As the cover clearly promotes right at the top, this is an all-new story for Valiant's very awesome team and thankfully, writer Matt Kindt makes sure it doesn't leave anyone feeling like they're in the dark. Dr. Silk and WEBNET may be familiar to longtime fans of the publisher, but people who jumped on board the Valiant train during the relaunch (like myself) or even later have absolutely no idea who this dude is or why he's a threat that requires this formidable team to take action. Kindt is able to answer those questions as he hits us with all of the information we'd need and then some (e.g. covers what went down in the previous story). While this can feel like a blatant info dump at times, it's a mandatory step and thankfully, these stories can be attention-grabbing. To top things off, the writer manages to throw plenty of action in there to make sure the issue remains exciting and not just informative.
I absolutely love the way Kindt writes Ninjak. He's the best of both worlds: badass and likable. Kindt goes all out with showing how lethal and talented Ninjak truly is. Everything from his advanced HUD to his swift and efficient attacks is a real treat to witness and further illustrates just how good the guy is at his job. And when he's not dancing around bullets or killing someone with a single punch, he's actually a pretty relatable character. His banter is never ridiculous or anything along those lines. He's by no means a comedic character, but here and there he'll drop a sharp line and it's sure to make you crack a smirk. He's absolutely the star of this new arc and, needless to say, that's a very, very good thing.
Kindt also gives a fair amount of attention to Livewire and X-O Manowar. It's great to see Livewire's focus in the last story isn't simply being left in the past and has had an impact on her. Truth be told, it's mostly a mystery what's going on with her in this issue, but the handling of her role definitely has my curiosity. Meanwhile, I adore just how blunt Aric is in this story." Someone's shooting at me? Ha. I'll just confidently stand in place, let the bullets bounce off of me and then blast their damn head off."
I have a grand total of zero complaints about artist CAFU and colorist Brian Reber's visuals. Every panel on every single page is polished, detailed and legitimately immersive. The character work, the flow of the action, the varied environments; it's all given a more than adequate amount of attention and life to it. It doesn't have the same explosive feeling as the visuals in the first story, but it's consistently strong and very satisfying. Personal favorite panel: X-O emerging from the darkness. It's a ridiculously cool moment.
Yes, it's great this new story is 100% friendly to new readers, but that means a whole lot of exposition. It's obviously a necessary step for the narrative and new villain, but it definitely takes a bit of a toll on the issue's pacing.
Minor gripe: it seems like Gilad Anni-Padda is getting the short end of the stick in this series. Perhaps Kindt has bigger plans for him down the road, but as of right now, he basically seems like he's there to talk about history when it's required.
"Everyone keeps talking about Valiant but I don't know what to pick up!" Well, this is a good place to start, random reader. Sure, there's a gazillion different (and not to mention affordable) collections that are available, but this is a beyond friendly jumping on spot and serves as a great introduction to what you can expect from Valiant's world. It's action-packed, well-written, looks commendable and has a cast of rich characters. Additionally, it does more than enough to motivate you to pick up the next chapter. It's a strong start to a brand new story and, best of all, it pretty much justifies why Ninjak deserves his own on going. But hey, Valiant clearly has big plans for the future and good things come to those who wait, right? At least we're getting plenty of his awesomeness here in Kindt's UNITY and, luckily for us, it's hugely entertaining team book.