It’s Valiant Pubwatch, it’s me, it’s you. We are gathered here today, to get through this month’s releases.
The Valiant Heroes digital card game is available on iOS devices now. I trust that if this means something to you, I have said enough, and if it doesn’t, I have said plenty.
A Bloodshot holiday sweater is now available, in two cuts as well as t-shirt form. A nice lil gift for the Vin Diesel fan in your life? If so, Zavvi is currently donating school meals through the World Food Programme if you pay with Mastercard.
And Gregg Katzman has been given the position of Marketing Coordinator. Whether this is a takeover of Victoria McNally’s Senior Marketing and Communications Manager role, or a hiring under her supervision, is not clear, though details on her LinkedIn imply that she has left the company. Either way, “Katzman will focus on growing awareness of the Valiant brand through engagement with comics press, retailers, and Valiant fans, plus will work on forging strategic relationships with key partners in the entertainment space.” A great way to engage the comics press is to give them presents even though they live in England. Did you know that? It’s true.
News done; reviews, go:
Faith: Dreamside #3 of 4
Jordie Bellaire and MJ Kim (artists), Jody Houser (scripter) Dave Sharpe (letters)
In this issue, Faith (and team-up partner Doctor Mirage) finally reach Dreamside! Animalia, a kid with superpowers, has been kidnapped by ghosts (or are they), and Faith and Shan (Doctor M) are diving into what they expect to be Deadside—the Valiant afterlife—to rescue her. Everything is weirdly cute and happy-looking, which is creeping both women out. This issue really gets down to the emotional knuckle, bringing back and explaining the duplicate of Faith last seen (last seen dying heroically at ComicCon) in Faith’s ongoing series, as well as “physically” reuniting Shan with her ghost husband Hwen. Hwen is dreamy and perfect, and they can hold hands again! But does being reminded of what you’ve lost in a relationship make it stronger?
Faith and Faith get to discuss some of the finer points of superhero existentialism, which is wistful and doomladen, and Houser and Kim both get to flex. Kim’s execution of both supercute foliage and gothically withered spreads of the same is spot on, the tragic feelings between Shan and Hwen beam out from their sad, lovely eyes, and Faith herself is cute as a button. Houser’s inclusion of a manga-style (do not fight me on this. Allow yourself to understand what I mean) cherub mascot who tags along with Hwen and Faith 2 is a particular accomplishment, as its dialogue doesn’t seem rhythmically off, and its expressions and body language are non-disruptively executed.
X-O Manowar #21
Matt Kindt (scripter), Andrew Dalhouse and Juan Jose Ryp (artists), Dave Sharpe (letters)
Colonel Capshaw still has her infuriating hair (even if it wasn’t representative of certain matters, it would still be annoying—there’ just too much of it loose at the front) but is not appearing in uniform, so I’ll allow it. There are two green women who wear purple in this issue, I think, and they’re on opposite sides of the same brawl, I think. X-O Manowar fights a really big bear that’s wearing toga pants, and gets shot in the helmet by…Osiris? There’s the half of Valiant that I’m into, and the half that I’m just not, and I think you can guess which side of the coin is face up.
If you like space war and seriousness and drawings with shitloads of lines, you’ll probably like this comic.
Harbinger Wars 2 TPB, collecting Harbinger Wars 2: Prelude, Harbinger Wars 2 #1-4, & Harbinger Wars 2: Aftermath
Eric Heisserer, Matt Kindt (scripters), Raul Allen,Tomas Giorello, Renato Guedes, Patricia Martin, Adam Pollina (artists), letterers uncredited in solicit
At one hundred and sixty pages, this is a collection that could go either way. Personally I cannot endorse the bulk of Harbinger Wars 2—those issues which contain the actual event, Harbinger Wars 2 #1-4. But on the other hand, the Prelude and the Aftermath issues were good showings for Livewire, Valiant’s most relevant superhero, and both lead directly into issue one of her solo series. The ongoing (yes, a Valiant ongoing!) Livewire begins in December and is very good. These HW2 prelude and aftermath issues introduce the living people she cares about and the shapes of her motivations. If you can borrow this collected edition from the library, borrow it from the library. If you’re very rich, just buy it and read the start and the end. Otherwise? Make your own decision. You can do it! I believe in you!!
Simon Bowland (letters), Andy Diggle (scripter), Renato Guedes and Eric Battle (artists)
“As Jack Boniface and Alyssa Miles hunt for the remains of Master Darque, their search brings them to the enchanted home of his sorceress sister—none other than Sandria Darque herself! Face to unearthly face with the sorceress responsible for binding his fate to that of the deadly shadow loa, Jack now stands at a crossroads…Will he achieve his greatest desire and free himself from the monster within?”
Guedes and Battle swap in and out depending on scenes—and their art is very different. Guedes stays with Shadowman Jack and his partner in love, life, and mysticism, Alyssa, as they go to find the remains of one Master Darque (more on him in a mo). Battle begins the issue and follows some sort of corporate suited type as he has one hired killer off a bunch of other hired killers. He takes over again once Alyssa becomes trapped in a mirror realm. Guedes’ track is all mountains and sunlight and beautiful people, castles and rock monsters in Scotland. It’s nice to see New Orleans magic meet Orkney magic with no sense of implied mismatch.
