Hello, my Valiant darlings—how are you this month? Oh? Well, I’m doing quite well; this past week I finished reading the entire ’90s Valiant universe up to Unity, the first and best crossover of the publisher’s original form. Frankly…probably the best superhero crossover of all time. Yeah, I said it. And their first run of Solar is better than Watchmen too.
The first item I should like to bring to your attention this month is a brief return to the end of last month’s column. Recall I noted, regarding Bloodshot,
“GOOD GRIEF this character could do numbers if Valiant sourced a writer who really understands soft butch for men and locked Renato Guedes back in. Everyone knows at least six individuals who want to kiss Tom Hardy—all of those people would be like ‘Wow. Give me this comic.'”?
I stand reinforced upon this matter. Have you SEEN the thirst tweets about Hardy’s Venom? That sweet hunk and that gross body horror—which Bloodshot is prime for, as he heals from anything and his blood is computers that can turn him into a dragon—is causing the people to get rowdy. Tap into that passion, Valiant. Score big with the weirdos. I mean, he even loves dogs. Just like Ray!
— LADbible (@ladbible) October 2, 2018
More regular news, now: If you’re at NYCC this weekend, long-term Faith scripter Jody Houser and her Dreamside miniseries collaborator MJ Kim will be signing at Booth #1635 alongside Becca Farrow, whose event-exclusive variant cover (above) will also be available. The previews for Dreamside #2 (out Halloween) just landed in my inbox, and I am glad to note that gentle ghost husband Hwen is accompanying Doctor Mirage, living woman of mystic action, in this issue. Yay~
Those who are planning an NYCC stop, it’s not just Houser and Kim who should tempt you over to the Valiant booth. It’s also this hilarious Bloodshot pin, seen below with several much less funny, and indeed quite nice, options. Why is he so angry? Because he’s not Tom Hardy yet. Look, I’m just being helpful. There are various other exclusives and merch options listed as available, but if you’re going you’ll see them and if you’re not then why worry? It’ll just make you upset.
An interesting thing about Valiant’s press releases are how much swag they offer directly to comic shops. Not for further sale—for in-house use. Last month, a Bloodshot-themed first-aid kit; this month Livewire #1 is being primed for stock by the offer of free standees, posters, boxcutters (??) and a keychain flashlight for hunting through the back room stores, I guess. The Livewire kit isn’t quite as themed as I would like (the Bloodshot first-aid kit is great)— the torch, fine, it’s electrical. But does she really ever use knives? The standee is a good bet, in my non-humble opinion.
If you like digital card game apps, then lucky you: Valiant is making one. As per the release copy, “VirtTrade will create a series of collections that will focus on the company’s more than 2,000 individual characters, plus provide fans with a mix of original sketches, covers, panels, and recreated pages in a fun, social app that includes mini-games and VirtTrade’s proprietary trade and collect functions.” This is beyond me but I hope you all have fun.
On to what’s been what in the state of Valiant during the month of September. I have read every comic they put out, and I am going to tell you about them. (Yes, this is everything the publisher released this last month. Their slate is not as crowded as you might expect.) Read the reviews below to get yourself up to speed in what’s been happening, the state of the Valiant U, or just because you read them too and want to know if I agree with you. Hey! It could happen.
Faith: Dreamside #1 (of 4)
Jordie Bellaire (art), Jody Houser (script), MJ Kim (art), Dave Sharpe (letters)
“Even before Faith Herbert, AKA Zephyr, gained the power of flight, joined the Harbinger Renegades, and soared through the skies of the Valiant Universe, deep down she was always a hero at heart. But what’s a hero to do in the face of a foe that exists only in nightmares? Face them head-on, of course! To protect the dreams of her teammate, Animalia, Faith must venture into a fantastical new realm the likes of which we’ve never seen…and she’ll need some help from the world’s premiere parapsychologist, Dr. Mirage, to make it back with her subconscious mind still intact!”
Our own Kate Tanski has reviewed this first issue in a longer piece. Now, I personally enjoyed Faith and the Future Force, which she mentions that she skipped, and if you like this issue you might want to think about picking up the collection of that mini as well. Faith is such a wholehearted sweetheart, but she’s also a genre-savvy and creative thinker and both the situation in Dreamside #1 and that of Future Force allow her to both roll with strange and alarming punches and worry that she might be rolling incorrectly, or to less than full effect. She’s a very Millennially relatable heroine, and Houser, Kim and Bellaire combine softness and energy wonderfully. Faith really hits the spot.
