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
Hey everybody, it’s time for that all important time of the week where I run down a number of comic books and tell you whether they make the grade. Last week was uncharacteristically downbeat, with The Star Wars being the one bright spot in an otherwise grim slate. But the thing about comics is that there is so much on the rack that if you wait a week you might just strike gold. There were a number of books this week that I sat down and read in the hopes of giving you guys a greater variety in terms of recommendations so without further ado, let’s go ahead and get this show on the road.
General Zod storms into The New 52! Witness the origin of this genocidal maniac, and learn how far he will go to destroy those who oppose him!
Greg Pak is a writer who I tend to enjoy. I think a lot of that is holdover good will from Planet Hulk. I’ve talked to him at conventions and he seems to be a pretty cool dude as well. I picked this issue up based more on the fact that his name was in the writing credits than any loyalty to the character of Zod. I’m not sure which incarnation of Zod DC planned on utilizing this time around. I remember there being a great deal of confusion regarding Zod from his previous uses in the Our Worlds at War crossover only to be re-imagined a few years later with Brian Azzarello’s For Tomorrow storyline just to be re-purposed by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner for Last Son. This issue gives us a Zod that doesn’t really line up with any of those, and delves into an origin story for the character that allows us to start from scratch and accept this version of Zod as one that has no conflicts with previous iterations of the character.
Our Zod is one who had to survive a harsh environment in his youth, losing his emotionless parents to a savage attack by alien beasts and eventually being stranded in that hostile locale until he is rescued by the house of El almost a decade later. That time trapped in the wilderness turned him into an embittered, sci-fi version of Green Arrow. He harbors aspirations of vengeance against the alien race responsible for wiping out his family and at the same time rises through the ranks of the Kryptonian military.
Only the ending of his story, being shunted off into the Phantom Zone, the one constant that never seems to change in his narrative, seems familiar. Zod’s motivations don’t seem reminiscent of any version of the character that I can remember, although I am sure there are through-lines that I’m just missing out on. The fact that we are getting a definitive take on the character for the new 52, working from a blank slate, makes the book interesting to read because the expectations of the reader should be equally as open.
Another nice surprise was the inclusion of Faora, who stole the show in Man of Steel this summer. Hopefully the folks at DC plan to utilize her effectively, as the DCU could always use some well-written female antagonists. She gets little face time here but it is Zod’s name on the cover after all. I’ll keep my eyes out for future appearances.
All in all, a better issue on all counts than last week’s Cyborg Superman issue, which I did not cotton to at all.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5
I pretty much eviscerated the 23.1 Joker issue last week. I felt like it was a harbinger of much worse things to come. After all, if the highest profile Batman villain in the bunch couldn’t get a decent issue, what chance did anyone else stand? The Joker isn’t a hard character to wrap your mind around creatively if you approach it from the correct angle. Giving insight into a tortured childhood isn’t the way to go. The fact that we get abusive parent back-stories for Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn as well just goes to show that applying the same wrote, hack writing tricks to a character like the Joker just isn’t going to fly and that is why the issue failed on the whole.
The Riddler is a hard character to get into as well. For my money nobody writes the guy as well as Paul Dini, though I admittedly liked the turn Jeph Loeb gave him in The Long Halloween and Hush. Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes take on the character here and the take is one that works. In order to understand the Riddler you need to understand narcissism and self-importance. I am surprised that so many writers have such a hard time empathizing with such emotions because as a writer you have to tell yourself constantly that you are the most talented person in the room, you’re smarter than everyone around you, and your work should stand on its own merit by virtue of escaping from the confines of your imagination. The Riddler deals in similar themes. It comes through very vividly in this issue, where he systematically bypasses each and every security measure in Wayne Tower, returning for the first time since the events of Zero Year.
Riddler matches wits with the head of Wayne’s security, who also used to be a guard he crossed paths with during a stay at Arkham Asylum. This man’s downfall is that, unlike the reader and, especially the writers of this issue, he doesn’t realize that the Riddler is more than a simple criminal. He fails to empathize and it ensures his demise. The Riddler is always three steps ahead of those he feels are below him, which is simply everyone. Riddler is the green-tinted flipside of Batman without the grace of humility. Snyder and Fawkes realize this and write him as such. The issue plays out wonderfully, especially the climax which demonstrates that the entirety of the Riddler’s mission was for a singular purpose that I won’t spoil here, but it renders the rest of the issue in a light that makes perfect sense in regards to character motivation and seals the deal that these guys know what the Riddler is all about.