Darque’s place in the Valiant U is briefly recapped in this issue, and shouldn’t cause any trouble for a newer reader. In the wider sense, Master Darque has been a big deal in Valiant since 1992. His initial incarnation was first seen menacing the original Shadowman (in fact, the original Jack Boniface, who was a New Orleans saxophonist) under Bob Hall and Yvel Guichet, but struck out from there to become the second most dangerous villain seen across the interwoven Valiant titles. He popped up in two issues of Eternal Warrior in 1993, for example, which do a very good job of introducing him: Barry Windsor-Smith’s #6 and #7. They’re menacing, beautiful, brutal, and also very funny. Master Darque even made it into the Acclaim reboot universe (explained here!), where he engineered Shooter & Starlin’s Unity 2000—the final and extremely climactic event of Valiant’s upsy-downsy 1990s. By legacy, Master Darque is a big deal; it’s interesting to see him reduced to a pile of bones in a story that belongs to other people.
Quantum + Woody! #12
Andrew Dalhouse, Francis Portela (artists), Eliot Rahal (scripter), Dave Sharpe (letters)
“Now that Eric and Woody Henderson know they have what it takes to save the day, they finally have a shot at going pro—and they’re in luck, because UNITY might just be making a comeback! But the brothers aren’t ready for primetime just yet…they still have to audition for their spots, under the watchful eyes of G.A.T.E. and X-O Manowar!”
This is the last issue of a limited series, apparently, which I didn’t notice previously. I figured it was an ongoing, which I guess was using inapplicable logic. Valiant does short runs, on the whole, and that’s no bad thing. Sell the horse when it can still win races, and all that. This is a good final issue—it gratifies emotionally and it leaves plenty of pieces on the board (honestly, I can believe it’s more than it started with) for whoever takes the characters out for a spin next time. It’s as readable as a good first issue, honestly, and you’ve got to give that some respect.
Colonel Capshaw remains a pain in my eye. If you check the U.S. Army “FEMALE UNAUTHORIZED HAIRSTYLES” graphic found on this page, you’ll see that she would not be allowed to serve in the regular army looking as she does. So how different is G.A.T.E? Why? It opens up all sorts of questions.
And to all of them the answer is “We want her to look pretty tho…”
Bloodshot Rising Spirit #1
Simon Bowland (letters), Kevin Grevioux (scripter), Lonnie Nadler, Zac Thompson (plotters), Ken Lashley, Diego Rodriguez, Ryan Winn, (artists)
“Before a weapon is deployed in battle, it must be designed, refined, field-tested. Bloodshot was no exception.
In the early days of the private military contractor Project Rising Spirit, the nanite-infused super-soldier who would one day become their most violent and valuable asset was a resource to be mined—and it was up to one enterprising employee, the Memory Weaver, to ensure he did what he was told. But memory is a tricky thing…and the man Bloodshot used to be won’t let go of his past so easily…”
“Why didn’t Nadler & Thompson script this issue,” you might ask. I know you might, because I am. I am asking, but I stop immediately upon reading the first page of Bloodshot Rising Spirit because the first line is “She said she don’t wanna marry no bum,” and I just watched Rocky, and Rocky II, and Rocky III, and Rocky IV and Rocky V. I’m compromised. So Bloodshot Rising Spirit feels good to read from the start, but you’d better probably watch Rocky first so’s to get in the mood, you know? Absolutely.
To be honest, this issue needs a bit more than what it’s got. It’s not entirely clear—I don’t mean it’s ultimately confusing but that it would be hard to tell a friend what happened in it quickly. You can explain the final premise or you can recount the events as they’re set to page, but they don’t blend especially well. It doesn’t seem to demand any existing knowledge of Bloodshot from a reader, so if you fancy being “into Bloodshot,” (that Vin Diesel film is coming, after all) my advice is to wait and read issues one and two together. You’ll probably be pretty satisfied.
Christos Gage (scripter), Roberto De La Torre, Jose Villarrubia (artists), Dave Lanphear (letters)
“At long last, Ninjak’s finally got the Dying One in his crosshairs! But as the two deadly warriors prepare to do battle for the fate of the Eternal Warrior’s body, another threat looms on the horizon… MI6 is closing in on their master spy with another covert operation – one that will force Ninjak to forsake the woman he loves!”
Some of the dialogue in this issue is oddly golden age:
I’m not especially fond of the dialogue choices of Christos Gage in general, I suppose. But that’s largely fine; he is moving Ninja-K in a direction that I find agreeable, having him think pretty much only about his friends and his beloved as he fights terrible & weird villains, as if he were Sailor Moon.
It’s nice to know that Colin pays enough attention to his friend Gilad to know when he’s telling a lie. It’s nice that Gilad knows Colin equally as well. It’s nice they are loyal to each other’s principles. I like that Colin has run away from the government because he doesn’t want to be ninja James Bond any more. I like that the Valiant editorial agreement seems to have been that though Ninja-K and Livewire are valuable enough solo assets that they must remain in different books, it’s fine to make their physical separation a matter of intensely romantic ardour. Thank you for making Ninja-K the designated Boyfriend of the Valiant Universe! I’m so glad we can all agree on this, as a thing that should be.
De La Torre and Villarrubia, as ever, create beautiful pages.
Solicits listed Harbinger Wars 2 as releasing this week, but it looks like that was delayed until the 28th.