Harbinger Wars 2: Aftermath
Matt Kindt (scripter), Adam Pollina, Diego Rodriguez (art), Dave Sharpe (letters)
“The power’s back online and the fighting is over…but who are the real victors of HARBINGER WARS 2, and what was truly lost in the carnage? For those who survived the terrible onslaught – and who must now witness the devastating aftereffects of their actions – will there ever be peace again?”
Ninja-K gets fucked by Livewire, and elsewhere…Iron Fist?…cures…Old Snake…of a bad leg? I don’t know. Importantly, Ninja-K gets fucked by Livewire! Thank u. Could have been through a little less classic heterosexual lens, but it is a step. A step I have asked for, and therefore a step I accept. This is a weird caption to include in that specific scene though, especially as she looks kind of surprised in that panel:
This issue is an odd sort of epilogue-collection. It includes a nicely rhythmic final scene of Livewire being quietly powerful (you can hear the end theme swell in the background), and a peek in to her Secret Weapons kids’ feelings about her status as “terrorist,” but also includes some weird bits that don’t seem to relate to anything that happened during Harbinger Wars 2. Bloodshot crumbles on a beach and cries about being unable to forget, but what he’s remembering is nothing that happened within this title. And—who is Iron Fist? Who is Old Snake? I feel like I should know that, having read the “Event” in question, in a book called “Event: Aftermath.” And I don’t! Iron Fist doesn’t even get named on page. What kind of storytelling is this?
Then again, again, the upside…Ninja-K as a cute & humble boyfriend. Something nice for Livewire, my fave. You baffle but you also give, Kindt! You rascal!
X-O Manowar #19 (which celebrates, somehow, 75 issues)
Andrew Dalhouse (art), Matt Kindt (scripter), Juan Jose Ryp (art), Dave Sharpe (letters)
“Beyond time, space, and reality, there lies the Unknown…and now it’s coming here! When soldiers from a mysterious foreign realm arrive on Earth, it’s up to the armored Visigoth known as X-O Manowar – newly returned to the planet and now the leader of his own elite G.A.T.E. unit – to deal with the intrusion. But are these otherworldly emissaries truly the threat they appear to be, or does a larger danger loom over the Valiant Universe still?”
I can’t stop hating Commander Jamie Capshaw, head person of G.A.T.E. This is she:
Look at her FUCKING HAIR. I refuse to read any issue that features such abominably fanciful depiction of “women in the military.”
It is made…
(can you guess?)
Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #3 (of 4)
Juan Castro (art), Andrew Dalhouse (art), Robert Gill (art), Peter Milligan (scripter), Dave Sharpe (letters), Brian Thies (art), Jose Villarrubia (art),
“Antonius Axia has survived the wilds of Britain and witnessed the horrors of his own homeland…and now, the trail of Emperor Nero’s stolen eagles relics has led him and gladiatrix Achillia to the newly annexed province of Egypt! But, those who once held power in the Fertile Crescent might not be so quick to welcome them…or any other nosy Romans, for that matter!”
As the conspiracy behind the loss of the Eagles becomes more visible, Achillia gets less content to wait for Antonius to make the right decisions. His management of their mutual attraction—he refuses to make a move because she is a Gladiator, not a Free woman—stands out raw in contrast to his management of their quest to solve Nero’s mystery. He took them to Egypt, not Germany, though she objected. He takes them into libraries that get set on fire and tombs which warn of curses; she follows, as he has authority, and gains nothing so far but bad luck. Will Achillia get some in the final issue, or will she decide he’s not even worth it? In less than a month we’ll find out.
Enjoy some classic Milligan facetiousness as Nero calls an orgy lit by the burning-to-death of several Christians “a quiet night in with friends.”
Quantum and Woody! #10
Andrew Dalhouse (art), Joe Eisma (art), Eliot Rahal (scripter), Dave Sharpe (letters)
“When most people go on a journey, they bring back a souvenir…but most people usually stick to t-shirts and keychains, not unearthly creatures like the ones Quantum and Woody brought back from the “Otherverse”! Now, a giant monster is wreaking havoc on Washington D.C., and another anomaly – known only as “The Screaming Man” – is slowly getting acquainted with our reality. Is the world’s worst superhero team going to do anything about it? Hopefully, or this would be a really weird comic!”
A good, solid Kaiju vs the tiny tragic military men story, intertwined with Q & W’s apparently classic emotional madcappery. A smiling, bandaged man in a bucket hat eats a kitten’s head raw, and it looks like next issue is going to be about (avoiding?) “hard choices.” I would much rather read this than Deadpool.
Simon Bowland (letters), Andy Diggle (scripter), Renato Guedes (art)
“Who is Shadowman? It’s a question Jack Boniface has asked himself ever since he was called to protect our world from the demonic forces that lie beyond… Now, as he rides backseat in the body of a Paleolithic hunter, eons before his own birth, he will finally learn the shocking true identity of the loa spirit bound to his soul! And, as a shadow begins to spread across West Africa, Jack must defend his fellow tribesmen…or else be trapped in 40,000 B.C. forever!”
