Fresh off the BOOM! Beat, I’ve come over to Valiant territory. Having accidentally made the history of the publisher my new favourite obsession, I decided to get up to speed with the present of it too. From now on I’ll be reading everything the V puts out each month and giving them all a paragraph or two. Let’s spot trends, judge stories, evaluate art and all-round “watch” this “pub” together, awrite? This first column covers all four weeks of July; August will likewise have everything, and more (maybe some retro reviews!).
News: Lysa Hawkins joins the Valiant editorial pool. Nice to see a woman in a decision-making role at Valiant. Interesting to see what’ll come under her wing!
Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 (of 4)
Robert Gill (artist), Peter Milligan (writer), Diego Rodriguez (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), José Villarrubia (colorist)
If you like the idea of a British Roman “detectorist” and a female gladiator looking for the lost eagles of Nero’s legions, you’ll almost certainly love this new mini. If (like me) you’re thinking “ugh… sounds staid” then (like me) you’re wrong. Milligan makes it surprisingly crisp for a Roman Empire story, but let’s be fair: it’s reliably crisp for a Milligan script. If you enjoy the “fantasy reality” aesthetic of the historical MMORPG you’ll dig the art; if you’re indifferent it’ll still please well enough not to get in the way of the muscularity of the written elements. Check it out.
Harbinger Wars 2 #3 (of 4)
Tomás Giorello (artist), Renato Guedes (art), Matt Kindt (writer), Diego Rodriguez (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)
The best issue of the event yet, and as good a starting point for Harbinger Wars 2 as anywhere if you’re really determined to read it, but still generally annoying. #2 left off with Bloodshot discovering a fantasy elf child in a garden cocoon at the heart of the government’s big floating warship, which was totally incongruous. Turns out she’s the current Geomancer—she can talk to the Earth and endeavours to do its bidding—and she tells a little “frog story in Lethal Weapon 4” tale that’s just misdirection before Bloodshot is attacked by a bunch of guys who he kills. Then he turns into a demon, which doesn’t seem to be a remarkable event to anyone within the comic, but was quite surprising to me.
The better half of the issue is Ninja-K (Ninja-K is so much worse to say than Ninjak!) deciding that adult men shouldn’t try to murder young teens of colour, even if The Man says that they should. All I want out of Ninja-K is for him to be someone’s cute boyfriend while he deals with his parental issues, but this’ll do for now.
X-O Manowar (2017) #17
Ryan Bodenheim (artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), Trevor Hairsine (artist), Matt Kindt (writer), Diego Rodriguez (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterers), Brian Thies (inker)
A decent enough historical “mismatched buddy barbarians” issue. Only half a story; if you’re after something you can pick up month to month and read on a break at work, this’ll do it.
Quantum and Woody! (2017) #8
Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), Joe Eisma (artist), Eliot Rahal (writer), Dave Sharpe (letterer)
A Miami Vice and an over-serious Superhero get arrested because they were accidentally trespassing at the zoo. They are brothers. A skinless person screams their way about of a bin bag in an alleyway. The brothers have a fight with some tough men in a holding cell, but are bailed out by the serious superhero one’s surprise wife. The skinless person is maybe some sort of identity-free disguise villain? The brothers talk about having been stuck in a simulation (or was it), to explain to the new reader what’s what. It doesn’t really help much but it’s fine, I’ve read a superhero comic before. The wife is all, “I love you, I’m your wife!” but the superhero brother is still perplexed. The wife thing is an okay sort of mystery, and I hope that she’s okay. The Miami Vice brother goes for a suspicious meeting which goes largely unexplained, and both brothers discover that their superpowers, which were previously missing, have returned. They seem to be dealing with some alternate reality problems, and also a dragon is approaching the earth like a comet. It’s a nice-looking comic that you probably have to already be into to enjoy.
SHADOWMAN (2018) #5
Simon Bowland (letterer), Doug Braithwaite (artist), Andy Diggle (writer), José Villarrubia (colorist)
Shadowman Volume 1: Fear of the Dark (TPB)
Ulises Arreola (artist, colorist), David Baron (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), Andy Diggle (writer), Adam Pollina (artist), Stephen Segovia (artist)
The Shadowman trade collects issues 1 to 3, and this week’s release is #5, so I’m missing a step here (and so would you be if you went out to pick up what’s currently on the shelf), but it’s not really too much bother. The collected issues are a solid grounding for Shadowman; there’s indication that “things have happened before this,” but they’re presented as history between the hero and heroine of the book, who we see reuniting and trying to navigate the rekindling of their relationship. It’s pretty seamless for a brand new reader, who can just accept the elements of their shared and single pasts as they come up in their new, tentative context. There’s a lot of voodoo talk, a lot of New Orleans location evocation (if it’s speaking to you in Amazon’s Cloak & Dagger, maybe check in here) and as I don’t know much about either of those things I can’t speak to their appropriateness or correct nature. I can say that the book obeys its own rules, and the world building is cohesive—just not whether it’s based on reality or invented anew.
I can also say that there’s a lot of “sulking, meek hunk with open or absent shirt” in this trade. If you like the torsos of fairly ripped men…you will like Shadowman.
