With a event titled Book of Death, you'd expect some deaths, but the killing of the Eternal Warrior was a bit of a shock -- especially considering the whole "Eternal" part of his name. But Valiant and writer Robert Venditti did just that with October 28's Book of Death #4.
With Valiant's latest summer event series in the rear-view and now haunting new series titled Wrath of the Eternal Warrior debuting this month, Newsarama spoke with Venditti about these two series and the bizarre new status quo for a dead immortal.
Newsarama: Robert, with the final issue of The Book of Death out on newsstands, what thoughts are going through your mind?
Robert Venditti: That these crossover events are just so much work! This is the second one I’ve done, and there is just so much planning, revising, and other things that go into it. You also have to look at the marketing efforts that go into as well. It’s something that involves everyone here at Valiant, from the writers and artists to the marketing people. You really want it to go well and you really want people to like it.
At the same time, I’m just really happy with the work that Rob Gill, Doug Braithwaite, David Baron, and Brian Reber have done. It’s something we can all get behind and be pleased about putting out on the newsstands.
Nrama: You mentioned in our first interview that this story would defy readers’ expectations. In what ways do you find this final chapter in The Book of Death delivers on this promise?
Venditti: I don’t think the ending with Master Darque would have been anticipated, nor do I think that fans actually thought they’d see Gilad actually die – and yes, he’s actually dead. He’s not getting up, and he’s not walking around. And this is something that springboards us into what we’ll be doing in Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #1.
But all along the way, I think we’ve embedded a fair number of teases about what’s coming in the future not just in our series but in the tie-ins as well that will eventually come to fruition.
But yeah, there’s a lot still in there waiting for readers to discover long after the series is over.
Nrama: Looking back on the series as a whole, what about Robert Gill and Doug Braithwaite’s art do you think stands out the most? Was there a particular scene or even panel? Something else that was memorable for you in terms of the visual story being told?
Venditti: Yeah, it’d probably have to be the campfire scene from Book of Death #3 that Gill and David Baron created, which I was that point where I was trying to tap into the archetypical moment we see in many horror films. All the animals that come out of the forest that are half-decomposed and that awful looking bear. Then David’s colors, which really help capture the tone and feel of the scene, I really enjoyed how all of that came out.
Then Doug and Brian, who worked on all of the dystopian future scenes from the series, there was so much weight put on those pages from the narrator’s perspective because we never actually see it in present time. Gilad’s not going to make it to see those days face-to-face. It’s an idea or a future that he’s fighting against and trying to thwart. So, any sense of urgency or immediacy comes directly from the power of the art to get the sense of desolation across to the reader.
Nrama: You also have The Book of Death: Fall of XO Manowar #1 that came out the week before The Book of Death #4. Having launched your career in the Valiant Universe with Aric, can you talk briefly about what it was like writing the death of this character? How do you, as a writer, get into that place mentally and creatively to create the death scene for a longstanding character?
Venditti: The character’s going to continue on long after I close the book on my time with him, so I felt like so much of it as I’ve written it, is we see a long-standing series of victories for Aric and so much growth in him as a character from where he first started out. You had this brash warrior who eventually learned how to become a king. When doing the death scene, I know some might expect him to go out in some sort of glorious battle sequence, but I really wanted him to have a happy ending in some way. He does become a king and have the kingdom that he wanted. He has those things, but then he also helps pass along the mantle of the XO armor. There’s a sense of legacy and immortality, too, as he is subsumed by the armor, which is then passed onto his daughter.
Nrama: Now, you’re also getting ready to kick off a new mini-series this month, The Wrath of the Eternal Warrior. Looking at the solicits, we’re told that Gilad has been ripped from Earth and sent to an alien landscape that is far older and deadlier than any place he’s previously encountered. What more can you tell us about this new setting?
Venditti: As we find out in The Book of Death #4, Gilad does die in his final battle against Master Darque, and where we see him know is the afterlife. We’ve seen him die quite a few times, but he always comes back. He sacrifices the afterlife to come back and fight even though it’s this beautiful place with all of his loved ones there. He could be there forever if he chooses to.
He ultimately chooses to leave it to return to fight for Earth; yet, he must travel through this hellish landscape that is worse than anything anyone has ever seen before to earn his way back into the living world. It’s an interesting take on immortality, as we typically see them in the living world but we never see the cost of that immortality – what it takes to come back to life.
But I’ll say this: You’re going to meet a lot of characters in this first issue, who we will get to know better in later issues, and there are a lot of plot lines we’re burying in here that you may not be aware of. Just be sure to pay attention to the details. Everyone in that house has their own story and reason for why they’re there.
Nrama: I was going to ask about this: It’s a pretty diverse group of people living in his paradisal home. Is this sort of a collection of his various family members that the Eternal Warrior gathered over the millennia?
Venditti: Yeah, they come from across the course of his history. He’s several thousand years old, and he would have had children and had families as many of us come to do in our lives. And he would have experienced loss – horrific loss as we’ll come to see as the series progresses.
There’s also an interesting story that is going on between Gilad and his first son, who is there but does not want to be. Every single one has a story and that even includes the dog. We’ll see it all in very different ways starting in Issue #2 and moving on throughout the series.
Nrama: It seems like Gilad must experience his own process of “harrowing of hell” in order to come back from the land of the dead into that of the living.
Venditti: In a way you look at it like that – as a harrowing process. But he does come back to this very same place every time he dies. He gets to return to this Paradise, but he also gets to choose to leave it behind and venture to the landscape to get back to the living world.
I don’t want to say something mystical happens as he’s undergoing that process, i.e. bathes in a river, but he is immortal if he chooses to be. He could leave us all behind and stay there forever, but he opts to come back and fight for humanity. To me, that’s a very, very heroic thing for someone to want to do.
Nrama: You’ll be working alongside Raul Allen and Patricia Martin on art for this series. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this will be his first time taking the lead on art for an ongoing series with Valiant, having focused on cover art and a few one-shots prior to this. What’s it been like working with Raul in terms of the creative process you use? What do you think he does for the story that you think will excite readers?
Venditti: He has such a unique voice and the way he composes a panel, it’s almost as though the comic turns into twenty-two pages of individual art pieces to tell the story. It’s pretty extraordinary. The level of detail that goes into the divide and the whole process is impressive.
In terms of scripting, there’s not a whole lot that I’m putting onto the pages other than putting out a handful of suggestions. There’s one instance where I tell him to try and convey the five senses and suggest a few different ways, but then he comes back with something so far beyond what I originally suggested! So, I try to give him the beats and a few suggestions of areas where he can really dig in find the story.
But yeah, you won’t see me dictating to him every last thing that will go into a panel. For example, there’s one scene where I suggested we include some aroma lines near a meal to indicate a sense of smell for Gilad (and the reader). Raul took those lines and laid them across the page in such a way that it guides the reader’s eye from one panel to the next all the way to the bottom. I didn’t script that, but it’s brilliant.
Nrama: For our final question, Rob, let’s have you give an epilogue to The Book of Death: where do we go from here?
Venditti: I can’t get into too much here, but from a larger perspective here, we’ve seen the end of The Book of Death and the stories of Gilad and Tama. Now, we’re going to follow XO Manowar as we finish the “Exodus” arc as we move towards XO Manowar #50. What’s cool is we’re going to see big finale as we approach that milestone issue and seeds from all previous storylines will come to a head.
But to see where things go with Gilad, you have to pick up The Wrath of the Eternal Warrior!