How does Guedes do this???????????? Thirty two pages of it? Monthly? He’s incredible. Look at these individual humans! Look at their thoughts and moods!
The solicitation copy claims this issue “lay[s] the building blocks that will define the Shadowman mythos for years to come,” and that seems like a fair enough claim, honestly. It’s a full refresh for Jack, for Shadowman as a legacy, and it sets a clear field for future development. It’s also a good read in its own right, as Standing Wolf and Slow Hippo claim revenge for their village and Jack sees that alliances with spirits don’t have to be anguished or oppressive. And it ends with a kiss. A good comic!
Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe collection
Ulises Arreola, Joe Bennett, Bernardo Brabo (art), Eliot Rahal (scripter), Dave Sharpe (letters), Aaron Shoenke (scripter)
“Watch the live-action digital series, then jump headlong into the fight-fueled showdown of the century as acclaimed writer Eliot Rahal (The Paybacks) and red-hot artist Joe Bennett (Teen Titans, Deathstroke) reveal the full scope and adrenaline-drenched intensity of NINJAK VS. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE!”
Now— a word of caution. The above is what was sent to me as solicit copy for this trade. It’s actually misleading, as Valiant is no longer able to make their (actually rather good) live-action digital series available to the viewing public. This is because of Big Business: Sony is developing various Valiant properties for screen (look out for Bloodshot starring…Vin Diesel), and a lil production made by people who built their name on Batman and Mortal Kombat fan films can’t compete, branding-wise. So away it goes. A shame, even though their Ninjak (whose whole thing is that he is an English man partially raised in Japan) was American with no effort made to hide the accent. Beyond that, Michael Rowe did a nice job, and was cute. All I want from Ninjak is for him to be cute! I’ve said this before. But it’s my principle.
There was some good man-friends emotional content in Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe. There were some neat fight character details and all of the friendships and alliances were clear. The ladies’ make-up and costuming was for sure the worst part but on the whole I had a good time watching it. Anyway…never mind that, this trade collection’s not much good. It opens with a posh London-English child saying “Mommy [no], I want a candy bar [no],” and re-tells what appeared on screen in the most visually prosaic way possible. The movie was better, and if it wasn’t a CRIME to say “Watch it on YouTube, because it happens to be there,” that is what I’d say.
Christos Gage (scripter), Dave Lanphear (letters), Roberto de la Torre, Jose Villarrubia (art)
“The Coalition may have been defeated…but the mission’s not over yet! Now, Ninjak must use all the super-spy skills at his disposal to save Gilad from the clutches of his friend’s erstwhile nemesis, the Dying One. But stopping an immortal genius – especially one armed with the full might of the Eternal Warrior – is a fight that not even MI6’s best and brightest secret agent can prepare for!”
The art in this is gorgeous, and Ninja-K thinks more boyfriendy thoughts. Good!
The story is a decently constructed horror-espionage exercise in ennui, if you can apply the word to action-oriented stories. Colonial, which is to be expected. Ninja-K is still searching for the body of his immortal pal Gilad, which is being piloted by Gilad’s differently-immortal enemy (no longer known as “The Immortal Enemy”). Ninja-K is looking for his friend even after cutting him in the dick a few months ago, which I think shows a lot of trust in their connection. There’s some quite poor Livewire dialogue in this issue (“Clever, embedding it in the code for the gossip site you know I’m addicted to,” because Females I guess? Clunky) but there’s also enough allusion to previous Ninja-K canon that a new reader will get the gist well enough by reading it to feel that they know a little. And that’s a good thing, in my opinion.
(The art is the real selling point. Beautiful, and most of it much more purple than the preview pages on offer.)
Valiant High collection
David Baron (art), Simon Bowland (letters), Derek Charm (art), Daniel Kibblesmith (scripter)
“Before they became legends, the world’s most formidable heroes were roaming the halls at Valiant High – a superpowered preparatory academy where Aric “X-O Manowar” Dacia is a record-setting running back, Colin “Ninjak” King is a debonair foreign exchange student, and Coach Bloodshot is way, way too into dodgeball. Now, Amanda “Livewire” McKee and her best friend, Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, are taking it all in for the first time at the one high school where power trumps popularity!”
I think I MAY have mentioned it before, but Valiant High is one of the best superhero books going. This trade is a must-read, for fans of teen stories, powers stories, really cute art, or someone looking to understand the lay of the land in Valiant at large through the magical power of the High School AU. Look for the full-length WWAC review, coming soon.