This is definitely the high bar for the villains month so far. Which, given Snyder’s previous work with Batman, is not at all surprising.
Rating: 5 out of 5
If Dr. Harleen Quinzel wasn’t crazy when she fell for The Joker at Arkham Asylum, she sure was messed up afterwards! Find out more from Harley’s time with her beloved Mr. J. and see what got her into so much trouble that she was “recruited” for the Suicide Squad!
I haven’t been keeping up with Suicide Squad or paying much attention to Harley Quinn. She doesn’t resemble the character I fell in love with back in the early nineties watching episodes of Batman : The Animated Series. There is a cynicism to this version of the character that I don’t identify with. This issue gives us a beat by beat origin story for Harley, where we see that some of the elements of her original incarnation still live on. She was brilliant and became a psychiatrist, then wound up at Arkham hoping to truly challenge herself by helping the worst of the worst of the criminally insane only to be sucked into the Joker’s world. She posed as an inmate to get closer and wound up getting a little too close. That all works and doesn’t rub me the wrong way that much.
The rest of the issue does have flaws. I was not a fan of the fact that we got a beat-by-beat rundown of how she acquired pieces of her uniform. It seemed forced. And maybe I am just off base but the violence of the issue didn’t sit well with me either. There is no comedy to her rampage, just ruthlessness. I suppose that’s just the tone the character has now, but fans of the old Harley probably won’t enjoy this particular take on her. The word I used earlier was forced and that seems to be the whole issue with this revamp of Harley. They’re trying to make her something she isn’t and it simply doesn’t work. It’s not Harley. The tone is all wrong and you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole this way. I’m sure there are fans of this take, and I don’t begrudge them that, but my feelings are that such a revamp of her character makes her indistinguishable from other hyper-violent creations with no sense of irony or fun. It is a bleakness that simply does not jibe with pre-established notions of the character.
I’m probably just being stubborn, but there wasn’t much for me to enjoy here. I think I’m just not the target audience.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Eternal Warrior # 1
Writer: Greg Pak
Penciler: Trevor Hairsine
Colorist: Brian Reber
Cover Artist: Clayton Crain, Trevor Hairsine, Dave Bullock, Patrick Zircher
On Sale: September 11, 2013
New York Times best-selling writer Greg Pak (Batman/Superman, Planet Hulk) and superstar artist Trevor Hairsine (X-O Manowar, X-Men: Deadly Genesis) launch a brand new campaign for Valiant’s immortal champion, the Eternal Warrior, in an all-new monthly series!
Across ten millennia and a thousand battlefields, Gilad Anni-Padda has traversed the darkest, most mysterious corners of history. But the horror and bloodshed of constant warfare has finally taken its toll on the man myth calls the Eternal Warrior…and he has abdicated his duties as the Fist and the Steel of Earth for a quiet life of seclusion. But when a blood vendetta from the distant past suddenly reappears in the modern day, he must decide if he will return to the ways of war…for the child who betrayed him thousands of years ago…
I went into this COMPLETELY blind. I had no idea what to expect. I just saw the cover and thought it would be worth reading. I guess the logline for the story could be Conan the Barbarian meets Highlander. We open on the brink of a massive battle in olden times. Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, an immortal but not entirely invulnerable mass of muscle and sinew, is preparing for a war against a horde of enemies who worship a god of death. Gilad forbids his daughter, Xaran, from involving herself in the battle. So opposed to her involvement is Gilad that he gives her a closed fist smack to the jaw, then rides into battle with his son, Mitu. What follows is a betrayal and a slaughter, then the passage of thousands of years, to a time when the Eternal Warrior is living Wolverine-style as a hermit with only a dog for companionship when the source of his betrayal returns.
