"Valen the Outcast," the new series from Boom! Studios, has such a wonderfully simple concept it's a small wonder we haven't been inundated with it up until now. Take "Conan the Barbarian" and merge it with "The Walking Dead" (to take two obvious properties) and you end up with an undead zombie of a warrior king, determined to stay alive (or is that unalive?) long enough to destroy the necromancer that transformed him.
Michael Alan Nelson writes the comic (created by publisher Ross Richie), and it's a standard opening issue. We get Valen's origin scene that transforms him into the walking dead, and from there his freedom from the necromancer's influence so that he can seek revenge. Valen himself is a little bland initially, perhaps because Nelson needs the space to introduce the cast and the setting. He's got a growly nature, with supporting cast members Zjanna and Alexio feeling like they're there to lighten the mood a bit (even as they each show off their own inner badass). But the book is really just starting to move by the time we've learned about the mark of the necromancer, the political structure of the land that Valen once ruled, and so on. There's a lot of potential, though, and it's enough to make me interested in a second issue.
Matteo Scalera's art is all right but it feels a bit cluttered in places. It's a rare complaint to make, but I feel like at times he's putting too much detail in the backgrounds, and they end up distracting from what's going on in the foreground. It's there that we're getting the good material, like the mark that Zjanna creates to keep Valen free of the necromancer, or the handprint of the necromancer singed onto Valen's chest. Scalera also does a good job with the monsters of the book; when Zjanna is attacked by the creatures with glowing eyes, they look sufficiently evil and dangerous to get your attention.
At an introductory price of just one dollar, it would have been hard to not get your money's worth. "Valen the Outcast" #1 was pleasant enough, though, that I'll give it another issue to see where Nelson and Scalera go, now that the setup and exposition phase appears to be over. At the core of "Valen the Outcast" is a strong concept, and I want to see just what they're going to do with it.