By MSchiwal 20 Comments
So with my admittedly failed effort to cover the DC 52 reboot and my new posts on Marvel NOW! relaunch, I was in danger of letting the most exciting relaunch effort in comics this year. Valiant Comics. Now many of you have no idea what I am talking about, and others upon hearing the words ‘Valiant’ and ‘Reboot’ are barely confining your nerd rage at past mistakes. So to start with I am going to speak a bit about the company history, naturally you can skip past this and start reading my thoughts on the new launch titles below.
Valiant- The Little Company That Could
Confession, first off, I never read Valiant Comics before this relaunch, so my knowledge that I am sharing now is confined to that which I have learned from other websites(namely TvTropes and Wikipedia). So if I get any information incorrect on here, please feel free to correct me, I would gladly welcome the information and criticism, mostly I am trying to offer some base information for the informed here.
“Jim Shooter was once the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics and spent a year trying to buy Marvel alongside a group of investors, their bid came in second. Shortly after he was contacted by Steven Massarsky, the former manager of the Allman Brothers Band, who was looking for a writer for his Marvel live action children’s show. While Shooter initially was disinterested he agreed when Massarsky told him “I want it to be a good story.” They spent a good portion of the next years working and pitching the show which never ended up going anywhere, eventually looking into the idea of creating their own comic company. With backing from Triumph Capital, they bought Voyager Communications in 1989 and began work on the Valiant imprint with the goal “to create original superhero comic books”.
In 1992, Valiant released original titles, including Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Rai, and Shadowman, followed by a major crossover event called Unity, during which Eternal Warrior and Archer & Armstrong were introduced. Valiant stood out among the comic fanbase at the time because while DC, Image, and Marvel were seemingly focused on art, Valiant had chosen to stand out by ‘out-writing’ the competition. Their characters were given clearly defined powers that were then based in the modern understanding of physics. Perhaps their biggest innovation came with their use of continuity, which was concurrent with the reader. For the most part the time frame a reader was reading was the same as their own, save for the occasional two part story or flash back, so unlike the other companies Valiant had aging character who were affected as time marched inevitable onwards.
Sounds all pretty awesome, right? So what happened you may ask? While I can’t say that all the blame lies on one thing, I can quite happily give a good portion of blame to Rob Liefeld.
To be fair, this is actually one of the best Liefeld drawings I have seen. There are two pairs of feet visible and I count less than ten pouches.
Both Image and Valiant was formed by disenchanted members of the Marvel and DC, so they had friends in both companies and while talking they decided to have a crossover: DEATHMATE! It is undoubtedly one of the most 90′s thing I have seen in comics. Still that was the style of comic that was popular then, and while I am puzzled and shocked by its popularity, I am sure 20 years from now people are going to be shocked by our comic sensibilities too(personally I hope it due to our reliance of hero vs hero wars). Deathmate was a mess, the issues were designed to be standalone despite it being part of a larger narrative and the issues were assigned colors instead of numbers. The main problem with Deathmate was the communication and shipping problems between the two companies, much like trying to program a Mars Lander with one team using Metric and the other using Imperial… it does not end well. Valiant was very strict on themselves about their continuity and scheduling, whereas Image, while they have gotten much better nowadays, was quite infamous at the time for letting the schedule slip away by weeks and months. So by the time the issues shipped, no one was interested anymore, and comic shops had stacks and stacks of unsellable comics.
Eventually Valiant was bought out by Acclaim Entertainment, and the entire universe was revamped. What is shocking is that, Acclaim hired TALENT, some of my favorite authors of all time are on that list, the problem was that they decided to change everything. Fans did not transfer over after discovering their beloved characters had been well… bastardized versions of themselves. The most remembered aspect of this is probably the fact that Acclaim, being a Video Game company, published several games based off of Valiant characters like Turok and Shadowman. Acclaim’s comics eventually died slowly and painfully and is not remembered well by the masses. Valiant on the other hand is still remembered quite fondly as one of the best companies to publish during Comic’s Dark Age.
