Will this new Valiant collection hold a candle to its predecessor, or will this revival attempt end in failure?
Back in October, in time for the 2012 New York Comic Con, Valiant Comics compiled their summer releases into a convention-exclusive trade paperback. They called it The Summer of Valiant. Within are the #1 issues of X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and Archer & Armstrong. These four were the flagship titles back when Jim Shooter’s Valiant Comics started shaking things up in the 1990s’. They broke conventions in the way stories were told and how the artwork was done. Some of their innovations have made lasting impressions and are present even in today’s biggest comic franchises. There have been attempted revivals after the collapse of the original company, but none captured the magic of the originals. Will this new Valiant hold a candle to its predecessor, or will this revival attempt end in failure?
X-O Manowar #1
X-O is my favorite character in the old Valiant universe and this #1 did not let me down. There is a feeling of familiarity and a sense of being back in the world of Valiant starting with the first page. The story is a practical retelling of the original tale told a couple of decades ago. Through expressive dialogue and poignant artistry, we are introduced to a man readers of the old books would instantly recognize as Aric of Dacia. He will don the X-O Manowar class armor and become a major player in this universe.
Harbinger was the title that broke conventions by depicting superheroes as real people. Valiant takes a different track which strays slightly from how the story was originally told. However, the idea remains essentially the same: There are no good or bad guys, just people caught in certain circumstances. The ways they deal with these situations makes the story. This results in deeply motivated characters placed in realistic scenarios. Bonus: they have superpowers. In this issue, the concept is delivered with a ton of detail and vibrant colors. The combination of a good premise and thoughtful artwork makes this book a true joy to read.
Bloodshot makes a very strong comeback in his new title. I was impressed by the astonishing artwork and storytelling. The story throws you for a loop as it quickly changes gears after you’ve gotten comfortable with where it could be headed. Just as you settle in with the main character being a special operations soldier and family man being sent on his next mission, you flip the page and then go “What?!” You suddenly have no idea what is going on, but in a good way. The artwork is beautifully done with tremendous detail, and contributes to the shock value of the book. The end of this issue left me salivating for more. Very well done.
Archer & Armstrong #1
Archer and Armstrong take center stage as Valiant recaptures the millennia-spanning timelines of the original universe. What endeared me to the original wasn’t just the fresh storytelling, but also the humorous banter and dialogue. I was happy to see all these qualities back. From Armstrong’s extended lifetime (he is an immortal), I got the sense of the entire continuity of all of their books starting to form. Along with the entertaining story, the action is vividly illustrated, showcasing Archer’s martial arts prowess and Armstrong’s more brutish fighting style. Their easy-to-follow techniques utilize clearly drawn strikes and takedowns, resulting in many fallen foes. This was a lot of fun to read.
I was quite pleased with this collection and it seems very promising for the new Valiant Comics. However, there are a few things to consider when it comes to predicting their success. While good storytelling and artwork will certainly help, it might not be enough this time around due to the over-saturated market. The original company managed to place itself on the same level as the big two (Marvel and DC) because they did what nobody else was doing: meatier issues (albeit for more money), a tightly controlled universal continuity, more detail in artwork (especially background environments), and gimmick special edition covers. Times have changed since the 90s. Anyone who hopes to be a serious player in the comic book industry must adopt all of those aspects just to stay competitive. They can try the special covers again, but wrapping comic books in tin foil doesn’t really impress anyone anymore.
This is a great initial plunge into the fray for Valiant and I hope it is met with success. Their universe is replete with great characters and timeless stories. While there certainly is a lot of stiff competition, these new books should certainly be able to hold their own. While only time will tell if these books can recapture the mojo the originals had, they do lay down a great foundation. Be sure to ask your local comic shops to carry these Valiant titles and help make sure they don’t fall through the cracks amidst the crowded comic book shelves.