Gilad Anni-Padda has served the Geomancer his entire life. He is the Fist and Steel and usually does whatever is asked of him without question. Usually. This story, as chronicled by Peter Milligan and Cary Nord, concerns a decision that Gilad must make, one that will determine the fate of two peoples, the Franks and the Magyars. The wrong decision will doom one of them and the right decision will save them. It is a hard choice for no matter which one he makes, the cost will be paid in blood, it only remains to be seen if it is the obvious one or the one most would find questionable.
Milligan weaves a tight story with this tale, one that not only finds Gilad having to make a choice, but many of the other characters in the book as well. It all begins with the initial decision the Geomancer thrusts upon our hero and from there, it snowballs and sees Gilad’s dilemma follow him through the years, taunting and teasing him and weighing on him as he wonders if he made the right one. The Geomancer is his usual, cryptic self and will not reveal all he knows to Gilad, for he never does, and so Gilad follows the plight of the Magyars and the Franks year after year, frustrated and angry until decades later, the result of his choice has been made apparent. It is nothing like he expected, for he never thought it would take so long to manifest, and it just proves once again that the Geomancer works in mysterious ways.
There is a fair amount of drama throughout the three issue that make up this trade paperback, but there is also a lot of action to be found as well as Gilad often finds himself in the middle of battle. For the most part, it is between the two peoples who are at the center of the story and it is brutal and bloody with little room for anything good to come of it, but good there is, it is simply lying there, waiting to be found. Cary Nord, no stranger to Valiant or to action titles, having drawn Conan and X-O Manowar previously, pencils it all quite expertly and his work seems to have undergone a little bit of a transformation with this series, becoming slightly more polished than normal. Despite the evolution in his style, everything is delineated perfectly and whether it be battle or not, Nord proves he still has what it takes to play in Valiant’s sandbox.
Out of all of the stories that have featured Gilad thus far, this is not the most exciting story despite how good it is, but it is a very solid effort and it gives the reader a look at a time in Gilad’s life that has been previously untold before now.
3.5 out of 5