The landscape of comics has been an ever shifting puzzle. Trends rise and fall, creators come in and out of favor, companies disappear and emerge from the ashes of their presumed demise. Valiant comics was founded back in 1989 by former Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and artist Bob Layton following Shooter’s ouster from the company in the wake of a massive personnel shakeup. The company launched a number of titles that still populate comic store dollar bins to this day, while retaining a sizable fanbase of loyal customers. The company was sold off in 1994 to video game developer Acclaim who eventually shut the branch down ten years later in 2004.
The company was jump-started in 2005 and after a few years of rebuilding and restructuring Valiant took home the Publisher of the Year award from Diamond Comics Distributors in 2012, the same year of the “Summer of Valiant” promotional blitz that saw the relaunch of X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot and Archer & Armstrong.
With 2013, Valiant launches a mega-event, tying together a majority of their properties and gives us Unity, a story where the Valiant universe bands together to stop X-O Manowar. The company founded by Jim Shooter, the man who birthed the mega-event craze with Secret Wars finally, finally steps up to the grown up’s table to cut themselves a slice of the big boy’s pie.
So how does the book measure up, you may ask?
Honestly, Valiant Comics aren’t much on my radar, aside from Greg Pak’s excellent reboot of Eternal Warrior. I don’t know much of anything about the characters within the pages of this book. Luckily, the issue begins with a Jonathan Hickman style infographic to get us all caught up on the wheelings and dealings regarding X-O Manowar, a character who is causing all sorts of problems. He’s essentially a caveman with the power of a nuclear reactor and that of course makes some folks very nervous.
A team is assembled and a plan devised to make sure that World War III doesn’t break out because of X-O’s occupation of a part of the Russian subcontinent. Led by Toyo Harada, a force is assembled to infilitrate the area and put an end to the devestation of X-O’s occupation, cultivated from the best and brightest of the new generation of superpowered individuals. On the ground, Ninjak works in stealth under Harada’s direction and nothing at all really goes according to plan.
I honestly found myself a little confused, as writer Matt Kindt doesn’t really do much to explain who these people are for the uninitiated. He hits the ground running at a hundred miles per hour and never lets up. This is definitely a book for the Valiant faithful. This feels very much like it has been built up in other books that I haven’t personally invested in.
The writing in and of itself is structured excellently, and Braithwaite’s pencils are dynamic and vivid. I feel like it is better prepared and creatively manufactured than what DC is doing with Forever Evil, that is to be sure. I attribute that to the lead-time the book has gotten as I’ve been seeing promotional material for it for what seems like a year. Valiant seems to have a lot riding on this one and they made a lot of good choices here. Hiring Matt Kindt was one of the smartest. That guy is everywhere and with good reason, he has great skill in surprising people. He’s surprised me on numerous occasions.
If you’re looking to get in on the Valiant renaissance, Unity seems like a good place to get started. You might want to do some research beforehand, but the product here is satisfying enough even to a newbie like myself.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5