Valiant! PUBWATCH! Put’em together and what do you get? You get the Valiant PUBWATCH, which is where you are now. Exactly where you need to be, my darling. We’ll get onto short reviews of everything Valiant put on the shelves in October, to catch you up should you have missed anything, but as always we begin with—
News! Bloodshot’s first bout of movie news hit early-mid October, around the same time as a big Valiant sale on Comixology and a Groupees bundle sale. Both of those are over now! Because that’s just how schedules work sometimes. I’m sorry. If you wanna stay FULLY up to date, you can follow me on twitter where my fascination with this publisher’s every move looms large. Anyway: Bloodshot. It’s happening, Vin Diesel is really into it, and producer Dinesh Shamdasani (who, with Jason Kothari, saved Valiant from the bargain bin in 2009 and built the name and the company into what was sold to DMG early this year) is full of facts about who Vin’s favourite character is in this (pretty shitty quality, but useful in terms of content) podcast episode.
Valiant have “hired Oliver Taylor to the position of International Licensing Coordinator. In his new role, Taylor will assist in cultivating relationships with agents, publishing partners, and licensees to expand Valiant’s reach in the global marketplace.” Taylor seems to have been a librarian previously, and looks fairly nervous but I’m sure he will do fine.
As well as welcoming Taylor, Valiant are promoting Julia Walchuk. Previously a freelancer, Walchuk has been hired on as staff as Sales and Live Events Manager. As per their press release,
In her new role, Walchuk will be responsible for planning and orchestrating Valiant’s extensive convention schedule, including planning con exclusives, working with consignment partners, and designing and managing Valiant’s physical presence at events, all in addition to helping maintain important relationships with comic book shops around the country.
“Julia is revolutionizing the way Valiant presents itself to our fans and retailer partners through live events,” said Director of Sales Matthew Klein. “Her ambition, insight, innovation, and work ethic inspire me every day. She’s become a cornerstone of Valiant. Julia is a superstar and the whole industry is getting to see it now.”
It’s nice to see Valiant in its modern form continue what Jim Shooter started and Bob Layton continued to do: naming and publicly valuing their female staff.
And the last bit of staff news: back on the third of October, Karl Bollers (an Eisner Awards nominee, just like us!) was promoted to Senior Editor. They say:
“Bollers will play an increased role in the development of new projects, casting of comic talent, and editing of current and upcoming titles. He will be responsible for spearheading projects with Valiant’s beloved iconic superheroes, as well as characters throughout the company’s library of heroes. The Valiant editorial team is currently headed by Executive Editor Joseph Illidge and includes Editorial Director Robert Meyers, Editor Lysa Hawkins, and Assistant Editor David Menchel.”
The Valiant editorial team is now two black men, two white men, and one white woman. Since the company was fully purchased by DMG, the editorial team has seen an almost complete overhaul — Menchel is the only member who was with the company prior to spring 2018. Valiant’s history of post-takeover creative change is an interesting one, right back to 1992.
If you’re in North Carolina and heading to NCCC (Friday, November 9th to Sunday, November 11th), Valiant is letting attendees get a look at Bloodshot Rising Spirit #1, otherwise not available until the following Wednesday. This limited series seems to have three members on its writing team— weird, but collaboration is the name of the game in monthly comics. Here’s what one of them has to say, as per the Rising Spirit press release:
“One of the things I don’t like is when writers come in and say, ‘Everything you thought you knew before was wrong,’” writer Kevin Grevioux told Inverse. “I think that’s a slap in the face to both the creator and to longtime fans who’ve been with the character since inception. However, I do think you can enhance and add layers to the history without disturbing the essence of who the character is and what makes him tick. And that’s what we’ll be doing with RISING SPIRIT.”
This month’s look back at Valiant’s original form is a shortie; just a link to this old blog post on JimShooter.com (Shooter being the creative founder and original co-owner of Valiant Comics). In it, JayJay — formerly known, and credited at Valiant, as Janet — Jackson shared some of her work developing the title logos for their original books. She worked as Valiant’s Executive Art Director — as well as one of their primary colourists, which is a much easier place to trace her contributions, logos being so rarely attributed to a designer rather than a property within the publications they top. Jackson was also previously a graphic designer and Art Director of Advertising at Marvel, designing the Spider-Man Wedding logo as well as the Marvel Comics logo that dominated the 90s.
Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #4 (of 4)
Robert Gill (art), Peter Milligan (scripter)
“Deep within the heart of Egypt, there is unrest…and Antonius and Achillia have stumbled right into the middle of it! On the hunt for the Roman Empire’s missing banners at the behest of Emperor Nero, history’s first detective and his fearsome gladiatrix companion find themselves on the brink of many revelations: Who is responsible for the plagues threatening their Roman brethren? And who is this new revolutionary calling himself Pharaoh?”
This is the last issue of a mini series, so it’s a daft place to begin. If you haven’t been reading this series previously, just wait for the trade (it should be out next month, at a guess). If you have been reading, you know it’s a fun book. I pronounce myself satisfied, and I certainly expected not to be.
Faith: Dreamside #2 (of 4)
MJ Kim (art), Jody Houser (scripter)
“Something strange in your neighborhood? Renowned ghost whisperer Shan Fong Mirage knows how to fix it. But it’s going to take more than stories of supernatural-tinged nightmares to convince her that the young psiot Animalia truly needs her spiritual guidance… Now it’s up to Faith, L.A.’s highest-flying hero and Doctor Mirage’s number one fangirl, to get the world’s leading parapsychologist to take the case!”
MJ Kim’s art is really cute, with a good handle on the different energies of the characters involved. Faith is good-hearted and excitable; Doctor Mirage is reserved, professional and generous; ghost husband Hwen is confident, languidly charming, and comforting. Houser is a dead cert on a Faith book. We have yet to reach Dreamside, in book two of four, but character story is happening nevertheless.
Faith Deluxe Edition Book 1 Hardcover
Joshua Dysart, Jody Houser (scripters), Andrew Dalhouse, Robert Gill, Pere Perez, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage (artists)
“Orphaned at a young age, Faith Herbert – a psionically gifted “psiot” discovered by the Harbinger Foundation – has always aspired to greatness. But now this once-ordinary teenager is taking control of her destiny and becoming the hard-hitting hero she’s always known she can be – complete with a mild-mannered secret identity, unsuspecting colleagues, and a day job as a reporter that routinely throws her into harm’s way! She’ll tackle every obstacle in her path with confidence – robots, aliens, monsters…and even her very first super-villain arch-nemesis bent on snuffing her out once and for all!”
This deluxe edition contains fifteen issues of seminal Faith comics. Containing Faith’s first solo miniseries, the first eight issues (that’s two full arcs) of her ongoing series, her cameo in Archer & Armstrong’s book A+A, and her zero issue of Harbinger, this is PRIME CHRISTMAS PRESENT MATERIAL. The reader follows Faith from her solo debut in Van Nuys, California, through her first date with Archer (adorable by the way), into a more confident superheroism, a trip to comicon, and the struggle with her very own supervillain nemesis.
Like many, I first picked up Faith because I wanted to see superheroism cease to require thinness — happily having given the premise the chance it deserved I found my curiosity rewarded with quality. Faith is a fun, well-written, dynamically drawn comic in every iteration it’s had so far. It’s written almost entirely by Jody Houser, but this deluxe edition also includes Joshua Dysart’s last and best issue with Faith, Harbinger: Faith #0. A stand-alone split between then and now, this issue is set after Faith and then-boyfriend Torque are forced to leave their start-up Harbinger team. Part of the story covers their break-up, and the other takes us back to Faith’s childhood.
I love this issue, as it features some nicely-written parenting (which is rare, if you really think about it) and some very sharp character observation. Dysart expresses his regret that it wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test, but I would argue that this issue is a prime example of why we need a world where the Bechdel test isn’t relevant any more: orphaned pre-teen Faith and her grandmother talk about boys, obliquely and beautifully, and it expresses so much of their own connection and the responsibility of care. The overexcitement that defined Faith during Harbinger is far better applied to this child-version of her.
Andy Diggle (scripter), Renato Guedes (art)
“As Shadowman returns to New Orleans with a revelatory new understanding of the immense abilities within himself, he won’t have long to adjust…because a war for control of the ultimate magical artefact – the bones of Master Darque, his old arch-nemesis – is about to erupt out of the underground and into the harsh view of day!”
