The term “epic” gets thrown around a lot, to the point where it loses its meaning. However, Valiant’s INCURSION #1, written by Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel — and illustrated by the Doug Braithwaite with colors by José Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez — has certainly earned it. This first of a four-issue miniseries has the plot, the characters, and (especially) the art befitting an epic tale. Even if you don’t know the connections this series shares with the rest of Valiant’s comics, you can still enjoy the read. (For more on some of those other Valiant titles, see one of ComicsVerse’s recent articles!)

INCURSION #1 Lays the Groundwork for the Plot of the Series

As expected in the first issue of any series, INCURSION #1 devotes its time to world building. This means establishing the setting that the characters inhabit as well as their place in it. What is brilliant about Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel’s script is how they are able to side-step pure exposition dumps. The two of them establish the setting by showing how the characters interact and react to it.

INCURSION #1 begins by establishing the power of the central adversary. The comic starts in space on an unnamed planed in the Cygnus galaxy. We learn that planet is suffering from a collapse of its biosphere — and then we learn why. We meet Imperatrix Virago, who has enslaved the planet for the purpose of consuming its life force. The Imperatrix normally takes her time consuming a planet. However, when she gets impatient (as we see in the first issue), she can speed things up. This show of power is terrifying.

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Then, about halfway through the book, we meet the characters who would defy her. These are Gilad the Eternal Warrior and Tama the Geomancer. Gilad has been reincarnated for several millennia in service of the Geomancer whose task it is to protect Earth. In this way, Tama is Imperatrix Virago’s opposite. While Virago seeks to destroy life, Tama is present to make sure it thrives.

This is why Imperatrix Virago seeks the Geomancer. If she can control one who can constantly restore the ecosystems she consumes, there will be no stopping the necromancer’s reign.

Powerful Yet Relatable Characters

Without giving the end away, INCURSION #1 sets the stage for a conflict between the forces of death and life. Because of this, the appeal of the comic comes not from the plot itself but from the characters who personify those forces.

As I mentioned earlier, the script reveals vital information about the characters through how they interact with each other. And although Imperatrix Virago’s introduction is a bit heavy-handed in showing how evil she is, Gilad’s and Tama’s entrance is done with much more subtlety. For these two, we have a scene where the Eternal Warrior brings in an animal for the Geomancer to eat. Tama isn’t thrilled about this, but Gilad speaks to the importance of her keeping up her strength. In this one scene, we get a layered conversation about duties they serve and how they feel about their work. Moreover, it’s a conversation that humanizes the two.

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

In the end, that was what surprised me the most about INCURSION #1. With the epic tone set by the art scale of the series, I didn’t expect to relate to these heroes. Yet there they were, speaking in plain, unaffected English, still acting heroic and still being truthful to their duties. It means that I’m invested in the story now, and I can’t wait to see the next issue.

Of course, certain characters do speak in a more formal tone fitting the genre — for instance, Imperatrix Virago. To contrast her haughtiness, we get Syntilla, the child-like servant of the necromancer. Although devoted to her master in duty, she still voices regret about attacking Earth. Syntilla is the “human” side of team villain, and I look forward to seeing the conflict that results from that.

Paying Homage to Epic Fantasy Through Epic Art

The art of INCURSION #1 (with Doug Braithwaite on pencils and José Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez on colors) feels like a cross between Prince Valiant and Boris Vallejo. In other words, there’s that “serious” look of a serialized epic fantasy comic mixed with realistic lighting and rippling muscles. The tone set by this art elevates the book to a higher level than I expect to see in comics. This was a delightful surprise for me.

At the same time, the art made me concerned about the content of the comic prior to reading it. When you have a realistic art style like INCURSION #1, you risk two things. The first is alienating your audience. The more realistic your character art looks, according to Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics, the more readers feel like observers rather than participants in a story. The second risk is the creative team taking itself too seriously. Some comics I’ve read try so hard to match a script to their “epic” art that they just end up reeking of melodrama by the end.

However, the brilliance of INCURSION #1 comes from the script. The characters speak like real people facing real difficulties. That convinced me that these characters were relatable. And so, when you mix that with realistic art, you get the opposite of alienation. The art becomes almost like a second script. Instead of fixating on how real everyone looks, I noticed details that aid the characterization. If the artist took time to draw, color, and light a wrinkled forehead or a scarred face, what does that say about the character? How does that reveal the feelings they’re not verbalizing? This deepens the text in a way that does more than present visuals for a story.

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Final Thoughts on INCURSION #1

In the end, INCURSION #1 is a solid first act to a miniseries that will surely be a lot of fun. There isn’t much to talk about from the critical side, other than how excited I am about seeing these characters in action. Of course if you dislike some sci-fi getting into your fantasy, you may want to pass on this story. But if you don’t mind a tonally consistent blend of the best both genres have to offer, then do check it out. Like me, you may find yourself wanting to read more of Valiant’s publications. This can only be a good thing for all parties involved.

INCURSION #1 by Andy Diggle and Alex Paknadel (writers), Doug Braithwaite (pencils), José Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez (colors), and Marshall Dillon (letters)
INCURSION #1 offers more than just the typical setting and character introductions of a first-issue comic book. Inside, you’ll find an epic gestalt of sci-fi villains and fantasy heroes, all presented with a realistic art style that captures the tone such an adventure deserves. This comic provides relatable characters (heroes and villains alike) who, despite their globe-altering abilities, still feel realistic. I had a lot of fun with this story, and I look forward to reading the next three issues in the miniseries.
98 %
10/10 Battlaxes

One Comment

  1. Lili Rathor

    February 20, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Love you


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