Rai has been cast out of New Japan and now seeks a way to return in order to end Father’s authoritative reign. Meanwhile, Rai’s girlfriend, Lula Lee, is on the run in New Japan after exposing Father to a virus. How does it fare?
4001 A.D. #1 is split into four different parts. The first part, with artwork by David Mack, is extremely heavy on exposition. Matt Kindt summarizes what has been happening with Rai, Father, New Japan, and Lula Lee. He does it concisely in three pages. It’s almost bonus artwork because Kindt and the editorial team took the normal “The Story So Far…” section found within most Valiant books and put it on three gorgeous pages of artwork.
Following this introduction section, Kindt dives into the characters beginning with Father. It’s interesting to note Kindt doesn’t reveal Father until about a quarter of the way through the issue. Instead, he uses Father as a narrative voice on top of images depicting a radical action he is taking. The narrative is so good you want to sympathize with him. Kindt allows you to understand the portent of the decision Father is making. You question the entire first three pages thinking maybe Father isn’t such a bad guy after all. However, by the end of this monologue, Kindt brings it full circle and you get a glimpse of the cold, controlling evil presence within the character.
Lula Lee’s story begins after a hard transition. Kindt just plops you into her story, changing from Father’s voice to Lula’s at the drop of a hat. As with Father, Kindt lets you peer into Lula’s character, seeing her strengths and weaknesses, her fears and her resolve. He also makes Father’s presence felt throughout this scene with broadcast warnings and almost a sick sense of Father’s humor with warnings like, “Your sector is being liberated.”
There is one issue with this section. Kindt makes it a point to have Lula’s eye a topic of conversation, but as reader’s we never get a close-up of what exactly is wrong with it. Clayton Crain keeps it hidden behind Lula’s hair which is purposefully covering her right eye.
The final section transitions nicely from Lula. Kindt uses her internal monologue thinking about her friends to take us right to them. This section doesn’t have the in-depth character development like the previous two sections, but it does give us a nice look at some of the happenings on Earth and foreshadows what we can expect moving forward in the story. It does provide some intriguing dialogue between the characters, giving us a hint of their personalities.
Unfortunately, this section lacks some important details about Rai’s abilities. We get to see them in action, but they aren’t really explained. This might not be an issue for veterans of Rai, but new readers will be left a little confused trying to figure out what his abilities are.
Clayton Crain’s artwork is very nice to look at. His sweeping splash pages are awe-inspiring. Seeing a T-Rex having its cellular structure come undone as the world around it comes crashing down is truly epic and evokes a deep sense of melancholy. This ferocious, even majestic creature is so easily snuffed out. And this is just the first splash of many throughout the issue.
The overall architecture of New Japan is also very unique. It has a little bit of the staircase in Hogwart’s feel to it with floors that seem to shift and move on their own. The one difference is there doesn’t appear to be any actual stairs on New Japan. The architecture also points to Father’s controlling nature. While it looks very sleek and futuristic, it is also extremely spartan. There is no furniture or luxuries. There aren’t even any linens. The apartment is barer than the inside of a jail cell.
If there is one fault in Crain’s artwork, it is the final actual scene; it can be difficult to figure out what is happening. You get panels of metallic robots clashing together, but it’s unclear where points of contact are made. There is also a transformation that occurs and it is a little difficult to fully grasp how that transformation comes about. Another page might have helped flesh out the specifics a little more.
4001 A.D. #1 is primarily a book that sets the stage for the rest of the event. Kindt provides some solid characterization with Father and Lula and with Clayton Crain’s art they leave the book on a pretty big action cliffhanger. However, due to the nature of the story it was a little slow and felt drawn out at times. There was a little too much focus on building the world outside of the story. Despite the unique introduction, the book feels targeted towards readers who have been following the story in Rai which makes it a little bit more difficult for newer readers to dive in. This event series definitely has potential and I expect really great things moving forward; this issue just didn’t get there yet.
- Solid characterization of Lula and Father
- Exceptional splash pages that are truly awe-inspiring
- Plenty of really good world building
- There is a little too much focus on world building that can drag the story out
- The action panels at the end can be hard to follow
- The issue primarily sets the stage for the rest of the event series