Comicscape: Catching up with Valiant Comics (

By:Joel Rickenbach
Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back in the spring, I extolled my love for the Valiant line of comics in the 90’s, and my excitement for the re-emergence of the books this summer. All the hyperbole from then aside, none of the books were actually out at the time, so the quality of this new Valiant was still a mystery. The battle plan was shrewd- stagger the release of their books to create the “Summer of Valiant”. Their opening salvo was X-O Manowar, followed by Bloodshot, Harbinger and Archer & Armstrong. All the books have a unified look, and intelligently so, but also have a feel unique to each title. Valiant has an incredible talent pool at their disposal, and as of now, it seems the creators have the freedom to tell the stories they want to tell. They’ve also managed to avoid the kisses of death that face every new publisher- lack of cohesion and late books. I’m not saying every book’s storyline connects with the others (not yet, anyway), but there is a thread these new books share that reminds me of the 90’s Valiant boom. 
It would be easy, and all too typical, for a new publisher to start with the Idiot’s Guide to Comic Book Universes. Start with your likable everyman hero, add in your vigilante, big strong guy, outcasts, overconfident hotshot etc. Then, once you have the readers in the palm of your hand- make them a team! Watch as they battle cosmic forces that none of them could handle alone. They fight! They bicker! They come together as a team and win the day! They realize they should get together more often, because big bad cosmic guy will surely be back! It’s a tried and true structure in the comic book business, but Valiant has decided to build their universe a bit differently. There’s no hint of spandex, freak accidents gifting powers or utility belts and gadgetry. The Valiant hero is a bit more thoughtful and intriguing. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at what’s on the stands so far:

X-O Manowar #1-4, by Robert Venditti, Cary Nord and Stefano Gaudiano: In 402 AD, a Visigoth warrior, Aric of Dacia, is locked in an endless battle against the advancing Romans. His uncle, King Alaric, has been slain, and hope is becoming faint. Not one to sit idle, Aric leads a force to attack a Roman encampment, but stumble across something else. A strange ship perched in a field, a hulking robot and odd bug-like aliens. Aric attacks, but they are no match for the visitors, and are easily captured and put aboard the ship. Meanwhile, the bug-like creatures are replacing human babies with their own offspring, who morph to mimic the look of human children. Somewhere in deep space, Aric and what remains of his troops, are forced into slavery; cultivating odd bits from the staggering amount of plant life, or as its called- The Vine. Hope is even more dim in this strange place- the labor is grueling, and after one too many incidents, Aric loses his hand. During one of his escape attempts he does get a small glimmer of possibility- He witness a ritual where the greatest of the alien warriors attempts to bond with a strange orb. The orb morphs into a suit of advanced armor, but rejects, and kills the chosen alien. This perturbs the alien holy men; apparently this outcome is all too familiar. So, who is worthy to bond with this advanced technology? I’m pretty sure you can figure it out. Once Aric bonds with the Manowar armor (getting a new hand in the process), he gives the punishment back ten fold to his alien captors. Despite his taste for revenge, all he really wants is to go home, to see his wife again. He can’t be sure how long he has been gone, years perhaps? The armor has many tricks up its sleeve, and when Aric simply wishes to be back in Rome, he disappears in the blink of an eye- and arrives back in Rome… in 2012.


You would think after four issues a comic would start to settle in, but instead, X-O Manowar is just getting started, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. The idea that a man from our antiquity is taken to an alien world, pushed to the breaking point, and when he finally escapes and returns home, the world he once knew is also alien to him, is an incredibly compelling one. It’s not easy being the first story out of the gate from a new universe, and Robert Venditti and Cary Nord should be applauded for spinning such an engrossing tale. X-O Manowar is easily one of my top books of the year so far.

