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RAPTURE #1

by Thegreatmagnet on May 24, 2017

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: CAFU
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Publisher: Valiant Comics
 
There’s a lot in Rapture for Valiant fans to get excited about. As much as I love Valiant, due to their limited line of 6-10 titles per month, they have a lot of characters that tend to go into a drawer for extended periods of time. This series marks the return of several characters who have been absent or under-utilized for some time: Shadowman, Punk Mambo, and Tama the geomancer. In addition, it’s a major showcase for the magical side of the Valiant universe, which has been de-emphasized since Shadowman folded in 2014. Beyond that, it’s a giant slice of Matt Kindt worldbuilding, in a territory that is largely unexplored. Issue 1 of this miniseries does a great job of catching us up with the characters (including a few new players) and setting the stage for a huge, apocalyptic battle in the Deadside.
 
As a Valiant fan, I think I’m most excited for a deeper exploration of the Deadside. a place/concept that was introduced in the original Shadowman series in 2012. I’ve always thought the Deadside was a strange and provocative idea, but it’s treatment up to this has been pretty vague. We don’t really know what it is or how it works. (possibly by design). With Rapture, Kindt is doing some unprecedented worldbuilding, which he’s described as Tolkeinesque in interviews. However, I’m more struck by the amount of influences that seem rooted in Judeo-Christian mythology (Babel, the flood, Azazel). There is some nuance of course, and I hope that the world building doesn’t hew too closely to established religious mythology.  The majority of Valiant’s output has been intelligent deconstructions of common tropes, and I expect no less from the Deadside/Aliveside, especially given the amount of time it’s taken to explore the territory. Hopefully Kindt will be able to continue worldbuilding over the next three issues, given there should also be a lot of action and character development to pack in.
 
Tama is obviously the standout character of this issue, and it’s great to see them genuinely building her character, whose previous contribution has been limited to a few pages here and there in “Book of Death” back in 2015. We meet a character who has come into her own. She seems to have all the answers, between her magical skills, the prophetic Book of the Geomancer, and the arcane scrolls that she has hunted down throughout the Deadside. Tama is the motivating character of the story, having discovered the impending crisis and essentially recruited the team. I was actually somewhat confused about Tama’s connection to the Deadside, being that she is foremost connected to the earth, but the issue does a good job of addressing that question, suggesting that the Book of Geomancer references the impending catastrophe in the Deadside. I’m also pleased that they mention her powers being distorted in the Deadside, and I’m curious how this idea will be developed over the next three issues. Tama understandably comes across very precocious, when she’s briefing the team at MI:6, or when she’s meeting her old friend, the ancient Rex the Razer. However, we also get some glimpses of her kid side: she has a silly pet and keeps describing the smell of the Deadside. As much as this series is an important showcase for Punk Mambo and Shadowman, it’s the first star turn for Tama, and I hope that they really let her shine (beyond turning suckers into trees).
 
The rest of the team should make for an interesting dynamic. Shadowman is damaged goods, having previously lived as a villain in the Deadside, and he initially doesn’t want to participate. Not only is he serving a prison sentence, but he’s also historically had problems controlling his loa (the source of his power), and may fear the ramifications of a return to battle in the Deadside. Hopefully this adventure will be therapeutic for Shadowman, who desperately needs redemption, and is being set up for a new solo series next year. Tama essentially admits that Shadowman is central to the success of the mission, so I’m hoping for some kind of satisfying payoff for the character (finally). Punk Mambo has always been a great character, although she’s fairly reserved in this issue, mostly acting as a therapist for Shadowman. Hopefully her saucy nature will assert itself in future issues – possibly while keeping Shadowman in check. Rounding out the team is Ninjak, who over the course of his recently concluded series, has been involuntarily drawn into a world of magic that he reviles. I think Ninjak will serve as the everyman during this adventure, offering quips about the utter ridiculousness of the settings and premises. Matt Kindt has stated on record that he doesn’t typically care for magic, so count on Ninjak being his mouthpiece in the series. I’m curious whether Ninjak’s hostility to magic will be subject to change over the course of this story, especially given the magical ties in his backstory.
 
The art on this issue is phenomenal. CAFU’s work is beautiful and distinctive, and something about it has always reminded me of 3D-rendered art (perhaps it’s the shading). CAFU has always done a great job on Ninajk (whose new Deadside costume looks like Snake Eyes IMO), and he does a great job with the other characters, especially Shadowman. This was a pretty character-driven issue, so I’m excited to see CAFU’s action work in the upcoming issues – we may see a decent scuffle in the beginning of issue 2. Andrew Dalhouse’s colors also look great, especially in the Deadside scenes. The Deadside must be a fun sandbox for an adventurous art team, and I’m confident that we’ve only seen hints of what’s to come.
 
Overall, this is a fantastic start to the 4-issue miniseries. We spent an issue getting the team together, and getting up to speed on the current crisis. Assumedly this sets the stage for some tasty action sequences in the next issue, but also more worldbuilding and more character development for the magical trio (Shadowman, Mambo, Tama). This is great fan service for the hardcore Valiant faithful. Hopefully the crazy magic nonsense and fabulous art would make this fun for a new reader as well. The storyline is so drastically different from almost an other Valiant story, I don’t think prior continuity should be an obstacle, as long as the characters come through.

Our Score:

10/10

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