Alright friends this issue is saucy. YES YES. Is Shadowman gonna rival Ninja-K as Valiant’s Top Boyfriend? Maybe he is! I’m excited to find out! Battle of the boyfriends, bring it on.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Guedes is some kind of sorcerer. This issue is gorgeous. And you know what? It’s also pretty engrossing, in terms of magic, adventure, attack and oncoming doom. A pair of mystically-empowered lovers versus the combined powers of a couple different necromancers. Shadowman: it’s a keeper.
X-O Manowar #20
Matt Kindt (scripter), Juan Jose Ryp (art)
“In a realm far more fantastical than our own, a Sky Goddess is missing… And in pursuit of their vanished cosmic princess and her nefarious captors, a squadron of soldiers from the Unknown have invaded our planet! As tensions run high and trust becomes scarce, can X-O Manowar and G.A.T.E. leader Colonel Capshaw band together to keep our world from becoming ensnared in a battle larger than life?”
My boycott of last month still stands. Ryp has his upsides, discussed below, but his approach to Colonel Capshaw’s hair is absurd.
Shadowman volume 2: Dead and Gone
Andy Diggle (scripter), Doug Braithewaite, Renato Guedes, Shawn Martinbrough (artists)
“For the first time, Jack Boniface is about to discover the long-hidden history of the supernatural power that became his birthright… Unmoored in time and space, the loa is about to reveal its untold dimensions…and now, the last defender of the wall between our realm and the Deadside is falling backwards through the astral void, finding himself face to face with his forebears across the centuries – from the paranoia-addled alleyways of 1940s New York to the fire-scorched plantations of the Civil War…all the way back to the primeval height of the African savannah in 40,000 B.C.!”
Valiant’s attitude to trade release is fascinating. This collection contains issues four, five, six and seven — and it’s released in the same week as issue eight (see above, two entries up). You can grab a whole chunk of catch-up right at once. This trade begins with Jack, Shadowman, riding the body of his ancestor in the 40s, fighting a nazi etc. His spirit’s been sent back in time and he’s viewing the events of the past, trying to learn what being Shadowman means, or should mean, or could mean. This is the mystic “finding yourself” period that precedes his reunion with Alyssa, which allows for the love-in in issue eight.
Personally I’d suggest starting at #6, with Guedes and where Jack reaches pre-history and has a breakthrough of his own which makes this volume half worth it; if you like script excerpts and naked line art backmatter the scales tip towards “fully.”
Quantum + Woody #11
Andrew Dalhouse, Joe Eisma (artists), Eliot Rahal (scripter), Dave Sharpe (letters)
“Quantum and Woody are having a pretty terrible day so far – their atoms were dissolved in the middle of a nationwide disaster; they faced down their personal demons in “The Otherverse;” and now they’re responsible for bringing a malicious entity back with them! These guys can’t even finish a jigsaw puzzle without losing a whole bunch of pieces – how are they gonna put all of reality back together?”
Quantum + Woody is quite good, even though I don’t like it. It doesn’t pretend it’s the first superhero comic ever to walk down the block. It stays abreast of the situation. It uses captioning and cross-media invocation quite well. It solves old problems in new, better ways. It’s elastic and engaging, like a good waiter, or Billy Zane. However, in this issue somebody says “All over the new carpet!” when the wine has plainly been spilled on their wooden floor. There isn’t even a rug. I cannot forgive this, and additionally, I won’t.
Ninja-K atta-K! Double Colin! Can’t complain, haw haw. Then again: can I?
Christos Gage (scripter), Roberto de la Torre, Jose Villarrubia (artists), A Larger World Studios (letters)
“With the fate of the Eternal Warrior hanging in the balance, Ninjak has tracked The Dying One—a being who reemerges in a new human body whenever they die—to a small town outside of Chernobyl. But Colin King is about to uncover secrets more unsettling than the loss of his friend Gilad. Abandoned in the wilds of the Russian wilderness, the world’s most dangerous super-spy must now survive against an an unthinkable onslaught of science experiments from the twisted mind of his immortal foe!”