Harbinger #1-2, by Joshua Dysart and Khari Evens: Peter Stancheck is a hoodie wearing street kid, drifting from place to place with his slacker buddy, Joe. He gets by with acquiring what he needs using the power of suggestion, and what he needs are pills to help him escape the voices in his head. Peter has powerful psionic abilities, but they pour out of him unchecked, and his life on the run has made his morals questionable. When he tries to reconnect with his first childhood love, he uses his abilities to make her love him, regardless of her previous disdain towards him. A kid with powers like that can’t go unnoticed forever, and Peter is no exception. The mysterious Mr. Tull has been hot on peters trail for a while, and when Peter makes a tactical error by trying to revisit his old neighborhood, things come to a head. Lucky for Peter, Mr. Tull isn’t the only person looking for him- Toyo Harada, corporate giant and the most powerful psionic in the world, see’s Peter as the future. It’s a lot to put on the back of one 18 year old, and Peter’s choices in the issues ahead will not be easy.
It’s tough to reimagine a book that has had a large influence, and may copy cats, two decades after the fact. I’m sure writer Joshua Dysart would love not to have the baggage associated with a story such as Harbinger’s. It’s been done countless times, but Harbinger was one of the first and most influential. This will be something the new Valiant struggles with for awhile. The challenge to their creative teams is to create something new and exiting in the face of everything that has piled on in the interim. It’s an unenviable task, but Joshua Dysart and Khari Evens are off to a great start. What caught my attention the most is the bold choice they made regarding Peter essentially brainwashing his childhood friend. Sure, he makes her fall in love with him, but that leads to much more, and the implications are to an extreme abuse of her lack of free will. What makes the choice even bolder is how Dysart gives Peter enough depth for us to realize just how confused and astray he is. Hopefully there will be ramifications, Peter’s choices will continue to be hard, and Harbinger keeps up this level of quality.


Bloodshot #1-2, by Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi: The ultimate mind#@$% with a heaping helping of ultra-violence pretty much sums up the world of Bloodshot. Raymond Garrison is a super soldier with billions of nanites coursing through his blood, giving him a wide assortment of abilities, most of which are in service as a surgical assassin for the military. He has a wife and son, but when duty calls he won’t stop until the mission is complete, even if that means getting killed. You see, getting killed is something that happens a lot to Bloodshot. Its no big deal though- the nanites will regenerate him, and the mission will continue. It’s a good thing too, without that handy trick he’d never come home to his wife and daughters… or was that wife and son? And how many times has he died now- ten, twenty, a hundred?
In the world of comics (and movies, TV, Games…) the nanite powered super soldier who is controlled by shadowy government figures, is very familiar territory. Bloodshot is another soldier in this long standing clone army, but this book has two things going for it- For one, it’s a re-launch of a title from the 90’s, when this story wasn’t as oversaturated, and two- It’s damn good. What Duane Swierczynski gets right is just how incredibly, to use a military term, FUBAR Bloodshot’s life is. He’s been mind wiped more times than anyone can count, he is constantly getting killed in full gory detail thanks to Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi, his head is full of ghosts of multiple wives and children that don’t actually exist, and he has no idea who to trust. The book moves at a good clip, never really giving Bloodshot, or the reader, much time to rest. It’s as if Bloodshot keeps waking up from a dream, only to find his reality more dangerous and violent than the last. Clearly, he will eventually begin the search for who he really is, and that’s a mission I’m happy to take.

Archer & Armstrong #1, by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry: Armstrong has been around since before the first cataclysm that ended the world, and gave birth to the one we know now. Back then he had much more fire in his belly, today he’s fond of alcohol, bars and poetry. Archer has gown up in a religious sect, never venturing out of the creationist-like theme park (replete with saddled dinosaurs) he’s always called home. Everything is safe and sterile, except his life-long training to be a warrior for his religious cult. All that training is about to pay off, as his superiors have a mission for him, one of the gravest importance, and one that will take this sheltered warrior out into the world. Its no surprise this mission puts Archer on a crash course with Armstrong. You couldn’t find two people more different, but you have to admit- putting them together should be nothing short of fascinating.

Of all the Valiant re-launches, this was the one I was looking forward to the most, and it doesn’t disappoint. The original Archer & Armstrong was one of the most original and interesting books of its day; it was unique even by Valiant standards. With all the swirling history and religious cults, Archer & Armstrong was really a wonderful buddy story at its core. Like Terrence Hill and Bud Spencer, this incongruous duo will charm the pants off you with their banter, and eventual friendship. That’s the hope, anyway. We’re only one issue in, but Van Lente and Henry have already shown they mean to restore our dynamic duo to their former glory. What strikes me the most after one issue, is the smart updating of this story for today. Archer’s religious sect is far more grand, and woven into what we know fanatical evangelicals to be. There’s even implications of the current 1% divide, and the problems we face as a world in 2012. What better companions to have than a man from the pervious era, who’s seen and done it all, and one from today, who barely knows the world he lives in. I’m gonna call it- Jump on this book now before it passes you by.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a love-fest, but I truly believe the new Valiant books are that good.  They present some wonderful and unique worlds to explore, or at the very least fresh takes on some very familiar comic tropes. The future looks bright- All the books are humming along, and some new characters will wake up from their slumber soon- Ninjak makes his first appearance in X-O Manowar this fall, and Shadowman enters the fray with his own book as well. If Valiant can keep this mojo rising then we have a real gem of a publisher on our hands… again.

