Open apologies to the majority of Theatre folk reading this, as it’s a bit of a stray from my usual wheelhouse (if you’re here looking for the end-of-year Theatre post, just scroll down). But ya gotta keep your interests varied, and it turns out I have at least one other obsession besides theatre. And yes, it is becoming a bit of a merry obsession.
I’ve raved a little here and there on this blog before about my love for Valiant Comics. It stems from their original incarnation in the early 90’s, which I still liken to what it must have felt like reading the Marvel Universe being born in the 60’s. It was a killer good time, and it gutted me and a lot of fans to see the line wither and fade. One misfired reboot from Acclaim later, it seemed like these characters might be gone for good, but the comic Gods were smiling on Valiant and a third launch arrived a few years back. Now, almost three years into a slow, steady and thoughtful reboot, the new Valiant Comics is going strong and steady, nowhere near the whopping numbers they did in their early incarnation, but maintaining a small but solid line of titles with a level of quality that is on par with anything the big houses are putting out. Seriously, they talent they’re bringing to the table on a monthly basis is damned impressive, and for the most part the better of the original line. Lately I find myself getting more and more into them..I’m seeking out variant covers, I’m buying trade collections for issues I ALREADY OWN…just because it brings me joy. Valiant has become one of my fav’rit vices, and I have no intention of giving it up. Major thanks to CEO Dinesh Shamdasani and everyone on down the line for a tremendous effort in 2014…it shows.
FAV’RIT TITLES/EVENTS OF THE YEAR
MISSION: IMPROBABLE (from ARCHER & ARMSTRONG and BLOODSHOT AND HARD CORPS)
Fred van Lente continued to put out one of the most consistently entertaining books ever in A&A, and managed to help steer that title straight into what may be the most pitch-perfect crossover I’ve ever read. Pairing up with B&HC expertly, it was as if both titles had planned on meeting up at this time and place since they started. The story (from Josh Dysart and Christos Gage, as well as van Lente) was well-paced and exciting, furthered character development in both books, and left both titles forever changed. Sweet art from Pere Perez and Tom Raney didn’t hurt neither.
THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE
A book that took me by surprise, and perhaps single-handedly reinvigorated the whole ‘deadside’ aspect of Valiant (after a few missteps in SHADOWMAN), we’re still awaiting the finale of this 5-issue series int he new year, and I can’t wait (tho I’ll be sad to see it end). Writer Jen van Meter took this character and ran like Hell with her, in this case very nearly literally. Introducing the new Doctor Mirage as a strong, deeply flawed and not particularly friendly character who I can’t wait to see more of, this is a story I’ll be rereading as soon as I get the chance. And extra thanks to van Meter and amazing artist Roberto de la Torre for doing away with Mirage’s gratuitous cleavage from her initial Shadowman appearances…leave that jazz to DC and Marvel.
Valiant goes just a little bigger, one-upping the previous years HARBINGER WARS event with this multi-title story about ruthless aliens coming to cleanse the Earth of the X-O armor, even if that means killing every last speck of life on the planet. Bringing together X-O Manowar, Unity, Bloodshot and Harbinger for some epic comic-book destruction, and introducing the instant fan-favourite giant robot Gin-Gr, this was a very solid sci-fi crossover with some high-stakes consequences for the Valiant U. I think this will be the first Hardcover Deluxe Edition I buy when it arrives in March.
The more I think about this issue, the more I love it. Telling the story of the timeline of Project Rising Spirit’s elite Anti-Psiot squad from brutal initial testing days in Vietnam to their eventual dissolution post-Bloodshot, this is a smart, engaging and believable story that beautifully demonstrates the thought that went into the recreation of the Valiant roster of heroes. Bleak and powerful and leaving me wanting more. “This is monstrous work. Let monsters do it”
Quietly rivalling Armor Hunters for scope, Joshua Dysart brought his run on the flagship HARBINGER title to a wrap with this incredible transition mini, bridging the gap from the regular title to the upcoming IMPERIUM. The Renegades succeeded in ‘outing’ Toyo Harada as a superpowered power-hungry fanatic, and probably immediately regret that fact when Harada realizes he has no further need to hold back and lets loose with all his considerable might against the rest of the world. Seizing land in Somalia and setting up a basecamp, Harada fights off the allied forces of the world while launching his vision of a perfect society, even as everyone else tries to track down the one person they think can stop him…but Peter Stanchek has other ideas. A brilliant and organic evolution to the title that keeps everything as fresh, if not more so, than when it all began. Cannot wait to see how the story continues in February.
FAV’RIT UNRESOLVED PLOTLINES (please note this isn’t a complaints list or anything…just some exciting threads still dangling in the back corridors of the Valiant U, just waiting to be exploded into life again. And rest assured, there is a certain level of spoilers ahead for some events of the past year, so be forewarned if you aren’t up to date):
MASTER DARQUE IS LOOSE.
At the finale of SHADOWMAN: END TIMES, heavyweight supernatural bad guy Master Darque was revived and setting out about his wicked ways, with current Shadowman Jack Boniface in his thrall. Darque is an extinction level event waiting to happen, and it’s about time for him to become the full-on planetary threat he was born to be in the new Valiant U.
H.A.R.D.CORPS IS GETTING A GRITTY REBOOT.
After being locked up after the last BLOODSHOT AND HARD CORPS storyline, Gunslinger and his crew were awaiting potentially fatal decommissioning from the brass at Project Rising Spirit, even as a newer, more brutal iteration of the Corps was being created by PRS.
