SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Wrath of the Eternal Warrior" #4, on sale tomorrow.
The Eternal Warrior is dead. Okay, that's not really a spoiler since he dies all the time. But in "Book of Death," Gilad's demise appeared to other characters in the Valiant Universe to be permanent. Luckily, writer Robert Venditti and artist Raul Allen have far bigger plans for Gilad.
"Wrath of the Eternal Warrior's" first arc concludes this week with the release of #4, leading directly into "Labyrinth," the next big story arc Venditti says is all part of a larger storyline. CBR News spoke with Venditti about how Gilad's epic battle with Humongous comes to an end, and why the monstrous gatekeeper is the least of his worries when he faces the Dying One in the next round.
Venditti also confirmed that the Dying One is a re-imagining of the classic Valiant villain Immortal Enemy, but he needed to find a new name for him as Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire used the handle for a very different character in "The Valiant."
Readers have also not seen the last of Kalam, Gilad's estranged son, who is trapped in the Eternal Warrior's afterlife with Gilad's wife Leena and his other children, even though the first born was separated from his father at birth. Venditti teased that all of these storylines come crashing together in Issue #5's "Prelude to Labyrinth," guest-illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp.
CBR News: As painful as it is, I love what you've been doing with Gilad, telling stories that reveal what his life is like as an immortal and the trials and tribulations he must face every time he dies and awaits his next rebirth.
Robert Venditti: This is a new concept and a new part of the mythology that we have brought to the character. Whenever we see immortal characters, we always see them from the perspective of the living world. We never see what it costs to be immortal. What do they have to go through? And what happens in the moments between when they die and when they come back. I thought that would be an interesting take. And I also thought that it would be really relatable because while we're not all eternal warriors! [Laughs] We do have to leave our families oftentimes for work or what have you to provide for them.
When Gilad is in the afterlife -- the moments between when he dies and comes back to life -- it's almost like his weekend. [Laughs] Come Monday, he has to go back to work and fight for a better world. If he wanted to, he could quit his job and stay in the afterlife with his family in this paradise forever, but he chooses to give all of that up so he can come back to life and fight for us.
"Wrath of the Eternal Warrior" is moving into a new arc, a new story and frankly, a new status quo with the next issue. Issue #4 has Gilad arrive in a very different place than he is used to when he comes back to life following his most recent death at the hands of Humongous.
He's died and come back many, many times over the past 1,000 years that he's walked the Earth. He basically always wakes up wherever it was that he died, and stands up and starts going again. For him to awaken in this labyrinth -- this completely foreign environment that he's never seen before -- and it wasn't where he died, it's all immediately disorienting to him and an immediate clue that somebody knows who he is. Otherwise, why would he be there? It's almost like his secret is out, and he didn't even know someone was trying to find his secret.
Throughout the entire "Labyrinth" arc, and "Prelude to Labyrinth," too, which is "Wrath of the Eternal Warrior" #5 and #6, we're going to see that there is a character named the Dying One, who is a new take on a classic Valiant villain that used to go by the name of the Immortal Enemy. He reincarnates throughout history in different bodies, but always has one brown and one green eye. That's the only identifying characteristic about him. With the Dying One being immortal and Gilad being immortal, we learn that he has been keeping an eye on Gilad throughout history, waiting for this moment when he could capture Gilad and imprison him in this elaborate labyrinth for reasons that we will find out as the story goes on.
While Gilad awakens in this futuristic high tech world, we don't know exactly where and when he is. What can you share?
It's the modern day -- the here and now. -- but he's not in the location of where he was when he some him dying in "Book of Death." He's not in a grave, like "Book of Death." In "Book of Death," the other characters are led to believe that he is allowed to stay dead if he wants to. And he chooses not to. So, no grave. He just wakes up in this labyrinth and he doesn't know why. He doesn't know what time it is yet, either, but he is in the modern day.
Gilad is obviously one of the greatest warriors in the history of mankind, not to mention a master tactician. But he is a warrior first and foremost, most often seen wielding an axe and sword. Does he have the mettle, knowledge and ability to win when facing the high-tech, cyber-reality the Dying One has created in the labyrinth?
He is. I don't know that he can hack a computer, but he is highly intelligent. Gilad is a walking book of history. He hasn't just read about history. He's lived it. He has incredible wealth of experience that a character like Aric (X-O Manowar) doesn't have, because he is time-displaced, going right from the past to the present. He didn't see how society evolved in between. Gilad has lived every single day of that evolution. Even though he does often use what we would call primitive weapons, his favorite being his axe, he's forgotten more about how to use an axe than you or I will ever know. And an axe is a useful tool, besides being used as a weapon. You can polish it up and use it as a mirror. You can use it as a pry bar. You can start a fire with it. You can heat up the edge and cauterize a wound or fry an egg on it. You can use it as a stick to carry things. It's a very useful item. This doesn't all mean that he doesn't know how to use modern weapons and tools, but if you have a gun, you can fire a bullet with it. You can't do much else with it. He sees usefulness in items that we would never see.
This tech environment that he is going to see in the labyrinth is something that he has never seen the likes of before. It will be a great challenge for him. And operating in the background the entire time is this knowledge that someone has put him here for reasons he does not yet understand. He is trying to figure that out at the same time he is trying to survive. And as we come to see, for him not to survive. What the motives are behind that and how the Dying One is connected not just to Gilad but other people in his family, who we have seen in the afterlife, will also be explored. The Dying One reaches so far back into Gilad's past, Gilad has no idea. It's a very, very long game approach. The Dying One always knew what he wanted to do, but the world needed to get modern enough for him to be able to do it.
I am glad you mentioned family, as we discussed Gilad's wife and children earlier. Will we see more of Leena and Gilad's kids, specifically Kalam, in the coming storyline? Kalam has really piqued my interest.
Yes, we will. In a lot of ways, the focus of the first long-form arc of "Wrath of the Eternal Warrior" is Gilad's relationship with his son, Kalam. He is Gilad's first born, but was raised by others and does not know Gilad at all. But Gilad has always loved him, even though he was taken from him as a baby. He is his first born, he loves them and that's why Kalam finds himself in Gilad's afterlife with Gilad's other loved ones, even though there are other places that Kalam would rather be. These are some of the mysteries we are going to unravel in the "Prelude to Labyrinth" and the "Labyrinth" storylines. What is that relationship? How did Kalam get taken? How does it all tie together? And coming out of "Labyrinth," we will know what that plan is in place there. The third arc is going to explore how these revelations effect Gilad and his first born son.
"Wrath of the Eternal Warrior" #4, by Robert Venditti and featuring art by Raul Allen, is available this week from Valiant Entertainment.