New Comic Book Releases for 8/29/12:

Betty And Veronica Friends Double Digest #228, $3.99 
Sonic The Hedgehog #240 (Greg Horn Cover), $2.99 
Sonic The Hedgehog #240 (Sega Cover), $2.99
Comic Shop News #1315, AR

Angel And Faith #13 (Rebekah Isaacs Variant Cover), AR
Angel And Faith #13 (Steve Morris Regular Cover), $2.99 
Axe Cop President Of The World #2 (Of 3), $3.50 
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth The Return Of The Master #1 (Of 5)(Mike Mignola Variant Cover), AR
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth The Return Of The Master #1 (Of 5)(Ryan Sook Regular Cover), $3.50 
Bettie Page Bizarre Belt Buckle, $19.99 
Bettie Page Bizarre Cigarette Case, $29.99 
Bettie Page Bizarre Flask, $29.99 
Bettie Page Bizarre Personal Case, $27.99 
Bettie Page Bizarre Pill Box, $15.99 
Bettie Page Bizarre Round Compact, $19.99 
Bettie Page Bizarre Small Case, $22.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Belt Buckle, $19.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Cigarette Case, $29.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Flask, $29.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Personal Case, $27.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Pill Box, $15.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Round Compact, $19.99 
Bettie Page Red Devil Small Case, $22.99 
Goon #41, $3.50 
Mass Effect Homeworlds #4 (Of 4)(Anthony Palumbo Regular Cover), $3.50 
Mass Effect Homeworlds #4 (Of 4)(Mike Hawthorne Variant Cover), AR
Star Wars Darth Maul Death Sentence #2 (Of 4), $2.99

American Vampire #30 (Jock Variant Cover), AR
American Vampire #30 (Rafael Albuquerque Regular Cover), $2.99 
Aquaman #12 (Ivan Reis & Joe Prado Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Aquaman #12 (Ivan Reis & Joe Prado Regular Cover), $2.99 
Batman And Robin #10 (Patrick Gleason & Mick Gray 2nd Printing Variant Cover), $2.99 
Batman And Robin #11 (Patrick Gleason & Mick Gray 2nd Printing Variant Cover), $2.99 
Batman Beyond Unlimited #7, $3.99 
Before Watchmen Minutemen #3 (Of 6)(Cliff Chiang Variant Cover), AR
Before Watchmen Minutemen #3 (Of 6)(Combo Pack Edition), $4.99 
Before Watchmen Minutemen #3 (Of 6)(Darwyn Cooke Regular Cover), $3.99 
Detective Comics Annual #1, $4.99 
Diablo #5 (Of 5), $2.99 
Dominique Laveau Voodoo Child #6, $2.99 
End Of Nations TP, $14.99 
Flash Annual #1, $4.99 
Green Lantern Annual #1, $4.99 
Green Lantern Archives Volume 7 HC, $59.99 
Green Lantern The Animated Series Saint Walker Statue, $124.95 
Justice League #12 (Combo Pack Edition), $4.99 
Justice League #12 (Jim Lee & Scott Williams Regular Cover), $3.99 
Justice League #12 (Jim Lee & Scott Williams Variant Cover), AR
Justice League #12 (Jim Lee Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Justice League International Annual #1, $4.99 
National Comics Looker #1, $3.99 
New Deadwardians #6 (Of 8), $2.99 
Phantom Lady #1 (Of 4), $2.99 
Resurrection Man Volume 1 Dead Again TP, $14.99 
Showcase Presents Tales Of The Unexpected Volume 1 TP, $19.99 
Spaceman #9 (Of 9), $2.99 
Superman Annual #1, $4.99 
Superman Family Adventures #4, $2.99 
Supernatural The Dogs Of Edinburgh TP, $14.99 
Young Justice #19, $2.99