ONE OF OUR ARMOR HUNTERS IS MISSING.
The AFTERMATH one-shot was just chock-full of Easter eggs for the future, but none so immediately tantalizing as the discovery that hunter Helix, an alien being seemingly composed of pure energy, was alive and well and on the lam. Considering she was a seasoned interstellar agent specifically trained to murder anyone wearing the X-O armor, it’s plain to see why this could definitely be bad news down the road.
There are other X-Factors roaming about, too…Mammon, the deity worshipped by the 1% in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG was recently revealed to be an actual guy you could talk to, and was reworking his greedy followers into a more dangerous force than ever. Xaran, the Eternal Warrior’s violence-prone daughter, is currently unaccounted for, not to mention his dead/not-dead son Mitu. Of course, they’re not the only ones we need to keep an eye out for…
THAT ‘OTHER’ VALIANT UNIVERSE.
Well, not exactly, of course, but it has to be remarked upon that, over at Dynamite this past year, the Gold Key characters who formed the crux of the original Valiant U in the 90’s made their latest return to comics, as MAGNUS, SOLAR and TUROK were joined by the newly revived DOCTOR SPEKTOR for a fresh reboot. I won’t lie, I was excited…Valiant gave me a deep love for these characters, and I’ll check them out whenever they pop up. I was pretty bummed when the promising Jim Shooter revival at Dark Horse went belly up in the blink of an eye, so was hoping that Dynamite would do them justice. With folks like current Valiant scribe Fred van Lente along for the ride, it seemed like a good bet these characters would get a decent shot. And, well…it hasn’t quite worked out.
I always get worried when reboots of old characters stray TOO far from the source material, and that happened for me with the new Gold Key line pretty quick. The adventures of the latest iteration of these heroes failed to make their mark, and news has already come down that all the titles will cease publication by March of next year. While I presume Dynamite will at least do a mini or one-shot to tie some stuff up, this may once again be dangling the potential return of the beloved ‘Gold Key Three’ to what many fans now consider their rightful place in the Valiant Universe. And while Valiant execs have stated that they wouldn’t want to use the characters unless they owned them outright (and the new universe has been steering just fine without them, all in all), maybe this latest licensing disappointment will convince Western Publishing to talk turkey. Mind you, Valiant has already introduced their vision of 4001 AD in RAI and ETERNAL WARRIOR, and there’s precious little room in it for Magnus’ North Am. But then, the recent Valiant-Sized QUANTUM & WOODY introduced the concept of parallel worlds into the new Valiant U, so anything’s possible. Never say never. 😉
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS/WISH LIST
Valiant is already beginning to roll out titles in their VALIANT NEXT promotion, which began this month with the release of THE VALIANT #1…and if this isn’t the book that puts them on the map, then I don’t even know what’s wrong with the people who make maps. Following that comes TIMEWALKER, QUANTUM & WOODY MUST DIE, IMPERIUM, DIVINITY, NINJAK and BLOODSHOT REBORN, and that’s just what’s been announced by April. Fans are still speculating as to what big event, if any, might be hitting this summer. Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s worth noting the DIVINITY mini will be ending in May, and could very feasibly lead into something major in June. Given how awesome the Valiant Next lineup looks, I’m hard pressed to make much of a wish list for the coming year, but here goes:
THE RETURN OF SHADOWMAN.
Darque being out of action is bad enough, but one of Valiant’s mainstay heroes is MIA as well, and that cannot stand. Shadowman was probably the weakest of the new Valiant relaunches, with what I believe is one of the rarer editorial mistakes to come out of the new line…that is, going mostly with the openly supernatural Acclaim aspects of the character (something tough to work into a mostly science-based comic universe), and using virtually nothing from the absolutely seminal Bob Hall run of the original series. Give this guy a leather jacket and a sax, and someone find Nettie already. It’s all jazz, and he can play. LET him.
Seriously, I want an X-O figure. I NEED it. You understand.
A ZEPHYR SOLO SERIES.
Way, way pat time for maybe the most quietly progressive and inspiring heroines in comix to take her place at the head of a title. I get the feeling her time with Unity is not going to end well, and I’d hate for the flying fury to fade into the background. Have Faith, Valiant.
ALEX ROSS AND GRANT MORRISON.
Hey, it’s a WISH list, okay? All I’m saying is one month. ONE month of Alex Ross covers across the board (and maybe a poster of the whole Valiant gang for good measure). Is that so much to ask? I’ve waited SO LONG. And Grant…the New 52 is a snake that’s eating itself. When you’re done blowing my mind on Multiversity, come on over here where you can do some REAL universe building (you know, that might actually not get retconned out of existence in the next few years). Put this cat on Eternal Warrior (or The Visitor..!) and strap yourselves in. Can’t ya just feel it..?
A COMPANY WIDE CROSSOVER.
Okay, some people are sick to death of this sort of thing (it’s pretty much a monthly happening at DC and Marvel the last few years), but I remember Valiant being one of the first companies to do it absolutely perfectly with the original UNITY. Getting close to time for them to school the rest of the comics world once again. Maybe not 2015, but I hope it’s in the planning. The Torment ARE coming, after all…
And that’s more, more than enough for this go=round. Thanks for the wonderful year, Valiant, you make this fanboy happy. I’ll be there every week as long as you keep doing what you’re doing..putting out great books. Peace, love and Soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)