Robot 6

The Middle Ground #121 | Know the signs

Okay, I admit it: I’m sold.

Thing is, I couldn’t tell you exactly when I got sold, and that’s a strange part of the charm. I can remember enjoying, but not loving, the first issue of the X-O Manowar reboot, and then finding that the new Harbinger was far closer to my sense of a good thing, but it maybe wasn’t until Bloodshot that I realized I was — by accident, almost — all in. The new Valiant, it seems, is a cumulative process.

It’s not just that the individual books are smartly written and well-illustrated, although they are, all across the board (There are some particularly interesting creative pairings going on in the books in terms of the art; I don’t think Lee Garbett’s art has ever looked as good as it does under Stefano Guadiano’s inks in the current X-O issue, for one thing, and the mix of various artists with Khari Evans in Harbinger is coming up with some really nice stuff); what gets me is that, at least so far — and we’re, what, almost 20 releases in to the relaunch by now? — there’s a wonderful consistency to Valiant as a publisher that comes from the quality of work as opposed to a continued sense that you have to read all of the books in order to fully understand the goings-on in that particular universe.

In fact, right now, that kind of continuity porn is almost entirely absent from the Valiant books; you could be forgiven for thinking the books are entirely disconnected at this point, with their different world views (and worlds, for that matter). Although each fall into roughly the same action-adventure-with-powers genre, each one feels different enough to have its own appeal, making the Valiant world as a whole feel more full and more interesting in a surprisingly quick time than other such superhero start-ups. Because of that, I find myself hoping for small-scale crossovers between the books — or, at least, the characters — if only to see the various individual cultures being built up by Fred Van Lente, Joshua Dysart, Duane Swierczynski and the like collide and spark off each other.

I’m reminded, often, of the earliest Marvel comics, and the way in which each book existed in its own little world but would every now and again throw a reference out to a character or idea from another one. It was a sense of the Marvel Universe not as an overbearing entity, but as a shared secret, if that makes sense, something that the faithful could pick out and recognize and track down, but everyone else remains unaware of. Valiant currently feels like that, and that’s much of its charm for me right now; the sense of not just the books being good in and of themselves, but groundwork being laid for sneaky references and hidden handshakes down the line. The nostalgia of be in the know of childhood.

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I have had the same experience. I picked up X-O and pre-ordered Archer & Armstrong, as they were my favourite characters (along with Shadowman and Eternal Warrior) of the old Valiant line (oh, and HARDCorps. Huh, I loved that old stuff even more than I realised !).
Last time I was at the comic shop it dawned on me I was buying all of the new Valiant titles, and loving them !
I think it is nostalgia not only for the early Marvel days that infleunces me, but also nostalgia for the way the first Valiant line grew too. Back then the stories were self-contained – both in the title and from issue to issue – with mentions here and there of other characters (I particularly enjoyed XO Manowar #5 which had Aric meeting Harada, being attacked by Sting’s renegades AND an appearance by JAck Boniface on the night he becomes Shadowman – not to mention a scene with the spider alien who is responsible for that transformation). This meant there was a great joy in re-reading issues, since the more you knew of the world the more those “easter eggs” paid off.

I for one have happily jumped on the bandwagon of the new Valiant, and will be buying the new Shadowman when it is released too !

I feel the same way, Graeme. New Valiant has so far maintained consistent quality in both story and art. And the shared universe is there, but unlike today’s Marvel, it isn’t overbearing. I love continuity! Marvel has lost it — they seem unable to maintain a character’s personality even in two comics published the same month. Cap, Thor, Iron Man, etc. speak and behave like completely different people — even in the same month — depending on who is writing.

The DC reboot is a train wreck. I have to avert my eyes. And the upcoming Marvel reboot looks like a disaster in the making. I hope Marvel and DC are reading Valiant to see how it’s done. Not that it matters any more to me, because I’ve dropped DC entirely and the only Marvel comic I’m buying now is Daredevil.

But I am buying every Valiant, so far, and many other comics by IDW, Boom, Dark Horse, Fantagraphics, and even a few Image. And this morning at the comic shop I spent another $175 on back issues (silver and bronze).

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