. A familiar face is quickly modified and turned into our antagonist, pitted naturally against the heroes, but this is a spoiler-free review and I won’t go into that.
What’s most interesting to me, however, is the ongoing recovery of society, which must now address its new home location as well as residual problems leftover from what happened with New Japan as well as baseline qualities of that system such as having a slave class and discrimination against certain types of citizens. Complicating the plot further is Rai’s guilt over the role he played in crashing the space stations to the Earth.
There are scenes with Rai that beg a pair of perpetually relevant question for our modern times: when must one give up comfort for a risk that could benefit all of humanity? And, most importantly, what happens after you make that sacrifice? There’s also a whole bunch of stuff that plays to modern fears about AI and semi-cliched inquiries about the value of ever resorting to violence.
This comic, it must be noted, also looks absolutely fantastic. It’s drawn by Adam Pollina and colored by Ulises Arreola, who come damn near close to matching the gorgeous art in Valiant’s best book right now, Livewire, which is drawn by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. This comic is electric from its start, heck from the sharp front cover drawn by JonBoy Meyers. It just looks great, and it reads even better.
Overall: The Fallen World #1 is a great-looking and smart dystopian future comic that picks up where Valiant’s 2016 event story 4001 AD left-off. It’s a great read for long-time Valiant fans, mirroring that stories epic sense of grandiosity. 9.3/10
The Fallen World #1 (of 5)
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Adam Pollina
Colorist: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Release Date: May 1 (initial orders due March 28, with FOC April 8)
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.