Bionic Woman #3 (Paul Renaud Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Bionic Woman #3 (Paul Renaud Regular Cover), $3.99 
Bionic Woman #3 (Paul Renaud Virgin Variant Cover), AR
Green Hornet #27 (Phil Hester Regular Cover), $3.99 
Green Hornet #27 (Stephen Sadowski Regular Cover), $3.99 
Kirby Genesis Volume 1 TP, $29.99 
Lone Ranger Snake Of Iron #2 (Dennis Calero Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Lone Ranger Snake Of Iron #2 (Dennis Calero Regular Cover), $3.99 
Lord Of The Jungle #7 (Lucio Parrillo Regular Cover), $3.99 
Lord Of The Jungle #7 (Lucio Parrillo Virgin Variant Cover), AR
Lord Of The Jungle #7 (Paul Renaud Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Lord Of The Jungle #7 (Paul Renaud Regular Cover), $3.99 
Lord Of The Jungle #7 (Tattered & Torn Risque Variant Cover), AR
Prophecy #3 (Of 7)(Paul Renaud Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Prophecy #3 (Of 7)(Paul Renaud Regular Cover), $3.99 
Prophecy #3 (Of 7)(Paul Renaud Virgin Variant Cover), AR
Red Sonja #68 (Fabiano Neves Regular Cover), $3.99 
Red Sonja #68 (Walter Geovani Regular Cover), $3.99 
Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris #14 (Fabiano Neves Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris #14 (Fabiano Neves Regular Cover), $3.99 
Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris #14 (Fabiano Neves Risque Variant Cover), AR
Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris #14 (Paul Renaud Red Variant Cover), AR
Warlord Of Mars Dejah Thoris #14 (Paul Renaud Regular Cover), $3.99 
Witchblade Demon Reborn #2 (Of 4)(Dennis Calero Regular Cover), $3.99 
Witchblade Demon Reborn #2 (Of 4)(Jae Lee Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Witchblade Demon Reborn #2 (Of 4)(Jae Lee Variant Cover), AR

Deadworld War Of The Dead #4 (Of 5)(Cover A Sami Makkonen), $3.99 
Deadworld War Of The Dead #4 (Of 5)(Cover RI Sami Makkonen), AR
Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms #3 (Cover A Tyler Walpole), $3.99 
Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms #3 (Cover B Steve Ellis), $3.99 
Dungeons And Dragons Forgotten Realms #3 (Cover RI Character Design), AR
Frankenstein Alive Alive #2 (Bernie Wrightson Black & White Variant Cover), AR
Frankenstein Alive Alive #2 (Bernie Wrightson Regular Cover), $3.99 
G.I. JOE Field Manual Volume 1 TP, $19.99 
Ghostbusters #12 (Cover A Dan Schoening), $3.99 
Ghostbusters #12 (Cover B Tristan Jones), $3.99 
Ghostbusters #12 (Cover RI Mike Henderson), AR
Godzilla #4 (Cover A Zach Howard), $3.99 
Godzilla #4 (Cover B Matt Frank), $3.99 
Godzilla #4 (Cover RI Jeff Zornow), AR
Locke And Key Grindhouse (One Shot)(Cover A Gabriel Rodriguez), $3.99 
Locke And Key Grindhouse (One Shot)(Cover RI Joe Hill Autographed Edition), AR
Popeye #4 (Of 4)(Cover A Bruce Ozella), $3.99 
Popeye #4 (Of 4)(Cover B Seymour Chwast), $3.99 
Popeye #4 (Of 4)(Cover RI John Byrne), AR
Snake Eyes And Storm Shadow #16 (Cover A Andrea Di Vito), $3.99 
Snake Eyes And Storm Shadow #16 (Cover RI Lee Ferguson & Sal Buscema), AR
Star Trek The Next Generation Doctor Who Assimilation2 #4 (Of 8)(Cover A J.K. Woodward), $3.99 
Star Trek The Next Generation Doctor Who Assimilation2 #4 (Of 8)(Cover B Francesco Francavilla), $3.99 
Star Trek The Next Generation Doctor Who Assimilation2 #4 (Of 8)(Cover RI Francesco Francavilla), AR
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics Volume 2 TP, $17.99 
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series #7 (April)(Cover A David Petersen), $3.99 
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series #7 (April)(Cover B Marley Zarcone), $3.99 
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro Series #7 (April)(Cover RI David Petersen), AR
Trio #4 (Cover A John Byrne), $3.99 
Trio #4 (Cover RI John Byrne), AR
True Blood #4 (Cover A Tim Bradstreet), $3.99 
True Blood #4 (Cover B Photo), $3.99 
True Blood #4 (Cover RI Tim Bradstreet), AR
Zombies Vs Robots Z-Boyz In The Robot Graveyard Prose HC, $39.99

