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Edenwood #1
Image Comics

Comic Books

‘Edenwood’ #1 kicks off a bloody great new universe

A story of brutal darkness and big-time heroes.

The man’s got a rather stacked bibliography, but I think a lot about Tony S. Daniel’s efforts on both Batman and Nocterra. Those two titles, especially, capture the intensity of his work, this innate ability to expertly depict stark and stoic heroes, and the way action is used as to enhance the story’s themes and not just dazzle the eyes. It’s those books that seem to speak volumes as Daniel moves into his latest project, the Image Comics title Edenwood.

The story itself feels very much akin to Nocterra. But rather than perpetual darkness, there’s something equally evil and foreboding. Basically, the remainder of the U.S. is protected by this realm of witches (the titular Edenwood) from the demons that “supplanted” the Midwest with their own haunted realm, Necronema. And amid that struggle is a demon killer, Bastille, and a young teen (Rion), who join forces to help eliminate the bloody chaos of this “realm.” There’s far more to the lore, but just keep in mind the constant thread of “life amid wartime.”

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Edenwood #1

Courtesy of Image Comics.

The Rion-Bastille relationship/dynamic is quickly complicated, but you’ll have to read about that yourself. What I can say, though, is that also like Nocterra, I think the concept is both pretty involved but well-executed so far. It borders the realms of magic and gritty war story (with a proper helping of action-adventure), and we get something that focuses on the struggles of humanity against the endless tide of evil. The lore of the world is hinted at with just the right degree — lots of very specific dialogue tidbits and a sense of history that’s shown in key items without bashing us over the head. There’s a sense we’ll get to discover these characters right alongside the canon of Edenwood, and that ties it all together in a really nice package.

Daniel clearly wants this to be about how we survive the horrors of war, and the versatility and adaptability of the human spirit. And so he fills this not only with great warriors but young folks. Their fates remain to be seen, but that idea of spinning our heroes out and then seeing how they reconvene with old friends/allies will not only extend the war analogy but make for a properly pointed look at how we as upper primates thrive amid the darkest of challenges. Plus, that nugget of an idea is nearly the most compelling part of this book’s truly great beginnings.

Or, at least it would be if it weren’t for the art from Daniel (with a big assist from colorist Jay David Ramos). It’s here that I get the Batman connection — the characterization of Bastille (the cover star) feels as similarly grandiose and romantic as some stuff from Daniel’s Detective Comics run. But that powerful and poised demon killer is only the start, and the real achievement is the demons in Edenwood proper. They’re sort of like skinless worm monsters, or gnarled tentacles ghouls — either way, there’s body horror galore. (And that’s expertly capped off as every one of them talks like a proper Deadite from Evil Dead.) Having that great, extra bloody foe is really important as it informs the depths they’re facing and gives our human characters a really intriguing enemy that very much has them questioning their own humanity in a massive way.

Edenwood #1

Courtesy of Image Comics.

And Daniel and company never skimp on the blood and gore, but do so in a way that feels in service of testing the mettle of our heroes. And all of that’s in addition to the army stuff, which has both a vintage WWII sheen and intensity and some pseudo-futuristic vibes — the perfect mix to play off the visceral nature of the demons and add to the grounded nature of this war for the heart of the Midwest. The story itself is complicated enough, and while the art certainly helps clarify some ideas, it also keeps the focus where it needs to be on: on how this is a deeply personal story of life and the struggle for survival.

Sure, this book is still quite young, but there’s heaps of potential here. Daniel is dedicated to not only building this rather intricate world, but letting us explore it both slowly and through the eyes of some compelling enough leads. There’s drama and gore to spare, but it never comes at the expense of how committed the narrative remains in following folks through this nightmare realm. I’m scared and excited for our journey ahead, but it looks to be one we’ll make together.

Edenwood #1
‘Edenwood’ #1 kicks off a bloody great new universe
Edenwood #1
This debut issue shows a well-crafted universe of horror and humanity, a realm we can explore as the book slowly unveils the world in front of us.
Reader Rating0 Votes
The horror and humanity work together to push forward a thoughtful narrative.
The lore of the world serves as a beacon of interest without overwhelming readers.
Daniel brings his various skills and experiences to the table to craft a proper new world.
This book operates a little slowly, and that may not be optimal for everyone.
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