RAPTURE is a character-focused event book that shows off big visuals and varying art styles.
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Meet and Greet

Summer is the time for beaches, barbecues, and big summer comic book events. For those unfamiliar, events are arcs that throw multiple heroes into a single story. Valiant’s newest crossover event is RAPTURE. This world-spanning tale depicts the universe’s greatest heroes battling against a force of evil called Babel. X-O MANOWAR writer Matt Kindt and RAI artist CAFU tackle Valiant’s most significant characters in this dimension-crossing epic.

Valiant has referred to the RAPTURE event as “The Lord of the Rings for the Valiant universe.” Tolkien’s incredible epic fantasy is, of course, a tough act to follow. Kindt and CAFU have stuffed a lifetime’s worth of classic fantasy references into the first issue. There’s giant towers and creepy tunnels. More importantly, there’s as much emotional heart as The Lord of the Rings as well.

Image courtesy of Valiant Comics.

Getting to Know Tama

RAPTURE #1 sets the stage for a giant clash between the forces of good and evil. The issue begins with Tama, a 12-year old mystic tasked with protecting Earth. She has learned that Babel wants to take over a dimension known as “heaven.” Tama must now gather Valiant heroes Ninjak, Shadowman, and Punk Mambo if she hopes to stand a chance.

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Tama is clearly hobbit-like in her appearance and personality. Despite her short stature and age, she is a fierce warrior full of heart. The majority of RAPTURE #1 revolves around Tama entering a dark and otherwordly dimension called “the Deadside”. Kindt fills this world with strange creatures from multiple realities. Overall, the most compelling aspect of RAPTURE #1 is seeing Tama cleverly navigate her way through this dangerous realm. Rather than brute force, Tama relies on compassion to befriend the violent-looking demons. Tama is, therefore, a perfect foil to Valiant’s more popular action heroes. Ninjak may wield swords. X-O Manowar may have a power suit. But Tama battles with her mind, not her fists.

Image courtesy of Valiant Comics.

Varying Visuals

Visually, CAFU does an excellent job of pulling from various sci-fi and fantasy influences. As a result, the Deadside feels familiar yet fresh. There are looming Mordor-looking towers and rugged Tatooine landscapes. CAFU’s creature designs are especially impressive. For example, he effortlessly fits a Japanese-style demon into the more Lord of the Rings inspired Deadside world. CAFU has crafted a rich fantasy world where anything is possible.

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CAFU’s art, which uses a wispy story-book style, perfectly meshes with this tale. His backgrounds and settings are always beautiful. RAPTURE #1 presents a sense of space in every scene. Perfect for worldbuilding, of course. The visuals of the Deadside all work towards one theme. The world is meant to reflect a twisted biblical fantasy land, complete with crucified prisoners.

Image courtesy of Valiant Comics.

RAPTURE #1 Starts a Big Event that Feels Small, But With a Rocky Ending

RAPTURE #1 succeeds because it focuses so closely on Tama. Most event books quickly cut between different heroes to achieve a greater scope. Instead, Kindt brings the big plot elements to Tama to make the world feel expansive. By focusing on Tama, Kindt can keep the reader emotionally invested. Overall, we care about Tama because we are with her for the ride.

Unlike the rest of the issue, the tail end of RAPTURE #1 feels like a bit of a speedbump. In the end, Kindt switches the setting to our world. Ninjak, Shadowman, and Punk Mambo haphazardly gather together to begin their mission. The change from Tama’s journey to Earth happens too quickly. In contrast to Tama’s personality, the superheroes’ rushed backstories fall flat. These elements might have worked better in the second issue.

The Epic Continues in RAPTURE #2

So how do publishers make event books feel like an event? Usually with more characters, bigger villains, greater stakes. RAPTURE #2 has all of these elements. Yet it never feels too big. It’s a refreshingly deep dive into the narrow space of the story and characters.

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The most compelling aspect of RAPTURE #2 is the growing team dynamic. The actual events of the issue’s plot are minor. There’s a bad guy they must defeat. That’s about it. This event book is unusual because the main focus is the characters.

Image courtesy of Valiant Comics.

The Babel-on 5

In RAPTURE #2, five heroes — Tama, Punk Mambo, Ninjak, Magpie, and Rex — make their way into the Deadside. Although we didn’t see many character dynamics in RAPTURE #1, that changes here. RAPTURE #2 mostly focuses on Tama’s interactions with Ninjak, a ninja warrior struggling to accept the magical world he is in. Ninjak relies on violence, while Tama keeps composure in tense situations. Their differences come to a head when they must decide how to deal with a hostage.

The rest of the crew gets a little bit less focus. Still, we do see them start to blossom. Punk Mambo and Magpie both have mystical “Loas” (magic monster powers). However, they deal with them in totally different ways. Punk Mambo embraces her abilities. Meanwhile Magpie sees them as a curse. This is another source of tension for the group.

A Villain’s Journey

RAPTURE #2 also turns the focus to Babel. We see his entire backstory and motivations in one long segment. It is not uninteresting, but it is unbelievably wordy. Plus, it takes away some of Babel’s mystery. I didn’t like learning that Voldemort was just some guy that went to the same school as Harry. Nor do I like knowing every single detail about Babel. I would have preferred a more subtle, Sauron-esque approach. Babel’s fleshed out backstory reduces his impact as a villain.

Image courtesy of Valiant Comics.

Split Down The Middle

The action in RAPTURE #2 is top-notch. Every fight is infused with magical monsters and glowing energy. Each character’s fighting style is perfectly captured. Punk Mambo’s giant energy beast fights against goblins in a large-scale brawl. CAFU also does a great job contrasting Ninjak’s muggle fighting style with that of his magical peers. He draws Ninjak in swift motion with smooth deliberate actions.

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During Babel’s origin, the art becomes scratchy and less polished. This switch-up is a great break in the book. CAFU makes Babel’s origin feel like an ancient tale. The visuals are more medieval here, with scratchy textures and flat shapes. I do wish that Babel’s story was more compelling. However, this aspect of the comic was a great break from RAPTURE’s regular art style.

Final Thoughts

Most other event books work in too many characters and storylines too fast. RAPTURE #1, on the other hand, is laser-focused. Kindt’s characterization of Tama is three-dimensional and sympathetic. Likewise, RAPTURE #2 succeeds when it focuses on interactions between its characters. Furthermore, CAFU’s worldbuilding art is second to none. Overall, RAPTURE is a comic book event that actually feels eventful and not forced.

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