With only two issues coming between the trade collection reviewed below and this month’s single issue, #12 sees Colin continue to track immortal pal Gilad across the world. Gilad’s body has been possessed by another immortal and Colin wants to fetch it, and his spirit, right back together. He’s currently in Chernobyl and trying to balance “my enemy is evil” with “my enemy has helped these civilians who now wish to protect him” as well as lying to his handler about whether or not he knows where Livewire is, and if he should go and get her instead. Livewire is in demand because Valiant’s summer event, Harbinger Wars 2, saw her decide to crash America’s electricity for a short while in order to bargain back the political safety of America’s Psiots (people with natural superpowers). Colin wants to protect Livewire because he is her boyfriend. He wants to fetch back Gilad safely because he’s his friend. Colin is having a hard time! He’s also upset about having a bad adoptive dad and a bad biological dad. He sure is miserable! This is what I’m here for.
If what you’re here for is body horror of the “huge mass of merged innocents, betrayed by their promised saviour” type, then, gosh, we’re both happy. Yay! And ain’t it pretty?
Ninja-K: The Coalition trade collection (Ninja-K #6-#9, plus pin-up gallery)
Christos Gage (scripter), Juan Jose Ryp, Jordie Bellaire (artists)
“A once-loyal agent has defected from the ranks of MI6’s most elite espionage unit… and Ninjak has been dispatched across the globe to prevent his secrets from plunging the world into chaos. But, in the shadows of Mexico City, Colin King is about to discover something far more deadly… The Ninja Programme’s own former sensei, the Jonin, has assembled a conspiratorial circle of enigmatic enemies – the Dying One, Kostiy the Deathless, Linton March, and The United’s Ultimo – for a purpose so sinister that even Ninjak can’t risk engaging them alone. Enter: Livewire, Punk Mambo, Dr. Mirage, and GIN-GR – Ninjak’s brand-new black ops team with a very specific set of skills…and a license to kill the unkillable!”
Something that bothers me, every time I open up a Ninja-K comic, is the colour of Neville Alcott’s hair. Neville is Colin’s (Ninja-K’s) contact/handler/frenemy combo, and he receives a small biographical introduction at the start of each issue or collection, which is helpful. But the picture used troubles me, because in it his hair is red. For some reason, I deeply expect “Neville Alcott’s” hair to be blond.
This isn’t because of his ’90s Valiant appearance— there, he’s old, and his hair is grey. Is it because of Ninjak vs the Valiant Universe? It might be; his hair there is blond. But did that leave an indelible enough mark on my psyche to confuse me month after month? It seems unlikely. Then again, there are no other explanations.
I do respect, in a way, the decision to make “Ninjak” into “Ninja-K,” a designation. But I don’t think I have the strength of solemnity not to laugh every time a newly-mentioned Ninja-(x) sounds funny. For example: Ninja-J. Ninjaj. Hehe. Anyway this collection makes everything worse by revealing that there’s such a person as Ninja K-2—not even Ninja-K-2. Ninja K-2 has red hair and freckles (cute), and he wants to murder Colin.
Picking up this trade without prior experience, you get a short, sharp blast of Valiant worldbuilding. Some is laid out simply—the destruction of Mexico City and it’s international political aftermath—and some less so; what’s an Armor Hunter, what kind of technology do they have? You’re asked to just accept “something” and “some,” and get shown some alien-looking beasties. It’s acceptable, and delivers keywords to look up later, so it could be worse. Likewise with “Deadside artifacts” mentioned.
If you (like me) want to see more Ninja-K being a boyfriend, this is a good trade. If you want to see a Cool British Spy Man teamed up with four female peers and voted down by them on almost everything, this is also a good trade. If you enjoyed The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage volume one, this trade features both the Doctors M and that story’s occult-invested villain, Linton March. He does neat stuff like make portals by arranging guts on the floor, and the villain team he’s a part of is similarly gross/strange/understated.
The story has a good mixture of magic, techno-heroes, and super-spy aesthetics and enough confidence to let them mix pretty seamlessly. I don’t think a white English girl should be breaking any records in Voodoo practice, as Punk Mambo is described to have done, and there are other points to ponder, but this trade is probably going on my If You Want to Try Valiant… recs list. Douglas Noble said to me the other day that “Ryp always goes slightly too far, which I like,” and based on his contributions here I can comfortably agree. There’s a nice earthiness to his combination with Bellaire, which grounds the superhero battle fandango and harkens back to the tonal values of Valiant’s origins.
Ninja-K: The Coalition also contains the issue where Colin stabs Gilad (a Valiant cornerstone character) right in the dick as an act of friendship.
No releases! A naked week.