Review: Valentine #1 and #2 (Thrillbent)

Valentine 1 ComiXologyAvailable once again on ComiXology Valentine #1 and #2  from Alex de Campi and Christine Larsen is one of the forgotten classics of digital comics, yet has influenced a whole generation of comic creators. Re-issued via Mark Waid’s Thrillbent label how does this 5 year old comic compare to the young upstarts who followed it?

Valentine 1 ComiXologyPublisher: Thrillbent
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Christine Larsen
Price: #1 Free and#2 £0.69/$0.99 from ComiXology

This isn’t the first time we have seen Alex de Campi’s Napoleonic supernatural misadventure appear on ComiXology. Back in 2009, de Campi and artist Christine Larsen blazed a trail for Guided View Comics with their unique use of sequential images and wide panoramic pages in a landscape format to make the original Valentine into one of the pioneers of digital comics.

It was so much more than just a simple page turner and influenced everything from Marvel’s Infinite comics to indie titles like Powerplay, Motorcycle Samurai, Moth City and more. Unfortunately it had been something of a forgotten classic until it was dusted off in 2013 by Mark Waid’s Thrillbent website and released in it’s entirety for the first time online. It is now set to return to ComiXology once again with a new collected edition, again courtesy of Thrillbentand the journey of the mysterious French soldier called Valentine is set to be complete.

Set during the Napoleonic wars of 1812, Valentine is a French soldier who, along with his comrade Oscar, becomes separated from their unit during a retreat from Moscow. Encountering a mysterious general and his wife who is trapped under an over turned sleigh Valentine is given a mysterious package and the group encounter some mysterious enemies on horseback who are much more dangerous than the Russian soldiers they are retreating from.

This first issue is a snow-laden slow burner that immerses the reader into the the bleak cold atmosphere of the characters before the action really gets going in issue #2. Larsen embraces the landscape orientation of the story completely and produces some stunning panoramic scenes (especially the opening pan across the battlefield in issue #1) which still feel as original as they did 5 years ago. The use of constant snow covers the visuals at time but along with the muted colour scheme completely suits the snowy landscape and is enough to make you shiver when reading it. The action scenes really take things up a level in issue #2 with fixed viewpoints merged with multiple panels which really make the most of the Guided View sequencing creating that hybrid of comic and animation that we have come to know and love in other Guided View titles.

These first issues are short but sweet and reveal little of what is to come in the world of Valentine, however they give a solid basis for the story to come. Casual fans may be put off by the relative slow pace of these early issues and a lack of capes and crime fighting, however perseverance is rewarded and fans of more cerebral supernatural stories or more European styles of story-telling are in for a real treat.

Like rediscovering a classic album like Sgt Pepper or Pet Sounds, Valentine is a bona fide digital comic classic which deserves the recognition that comes with this re-issue. With digital comics becoming ever more sophisticated and innovative, Valentine is still as dynamic and original as it was in 2009 and whatever the incarnation never fails to live up to the hype of it’s pioneering past.

pd_review5“A truly ground-breaking digital comic, Valentine #1 is still as fresh and exciting as it was when released in 2009 and established the rules for an entire genre of comics. With the whole story now available thanks to Thrillbent and ComiXology there has never been a better time to enjoy this essential digital classic and discover why Valentine was the first digital comic masterpiece.”