Activity #8, $3.50 
Avengelyne #9 (Cover A Rob Liefeld), $2.99 
Bulletproof Coffin Volume 2 Disinterred TP, $17.99 
Chew Secret Agent Poyo #1 (One Shot)(2nd Printing Variant Cover), $3.50 
Creator Owned Heroes #1 (2nd Printing Variant Cover), $3.99 
Danger Club #4, $2.99 
Darkness Rebirth Volume 1 TP, $9.99 
Debris #2 (Of 4), $3.50 
Glory Volume 1 The Once And Future Destroyer TP, $9.99 
Grim Leaper #4 (Of 4), $3.50 
Guarding The Globe Volume 1 TP (resolicited), $16.99 
Hack Slash #18 (Cover A Matt Merhoff), $3.50 
Hack Slash #18 (Cover B Matt Merhoff), $3.50 
Hell Yeah #5, $2.99 
Invincible #92 (2nd Printing Variant Cover), $2.99 
Manhattan Projects Volume 1 Science Bad TP, $14.99 
Mind The Gap #4 (Cover A Rodin Esquejo & Sonia Oback), $2.99 
Mind The Gap #4 (Cover B Lynell Ingram), $2.99 
Morning Glories #21, $2.99 
Mudman #5, $3.50 
Near Death #11, $2.99 
No Place Like Home #5, $2.99 
Peter Panzerfaust Volume 1 The Great Escape TP, $14.99 
Prophet #28, $3.99 
Savage Dragon #181, $3.50 
Secret #3, $3.50 
Skullkickers #17, $3.50 
Think Tank #1 (2nd Printing Variant Cover), $3.99 
Walking Dead 2013 Calendar, $14.99 
Witchblade #159 (Cover A John Tyler Christopher), $2.99 
Witchblade #159 (Cover B Diego Bernard & Fred Benes), $2.99 
Youngblood #71 (2nd Printing Variant Cover), $2.99

Avenging Spider-Man #11, $3.99 
AvX Vs #5 (Of 6)(Leinil Yu Regular Cover), $3.99 
AvX Vs #5 (Of 6)(Tom Raney Fight Poster Variant Cover), AR
Captain Marvel #3, $2.99 
Deadpool Classic Volume 7 TP, $29.99 
Fear Itself Thunderbolts TP, $15.99 
FF #21, $2.99 
Gambit #2 (Clay Mann Regular Cover), $2.99 
Gambit #2 (Variant Cover), AR
Hulk #57, $2.99 
Infernal Man-Thing #3 (Of 3), $3.99 
Journey Into Mystery #642 (Alan Davis Regular Cover), $2.99 
Journey Into Mystery #642 (Stephanie Hans Variant Cover), AR
Journey Into Mystery Volume 1 Fear Itself TP, $15.99 
Machine Teen History 101001 TP, $14.99 
Marvel Previews #109 (September 2012 For Products On-Sale November 2012), $1.25 
New Mutants #48, $2.99 
Powers #11 , $3.95 
Powers The Definitive Collection Volume 5 HC, $34.99 
Ultimate Comics The Ultimates By Jonathan Hickman Volume 1 TP, $19.99 
Ultimate Comics X-Men #15, $3.99 
Uncanny X-Force #30, $3.99 
Web Of Spider-Man #129.2, $2.99 
Winter Soldier #9, $2.99 
Wolverine #311 (Simone Bianchi 2nd Printing Variant Cover), $3.99 
Wolverine And The X-Men #15 , $3.99 
X-Men Legacy Five Miles South Of The Universe TP, $15.99

Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him on Twitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.