There will be SPOILERS
Let’s start with the art, which is split between Clayton Crain and Trevor Hairsine. The differences in their styles are vast, and for this particular book, I far prefer Crain’s rich, painted look to Hairsine’s sketchy chaos. Crain handles the flashback scenes, which take place in 1877 Oklahoma, a harsh and unforgiving setting in a similarly brutal era. The grass is dry, faded, and dying, but it’s not a mere sea of brown beneath the characters’ feet. Each blade is visible, and so is every strand of hair on everyone’s head, every wrinkle in their faces, and every single drop of blood spilt during the fight sequences. All the panels are bursting with detail, but because of the painted look (digitally rendered, I believe, but still effective) there are no lines separating things. It’s all one world, each piece interacting with and influencing the others, even when there are a lot of those pieces in play. I also quite liked Crain’s use of white silhouettes, but that’s just something I’ve always been into. Though he did pick his spots well, using them only on figures seen from a great distance.
As for Hairsine’s contributions, they’re considerably easier to read than last issue, and he has a few superb moments. Like the full-page reveal of the Sword of the Wild and his allies, all cloaked and covered in shadow, riding their terrifying steeds and carrying their massive weapons with great presence. Or Gilad taking down all three of them a few pages later with remarkable skill and speed, his moves impressive and superhuman but not unbelievable. I still don’t love how Gilad and his daughter look pretty much exactly the same, though. Family resemblance is one thing, but there’s almost nothing to distinguish the two of them except for their clothing. That seems like it could be trouble down the line, and it caused some confusion in the debut, but in this particular issue I always knew who was who.
What both artists do very well is graphic, excessively gory violence (though Crain’s gore is more excessive than Hairsine’s by a few degrees). I’m not always in favor of that, but this is a book about a man whose whole life has been focused on killing people for centuries, so I think having the action be especially intense is appropriate in this case. Visually, then, I’m alright with what’s here. I do sort of wish the two artists weren’t so starkly different from each other, but because Crain does all the past stuff and Hairsine draws everything that takes place in the present, the shifts in aesthetic help the reader keep track of when and where they are.
Greg Pak’s writing is the biggest problem with Eternal Warrior #2. It’s not horrible, but it’s drab. Gilad’s story is that he used to be basically a soldier for the Earth, killing whoever the planet wanted dead based on instructions given to him by someone called the Geomancer, who can communicate with the Earth directly. Eventually, after thousands of years, Gilad got tired of being the world’s hitman, and walked away. That’s a fine concept, but the way Pak delivers this information is so matter-of-fact. Gilad goes through the motions of defecting, but I’m never convinced that he feels very strongly about it one way or the other based on his dialogue and narration. He’s weirdly aloof and atonal about it, and that attitude carries over to his dealings with his daughter Xaran. I get that, as an immortal, Gilad is sort of fed up with life, and therefore not quick to whip up a lot of passion over anything. But if he’s not invested in what’s happening to him, why should I be? Xaran, on the other hand, has the opposite problem. She’s so unreasonably pissed off at her dad and everything else that I can’t take her seriously. Ever the stubborn whining child, she’s a one-note character, and it’s an intentionally and powerfully sour note.
Also, I’m having a super hard time figuring out how this title fits with Archer & Armstrong. Gilad was a character introduced in that book, and it seemed like back then he was completely committed to his mission of fighting for the Earth. He attacked his own brother over it. Yet in Eternal Warrior, Gilad claims to have quit “five generations ago.” That makes no sense. If he hasn’t been active in his role for that long, what was he doing in Archer & Armstrong? I’m not reading all of their books, but based on what I’ve seen so far, Valiant has done an exceptionally good job of keeping their shared universe consistent with itself. Now here’s a spin-off that directly contradicts the series it comes from. That’s aggravating, to say the least, and seems like a pretty easy thing to avoid.
It’s got an ok look to it, but Eternal Warrior #2 still didn’t get me excited or really elicit much of a reaction from me at all. It was a decent comic, but one that lacked energy or enthusiasm for its own content.