The trade ends with Jack (Shadowman) apparently dead, which puts the kibosh on the re-developing romance for a while. Issue five finds his spirit in the past, fleshing out some of the Valiant U’s shared history. Doug Braithwaite, 2000AD alumni, is the penciller for the historical issues, which is great to see. The colouring in this issue is a little off, as a racist makes a big deal out of the darkness of one character’s skin in reference to the darkness of another’s, but neither are especially dark skinned at all. Maybe it was supposed to really emphasise his racism? It confused my reading a little.
Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Christos Gage (writer), A Larger World Studios (letterer), Juan José Ryp (artist)
Not an especially easy issue to read if one is coming in new. It is best summed up as “a supergroup of heroes finishes fighting a supergroup of villains, which they seem to have started earlier. There’s a lot of necromancy involved (it reminds me vaguely of Marvel UK’s Warheads), and Ninja-K cuts someone right in the dick as a way of being a friend.” It finishes with Ninja-K being told off and kissed on the cheek by Livewire, and then looking sad as he goes back to his handlers, which is pleasing in its own special way. Frankly I’m confused by how this issue’s solicit text talks about them all being in Mexico City, as I was under the impression that the Valiant U’s Mexico City had been previously obliterated. Maybe they somehow got it back.
Bloodshot Salvation #11
Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), Doug Braithwaite (artist), Jeff Lemire (writer)
Bloodshot is in the future because of Baron Samedi—who is also the primary cause of Shadowman’s current 1800s strife. I guess Baron Samedi really loves time travel. Interestingly, the future he’s in is 4002, very similar to the concrete Future era that original, 1990s Valiant established for their version of Magnus, Robot Fighter and their original creation Rai (heir to the Bloodshot nanites). It’s sort of nice to see that old structure still being used, even if the reason for its old establishment, Magnus, is at Dynamite now.
Anyway, Bloodshot’s daughter is still in the now, and for whatever reason a lot of gun-guys keep trying to kidnap or destroy her. She and her mother kill them all, which upsets them both, but you gotta do what you gotta murder. Eventually they get saved by a van full of differently-themed Bloodshots, which is not played remotely for laughs, and which delights me. There’s 70s Bloodshot! There’s Russian Bloodshot! I don’t get it, but I dig it.
Bloodshot, in the future, chats to his dog. His dog is not a bloodhound. This issue (like Braithwaite’s Shadowman) doesn’t seem to have been inked, which is always a gamble. It doesn’t cause the problems that Zenescope’s uninked Charmed issues have, as Braithwaite’s attention to detail is much greater and Jordie Bellaire knows how to make colour, tone and texture work with whatever lines she’s given. It gives things an appropriately grimy look (Dusty, in Shadowman’s hot Victorian south), your classic Dirty Future, and I quite like it. The dog calls Bloodshot “good boy,” which is funny. Bloodshot gets in a tussle with another Bloodshot, and it’s confusing but in a gentle sort of way. You’re clearly not required to understand yet, so let’s just relax into not. Bloodshot gets in contact with his lady-love in the past (the present), which is nice because she thought he was dead. Family in adventure comics is nice to have. Why Lemire needed one of the two women in this comic to call the other a bitch though, I do not know. And then the dog calls the other one a bitch! Fuck off, Lemire, OK?
Anyway, a bunch more people die.
A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong (Deluxe Hardcover Edition)
Cafu (artist), Kano (cover artist), David Lafuente (artist), David Lanphear (letterer), Ryan Lee (artist), Cary Nord (artist), Mike Norton (artist), Adam Passalaqua (colorist), Brian Reber (colorist), Rafer Roberts (writer), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Fred Van Lente (writer)
Another one for the man-torso likers: if you’re into the wide fellows with a lil bit of rug and happy trail, Armstrong’s got his shirt open a lot and he likes to kiss. This book is a little bit glib for my tastes but Archer is basically written like an even starrier-eyed Hank Venture which goes some way to balancing the scales. Armstrong is an immortal who drinks to forget, and also drinks to remember, and who always has a best friend he treats with insufficient care. Archer is a pure-hearted martial arts savant (white) who basically fulfils a tempering role more traditionally cast as “wife.” It’s not queer, which is fine, because Archer is too young for an immortal. He’s a “teen.”
This omnibus, like Shadowman’s trade, does not seem to begin at the beginning. But, like Shadowman’s trade, the characters in it discuss the events of their lives in ways which allow a new reader to follow effortlessly. A&A does it a little more obviously, a semi-ironic comedy of “May I remind you—,” which isn’t really to my taste but which is pretty en vogue so is worth checking out if you’re into Deadpool or Adam Warren or whatev.
Valiant High #3 (of 4)
David Baron (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), Derek Charm (artist), Daniel Kibblesmith (writer), David Lafuente (cover artist)
LITERALLY THE CUTEST. I love this book and you should buy it. The absolute best intro to Valiant characters and the essential World of Valiant possible.
Quantum and Woody! (2017) Volume 1: Kiss Kiss, Klang, Klang (TPB)
Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), Kano (artist), Daniel Kibblesmith (writer), Francis Portela (artist), Dave Sharpe (letterer)
Great art, well written, and everything you need to comprehend the premise of Quantum and Woody. If you should so desire. I don’t! But it’s a technically a “good comic book.”