I really enjoyed this issue. I like the concept, and Greg Pak brings the action in a way that recalls his time spent writing The Incredible Hulk all those years ago. Fans of books like Conan should give this one a read. I haven’t been following any of the new Valiant comics but this one was rewarding and a surprise pick of the week for myself. It runs a little short because so much of the issue is spent dedicated to action scenes, but overall the series shows tremendous promise. I’ll definitely be picking up issue two.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Hank Pym, Wolverine, and She-Hulk bring the students of the Marvel Universe together to announce a new CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS!This CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS pits the super students of schools all over the Marvel U (including some you’ve never seen before) against each other.However, the Contest is interrupted when Thanos’ forces descend on Earth. What do they have to do with the young heroes?
Man, oh man. Big event crossover tie-ins, right? Why do they even bother anymore. But hold your horses there, Mr. Cynic. This issue is something a little different. Feeling more like a companion piece to Avengers Arena and other books featuring the next generation of Marvel heroes, almost none of the issue feels like a cash-grab tie-in to Infinity. In fact, were it not for the Infinity title on the front cover, you would never know this is related to that event. The book feels more like a crash course intro into different corners of the youth oriented Marvel Universe. Characters from the Future Foundation, Avengers Academy, Jean Grey School, and more are assembled for a gathering that will put them to the test and determine which school for gifted youngsters is producing the most viable talent.
The majority of the issue, as I said, is introducing us to the concept of the book and the characters that will populate it. Only in the end are we treated to a cliffhanger that will set events into motion. I find myself marveling at how adeptly the book was able to draw me in. I don’t read any of the books involving the characters who populate the issue and yet I found myself sucked in. The script is tight and flows from panel to panel fairly effortlessly. If there is one flaw in the book it is that people who are familiar with these characters my grow easily bored with the exposition heavy element of the first issue. As it stands, I appreciated the time spent to set things up and explain everything because if there is one thing I hate it’s not being able to follow a story with characters I don’t know for a tie-in book I shouldn’t have been reading in the first place.
Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5
The Avengers are light-years away in space, contending with the Builders! Thanos’ marauders ransack the Earth, doing as they please! Who will stand in defense of mankind?Luke Cage! The Superior Spider-Man! Spectrum! The White Tiger! Power Man! And a mysterious figure in an ill-fitting Spider-Man Halloween costume! These unlikely heroes must assemble when no one else can—against the unrelenting attack of Proxima Midnight!
I won’ speak to Greg Land’s art. Let’s ignore that at the moment because I know it’s a deal-breaker for a lot of people. The writing of the issue works. It practically sings. Power Man (the new one, not Luke Cage) is a character I want to read more of. His voice is fun and vibrant, and his interactions with Luke Cage make for enjoyable reading. The interplay between Cage and Spidock-terman is fun and lively. Of course, this is a tie-in to Infinity and spins out of that event. If you’re not reading Infinity, it doesn’t really matter because all you need to know is explained in a matter of pages. All you need to know is that the Avengers are off-world so Thanos wants to break Earth in twain while it is undefended. Luke Cage ain’t gonna let that happen. Oh, sweet Christmas, it ain’t gonna happen.
I don’t know who Alasdair David Ewing is. I haven’t read anything with his name on the cover. This is my introduction to his work. I have to say I’m impressed. The team is filled with characters I enjoy, and something has to be said about the diversity of the team with Luke Cage, White Tiger, Power Man, Spectrum and some new guy called Spider-Hero who is an enigma and a non-entity at the moment. This is the most diverse team I can think of at either of the major publishers, something that will likely get a lot of press given how the diversity in comics debate is starting to really become the major issue of the industry at the moment.
You know what, I’ve gotta say something about Greg Land. Yes, the art is dry and terrible. I’ve seen these same traced facial expressions more times than I can count. I’m just going to leave it at that. Everyone knows Greg Land refuses to advance himself as an artist. I would say stop buying his books but he seems to land (ha!) books that are worth buying, this one included. It’s a book with a diverse cast by a new writer who seems eager to prove himself and it’s likely Land won’t be on the title forever. Do yourself a favor and get the book and try to ignore how the art is trying its damndest to give you eye herpes.
Rating: 4 out of 5