In 2007 until recently there was a lot of legal battles and fighting over the rights to the Valiant characters. It’s a mess and I won’t get into besides to say that it kept characters from seeing print for that period of time. Fast forward to now, Valiant Entertainment rising from the ashes. Valiant Entertainment is led by Jason Kothari, Dinesh Shamdasani, Gavin Cuneo, Fred Pierce, Hunter Gorinson, Walter Simons, and Atom! Freeman(This is after a cursory glance at the company, if anyone’s name was left out, apologies and if informed I will alter my information). For a period Jim Shooter was with Valiant Entertainment but now is working with Dark Horse. Beginning with an event called The Summer of Valiant this year, we have got our initial offerings from the company.
What is the initial response from the comic community at large? Quality. This has been an amazing effort and so far every series, every ISSUE, has been outstanding work. Every individual series is just that, individual, being a different genre with its own identity, however we are beginning to see that they do inter-connect into a larger universe. So now without further ado, my thoughts on Valiant’s relaunch:
TvTropes Description of Original Series: A 5th century Visigothic Warrior who gained an alien robotic suit, and gets set though a timewarp to the modern era, where he befriends by a Corrupt (but imcompetent) Corporate Executive (who he doesn’t know is just using him to steal his technology). Hilarity and awesomeness ensue.
Fun Fact: This series introduces Ninjak, who is pure awesome and asides from his airship fights like one would expect a ninja to fight in modern times. Besides, I have never been one to deny a man his airship.
I grabbed all the Valiant books recently after hearing about their level of quality and not knowing the first thing about them, I read X-O Manowar first and for the most shallow reasoning. It has gorgeous cover art. Whoever does the cover art deserves a raise because this series stars a man in a blue and yellow body suit and they make it look fantastic. This series also suitably intrigued me from the start, from the cover you can tell this is going to be a Sci-Fi, however the story begins with the Romans and Visigoths fighting. Also a quick word of praise to page 1 of issue 1, it is a quick spreadsheet very well laid out that gives a quick impression of both cultures and allows even someone like me who knows nothing about the Visigoths to understand where they stand as opposed to the Romans, very well done and a really unique page. Our main character is Adric of the Visigoths, whose life is shattered when his wife is captured by the Romans. The disparity in their technology is so great that Adric and his soldiers set upon a landing party of alien invaders believing them to be Roman scouts in new battle armor. Adric is captured and used as a slave for years by this race known as the Vine. After years of planning, Adric and the slaves revolt and make their way to the armory where Adric dons the sacred Manowar armor, the God of the Vine has always rejected each wearer of the armor and thus are thrown into an existential crisis when the Manowar armor accepts Adric.
Adric uses the armor and warps back to Earth, however when the armor arrives on Earth, it is 2012 and his captured wife has been dead for centuries. After destroying a portion of Rome in his confusion, Adric is now being hunted by governments and the Vine who have infiltrated Earth since their initial landing in Adric’s era and now control much of Earth.
TvTropes Description of Original Series: A group of super powered teens are on the run for their lives from an evil business man.
Genre: Modern-Day Young Adult Superhero
Fun Fact: Zephyr is a younger version of my sister, its pretty damn cool.
Holy Hell, I love this series. While many people may be turned off by the Young Adult qualifier I attached to the Genre… it is just too fitting to ignore. Parts of this series remind me far too much of the Hunger Games and Ender’s Game for me to ignore and understand that the YA quality here is by no means a diminishing quality to the overall product. Peter Stanchek is a very powerful Psiot, when the series begins he is a runaway living with his psychotic best friend, knocking over pharmacies in order to keep in drugs to keep his friend sedated and the thoughts of others outside of Peter’s mind. Peter is being hunted down by an agency that he has attracted the attention of, and when he makes the mistake of squatting in his childhood home they come after him in force. He is then contacted by the Toyo Harada, leader of the Harbingers, and informs him there is a place where he will be accepted and trained. One of the things I love outright about this series is Harada because he is, so far, NOT evil. Even though he is quite obviously going to become our villain, Harada’s goal is to keep humanity from destroying itself and has been leading it from the shadows. Peter attracts his attention due their most powerful psychic seeing that Peter will destroy the planet. Harada however shows mercy and doesn’t have Peter destroyed instead trying to lead him away from that path, however his manipulations on trying to lead Peter into the fold may be his undoing. While Peter is our de-facto main character at the moment, I have heard that POV will switch amongst the Harbinger faction members as the series continues.
