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Comic Bento’s Between the Panels #2: ‘Book of Death’

So here’s the deal: the guys at Comic Bento (@ComicBentoHQ on twitter) have very graciously given Geek Insider (by that I mean me) the opportunity to read and review some of the newest, hottest, comics out on the market – and from the comfort of my own home, without ever having to put on pants and hit the comic shop! I’ll be giving you the skinny on these titles, which range from the classic Marvel and DC type stuff to the smaller independent graphic novels from places like Valiant and Dynamite. Want to know whether or not an obscure title is worth a read? Looking to find a new series to follow but don’t know where to look? Heard mixed reviews about the new Fantastic Four? Relax, I got it covered, friend.

Please feast your eyes on this month’s Comic Bento below:

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Between the Panels, Review #2, ‘Book of Death’

Book of Death has the hallmarks of a great comic. It has a compelling and diverse superhero cast. It has an intriguing relationship between mentor and protagonist. It has a villain and a plot to destroy the world that deals heavily on visions of a dystopian future. But for all the set up, Book of Death is a mediocre outing by Valiant Comics. Uninspired is the word I’d use. Not terrible, but not so good either. The artwork on its own is what we’ve come to expect from the Valiant crew – functional, with occasional breakthroughs and full-page panels that are frankly, stunning.

So where did they go wrong? A second and third read through brought little to light. There are certainly fine moments, pleasurable interactions with heart and wit, but for the most part, it seemed like a hacked-through old romp, leaning heavily on the popularity of the “superhero group.” It echoes of other stories – part Buffy the Vampire Slayer, part environmental dark fantasy.

The Skinny on ‘Book of Death’

Here’s the plot, so you can follow along. Earth has always had a Geomancer – a child imbued with the power to control the natural forces of the earth – flora, fauna, the land itself. Ensuring balance between all the powers of earth is the name of the game for this godlike being. But this time around, thanks to some nefarious interference from the NetherWorld, two are born, splitting the powers 50/50. One, the original, is protected by the Gilad, an eternal warrior destined to fight alongside the child and keep them safe. The other, a young boy, is taken under the wing of aforementioned “nefarious interference.” Chaos and strife ensues, and the G.A.T.E (that’s Global Agency for Threat Excision, in other words, your run of the mill supergroup) is caught in the middle.

Once again it seems the concept yields more fruit than the execution. And that’s because, in concept, this is a story of fantastic potential. There’s very fertile soil, storytelling wise. Valiant chose to use few of these, unfortunately, and the result was a formulaic, good versus evil, mentor sacrifices himself for the protagonist, ending on an ambiguous note of “balance restored.”

Other things that were of note, which I now understand is a Valiant norm, is that when an important character is introduced, even if we already know who they are, the blurb describes not only their title, but also what they’re feeling at a given moment. It sounds interesting, nuanced even. but it’s ineffective and corny in practice. For example: “Here’s bob, He’s feeling very pissed off in this moment.” Well that may work, if the comic weren’t called Book of Death and featured innocent civilians hanging from the boughs of murderous, sentient trees. The tone is all wrong.

That said, it’s not devoid of authentic moments. The writing, sure, it could have been tighter, but the interactions between G.A.T.E and Gilad are intriguing and snappy. All in all. I’d say, steal this one from a friend.

Two out of Five Stars

Here’s your friendly weekly reminder that if you want to get sweet, fresh, comics on your doorstep every month, get a subscription to Comic Bento. The dollar value to enjoyment ratio is off the charts, buds.

See you next week.


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