I’ve Been Traveling a Long Time, To Be Just Where You Are

I’ve made a few odd mentions of Valiant comics and the 2012 reboot in the past, mostly in reference to my extreme need to catch up on any and all titles I’d begun picking up. That has changed pretty significantly–I’m caught up on all but four (RaiShadowman, Eternal Warrior, and Quantum and Woody). Indeed, I just set down X-O Manowar #27 and then sorted it and its brethren into their appropriate longbox.

So, let’s start off with the simple part, a nice list of reboot Valiant titles:

  • Archer and Armstrong
  • Bloodshot [and H.A.R.D. Corps]
  • Eternal Warrior
  • Harbinger
  • Quantum and Woody
  • Rai
  • Shadowman
  • Unity
  • X-O Manowar

There are some scattered others, “Zero” issues for each series (sometimes multiples!) and mini-series for major events (Armor HuntersHarbinger Wars), as well as some as-yet-solicited-but-not-released titles (The DelinquentsThe Death-Defying Doctor Mirage), but that’s the core.

I’ve read the first 22, 23, 25, 9, and 27 issues of the series I mentioned above (excepting those I already mentioned I’ve yet to touch) and the current 13-ish one-shot and miniseries issues out there. Armor Hunters is about half over right now, with exactly all of the first two months’ titles being released, and the other crossovers are all currently over.

I never read the initial Valiant books–they appeared in the same time frame as Image, which did not much endear them to even my 7-12 year-old self, nor the curious reboots of 30+ year old characters like Solar, Turok, and Magnus. I recently found some trades of those issues and found that Solar, Man of the Atom was really good, and decided that, upon finding some cheap copies of those series, I’d read them. I still haven’t. I can’t tell you how this current run compares, though I think it’s considered and marketed as a “re-imagining” of sorts.

The universe is still pretty tight-knit, as both major events and throwaway (but thankfully relevant, not “fan-service”) comments remind us of events and characters in other books where appropriate. Much of the world is converging for the Armor Hunters event (as evinced by the now-started Armor Hunters: Bloodshot and Armor Hunters: Harbinger minis, covering the space between these books and their currently “hiatused” titles), as the event itself demands this kind of intervention.

They are violent, they are dark, but not in the in vogue relentless fashion where nothing ever goes right and we just watch our protagonists suffer. Complexities, drives, motivations–they’re all very full and complete, and diverse. Some of the best characters have done things of which they are not proud and we have found ourselves shocked or horrified by, but they are…character-appropriate. It’s a very fine balance, but Dysart, Swierczynski, Van Lente, Venditti, Kindt, Gage and the rest are writing good books. They are also on a nice line artwise: Braithwaite, Nord, Henry, Crain, Evans, Lupacchino–it’s solid art, avoiding overt stylization that draws away from the suspended disbelief the stories are designed to engender. It’s not forcing the un-scientific into the scientific (almost always a horrible idea), but it’s grounding everything in such a way that it’s not just completely gone from the real world.

Expected and unexpected are not firmly entrenched nor vigorously up-ended, avoiding the tiresome self-awareness that plagues much of fiction, while also not sticking fingers in ears and pretending the obvious isn’t obvious either. Good or horrible events are reasonable in the course of a story, satire (Van Lente…) is open without sacrificing story or character, and, within reason, everything fits together. Tie-in issues are about as good as can be–even lines of dialogue are replicated to allow for scenes in a mini-series to be expanded upon when relevant to a core title (a scene that is brief in the cross-over book but involves Bloodshot is fleshed out for his own book, for example).

There’s a lot of hyperbolic endorsement printed on the covers of these books–but it’s deserved. Escalation, drama, tension–they’re maintained without sacrificing books or characters on the altars of “shock” or “Universe-Changing Events™”–even as both things occur.

I suspect few are going to deviate significantly from habits and check them out, but I urge anyone who has been considering or found themselves on the fence to take the plunge. Archer and Armstrong is probably the most divorced from the rest (though it crossed over with another title a few issues back), but it sits to the side of much of the rest of the Valiant Universe–though it does not abandon the continuity to do so.

Harbinger or X-O is probably the choice to make for most, as Harbinger‘s Harada Toyo and X-O‘s Aric of Dacia are some of the most central characters in the Valiant universe, though Bloodshot holds a special place as the one I began reading first, and having been authored by X scribe Duane Swierczynski.

 

Today’s title is derived from Kinks/Dave Davies–officially, “The Kinks featuring Dave Davies”–b-side (to “Drivin'”) “Mindless Child of Motherhood”, one of my personal favourites from an expansive and very rich repertoire. I had Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire in when I was out and about today.

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