TvTropes Description of Original Series: A Mafia hitman is betrayed by his family and left for dead. His Body is found by “Project Rising Spirit” who inject him with Nano-machines that resurrect him and turn him into a Japanese flag themed superhero who doesn’t remember his past.
Genre: R-Rated Action Blockbuster
Fun Fact: Bloodshot surprisingly enough is NOT related to Mister Sinister, who would have guessed?
I almost didn’t pick up this series. The name, the look, everything about this comic SCREAMS the 90′s dark antihero that just chaffs me. However as I was looking at the Valiant relaunch as a whole I really came to respect how they modernized their character while still respecting their past designs and motivations. Also I give Bloodshot points above most other 90′s fair for being A. An actual term or phrase and B. Being spelled correctly. The series begins with a page 1 sheet giving us a rundown on nano machines and how they related to our main character’s powers, I especially appreciated them giving mention to the Grey Goo doomsday. Bloodshot is a US operative who is powered by Nanites in his body which makes him incredibly powerful, able to heal from most injuries, and a stable of other abilities. So far the main limit I have seen of his abilities is that in order to heal he needs protein for the nanites to make use of, so he needs to power his healing with a steak… or entire cow. His first mission we see goes South very quickly when he is caught by a rogue scientist who had worked on his creation, and then reveals that he is not who he thinks he is. Every time they send him on a mission he is given a specific memory engineered to push and motivate him on the mission. The wife and child he had been thinking of going home to? Don’t exist. The scientist reveals the truth in the most cruel way… activating all Bloodshot’s memories at once, leaving him to sort with all the false memories of loved ones. When they realize what has happened his handlers send missiles to end Bloodshot before he can fully sort himself out.
This series very quickly becomes a hard action revenge series. I am surprisingly enjoying it despite it not being my usual comic style. One of my favorite things is that despite Bloodshot’s vast assortment of powers they have shown a few different ways to take him out and made him vulnerable, also at this time he has recruited some people to his cause and given him a team, allowing him to avoid the lone wolf anti-hero aspect that I was dreading. Surprisingly good series and just as strong as the rest of the launch.
Archer & Armstrong
TvTropes Description of Original Series: Archer is a martial artist monk with Charles Atlas Superpowers. Armstrong is an effectively immortal brawler and drunkard. Both are being pursued by a largely incompetent cult as they have adventures and Armstrong tries to corrupt Archer.
Genre: Globe-Trotting Buddy Comedy
Fun Fact: The One Percent IS out to get you!
Okay, This and Harbinger are my favorites so far from Valiant. I barely know how to describe Archer & Armstrong besides saying… it just FUN! Seriously as odd as it is, the thing this reminds me most of is if someone had rewritten the Da Vinci code starring the cast of Talespin. Archer was raised in a militant, fundamental Christian theme park and Armstrong is an immortal Mesopotamian prince who currently works as a bouncer in a biker bar. Okay let that line sink in and your smile finish forming. The series begins showing the Mesopotamian cataclysm that gave immortality to Armstrong, a strange device known as the boon that was activated by his brother. Cut to modern day where Archer is being thrown against a gauntlet of his brothers and sisters(inside a Noah’s Arc shaped battle arena). Archer is special due to his eidetic muscle memory, he is able to master pretty much any fighting style. After defeating his adopted brethren in battle royale he is sent on his holy mission, to defeat He Who Must Not Be Named. This is naturally Armstrong, however both are soon captured by a Sect who are hell bent on reconstructing the Boon. Archer soon stumbles upon the fact that his parents are the leaders of another Sect, and besides which are willing to sacrifice him in exchange for the artifact they sent with him.
Realizing Armstrong is both an ally and the only one who has any clue what is going on, they form a partnership and set out to stop the Sects and stop them from reuniting the Boon, which besides giving Armstrong immortality also wiped out most of the life on the planet. All the while they are having to deal with Archer trying to convince Armstrong to be a better man so his soul will be saved. Armstrong trying to get Archer to pull the stick out of his ass and be a better human being. So far they have fought the evil forces of demon-worshiping wall street brokers, Armstrong’s drunken poetry(its awful), nunjas, and in the next issue shaolin nazis. Why aren’t you reading this yet?!
TvTropes Description of Original Series: An African American living in New Orleans discovers he is a powerful voodoo magician.
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Fun Fact: New Orleans is the most tolerant place on the planet, hell, even ten-foot tall intestine monsters can get a tailored suit without prejudice!
So far out of all of the Valiant titles, Shadowman feels the most cinematic to me. This entirely due to the pacing which is scripted as a well executed film. Jack Boniface is our hero, being granted his abilities from a Loa spirit that once possessed his father, and is currently fighting off demons that view him as a threat. Meanwhile in the shadows we have our villain, Darque (damn you 90s naming conventions!), a mysterious and powerful eldritch figure who killed Jack's father. This series is only two issues in so far and it is taking its time and breathing with the story, so don't take my lack of words as a lack of plot on this comic. Shadowman is a series that so far is be likened to a good stage magician, showing us one part of its performance, allowing us to ponder on it and think before moving on to the next act. However the pace of the performance may be slow, it is deliberate and it is this speed to its narrative that gives the story tension and allows us to be further drawn in. The other thing that allows you to be drawn in is the artwork which is probably the best interior work that Valiant has given us yet. It is gorgeous, expressions are finely done, and the demons are GLORIOUS. Of special mention is Mr. Twist, a malfeasant fellow made from human entrails and faces, all lovingly rendered in ink and color.
Valiant Comics has a large stable of characters and are reintroducing many of their past stars in other series. These are a few of the returning characters in the Valiant relaunch.
TvTropes Description of Original Series: Basically “What if James Bond was a ninja warrior?”
I could have just left things with that single line, but Ninjak deserves more. Ninjak was introduced in X-O Manowar as an assassin hired to take out our main character. I am not going to reveal anymore than that because its something you really should read for yourself. However with Ninjak now gaining knowledge of the Vine threat to Earth its going to be interesting to see where that leads him in the future… hopefully to his own series.
The Eternal Warrior
TvTropes Description of Original Series: An immortal warrior, one of only a handful of characters to see both the 20th and 41st centuries.
This issue to introduce this character has yet to be released. However I know that a lot of people are excited for this character who also happens to be Armstrong’s brother who supposedly died back in the Mesopotamian era.
This character’s re-emergence was just announced so not much as known besides her making her into in A&A. Geomancers were a legacy hero with the powers and titles passed down. One of the interesting things is that the Geomancer of Valiant’s time was Clay McHenry and the new one will be Kay McHenry, this is the biggest deviation we have seen with a character so far, still with the Geomancer being a legacy character I don’t see this as any kind of betrayal to the nature of the character. Besides which Geomancers ran in that family so we may still see Clay as a non-active member.
The last of the trio of immortal brothers who inhabit this universe. Ivar the Timewalker as of now does not have an announced debut, however I did stumble upon some rather great Doctor Who inspired concept art for his new look. My money is on Timewalker entering into A&A the issue after Geomancer to wrap things up between Armstrong and the Eternal Warrior. Personally I really love the look this character has now, even though he was essentially the same style-wise originally… though it must be said the ponytail HAD to go. There really are acceptable causalities in any reboot.
So that is the Valiant re-launch so far, and I hope that some of the titles piqued your interest. As always please feel free to leave your questions, comments, or criticisms. As another note these series are all very new reader friendly and none have even reached their 10th issue yet so it would be very easy to get into them at this point. You have no excuse my friends, go and pick up a book. Now I leave you with some of Valiant’s most famous heroes rendered through the lens of the Simpsons. Why? Sparrows With Machineguns.