To observe that “war is hell” is so commonplace now, it has pretty much passed into the realm of tired cliché. It does not help that its sentiment is often cited equally by doves and hawks, the latter extolling the visceral virtue of combat. Violence is a difficult subject to represent, as even the most seemingly clear-cut anti-violence message can be twisted into something laudatory (as Stanley Kubrick was repulsed to discover with A Clockwork Orange). Indeed, there is a line of thought which states that all war films, regardless of intentions, are ultimately pro-war, as it is impossible to put combat on screen without glamorizing it. (This reviewer would extend such analysis to many supposedly “moralistic” gangster movies). For his new graphic novel Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash, Dave McKean successfully avoids many of these pitfalls. He accomplishes this by almost entirely skipping the battlefield sequences, concentrating instead of the more intimate emotional toll of warfare for the fallen and survivor alike. The result is a moving mediation on the true cost of war.
By Fred Van Lente, Francis Portella & Andrew Dalhouse
For twenty-five issues, assorted tie-ins, a couple zero issues and an epilogue mini-series, Harbinger was one of the best books on the stands. Writer Joshua Dysart revitalized a 90s concept into a captivating and increasingly relevant series, full of compelling character work and engaged social issues. He did not skimp on the action either, or the consequences which often linger from violence. After he brought the series to a close, the characters mostly drifted to the side, while he concentrated on their antagonist Toyo Harada’s new title Imperium. Gradually, though, publisher Valiant has been bringing the Harbinger cast back into circulation. The year started with former Renegade Faith gaining her own solo series. Later this year she will rejoin her former teammates for a new Renegades title (written by Rafael Roberts who has been doing fantastic work on the current Archer & Armstrong book). This week, the young heroes of Generation Zero step-up for their first ongoing series, the debut issue of which offers a promising beginning.
Over time, the property Archer & Armstrong has earned a prominent place within the Valiant library of titles. The 90s run by Barry Windsor-Smith is fondly recalled as one of the highlights of that period. When the company relaunched in 2012, Archer & Armstrong was one of their four initial offerings. The new title written by Fred Van Lente and a rotation of artists successfully channeled the spirit of the old while crafting something fresh. That series came to an end at #25, leaving Archer & Armstrong a bit adrift in the Valiant Universe. This week Valiant releases a new series for the beloved duo and based on the initial outing it is a fitting addition to their legacy.
By Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage & Andrew Dalhouse
It is no secret that I am a fan of Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger in general and the character of Faith Herbert (aka Zephyr) in particular. Created by Jim Shooter and David Lapham in 1992 for the original Harbinger series, she blossomed in the pages of Dysart’s revival title. She quickly became the heart of the loose collection of comrades known as The Renegades. Her plucky can-do spirit was contagious (a trait she shares with other recent breakout female characters such as Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl). Following the dissolution of the Renegades, she has bounced around various corners of the Valiant Universe (fighting alien invaders in Mexico and serving a brief stint with Unity). Now she is trying to settle into a new routine, living on her own in Las Angeles while still pursuing her high-flying adventures.
This is the set-up for Valiant’s new Faith limited-series. The first issue spent a fair amount of time (re)introducing the character to readers, ending the chapter on an explosive cliffhanger. As the smoke clears in the opening to #2, Faith is feeling a little dejected. She was able to save several civilians, yet the bad guys got away. She should feel positive about what has happened, but, cannot help dwelling on her failure. Faith grew up on comic books and geek culture; in fact, they are the main connection between her and her deceased parents. Even after all her experiences as Zephyr, she still wishes that life worked the way it did in classic four-color spandex days. Bystanders thank her, police detective ask her for leads. “They know how the story is supposed to go.” So, why does Zephyr feel as though she cannot play her part?
By Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland & Sloane Leong
Brandon Graham’s new shared fantasy world 8house continues to expand with the introduction of spin-off title From Under Mountains. After a taste of the more science fiction flavored Kiem, readers are immediately plunged back into a landscape of spellcasting familiar from the Blood House of Arclight. The issue opens with a stunning wordless image, a full-page illustration of hands gracefully moving through space. The surrounding area is largely dark, fingers glowing red in a fire’s glare. Small leaves and flowers drift downwards. The perspective gradually expands over the next couple of pages, building the atmosphere without losing any of the mystery. It is a striking sequence by Sloane Leong, which immediately pulls the reader into a new landscape. Continue reading Advance Review of From Under Mountains #1→
Bloodshot has never been a character who clicked easily with me. Back in the 90s, he just seemed like another edgy anti-hero with lots of guns, Valiant’s answer to Cable, Punisher, Deathstroke or whoever the packin’ flavor of the month was. Two decades later, when he was included in the current Valianr’s initial quartet of titles, I was not surprised. I also was not excited. I dipped into his series here and there, finding some of it, such as his involvement in the superb Harbinger Wars, enjoyable. However, the character himself remained mostly a blank slate. The exception was Matt Kindt’s outstanding zero issue, which really probed into Bloodshot’s psychological make-up in a way I had not seen previously. Here was a tragic figure with relatable emotions. If this was what Bloodshot could be, I would happily read more of it. And that is just what I have with Bloodshot Reborn. Continue reading Advance Review of Bloodshot Reborn #5→
By Robert Venditti, Robert Gill & Roger Braitwaite
This week, Valiant launches their summer event Book of Death. The plot pivots on the status of Geomancers, those individuals selected to be the voice of the Earth. In the recent series The Valiant readers witnessed the death of Geomancer Kay and the arrival of Geomancer Tama from the 41st Century. She has brought with her The Book of the Geomancers, which contains not only the grim fate of humanity, but also the individual ones for the heroes of the Valiant Universe. Valiant has teased that these various “Falls” will be revealed as part of the event.
This idea of revealing the future of the Valiant Universe has precedent. In 1992, the original Valiant did something similar. They had just completed their first line-wide crossover, Unity, and decided to offer their readers a glimpse into what might happen next. They released Rai #0 which told the story of the Valiant Universe from the present moment into the 41st Century. Along the way, the heroes continued fighting, some giving their lives in the process. Others simply succumbed to the passing of time. The immortal Armstrong disappears from recorded history, unable to handle his grief for the fallen Archer. It is a bold, sweeping feat of storytelling which holds-up over two decades later. (Jim Shooter, David Lapham, Bob Layton and Jon Hartz plotted the issue; Layton handled the script, while Lapham did the pencils). Continue reading Advance Review of Book of Death #1→
Valiant’s new four issue limited series Dead Drop opens with a bang, immediately plunging the reader into the action. Artist Adam Gorham renders a stunning image of X-O Manowar diving towards the island of Manhattan. Soon, Aric is on the ground, only to discover that a false tip has turned the NYPD against him. However, there is precious little time to sort out the matter. Or at least that is what Neville, the British government’s liaison with Aric’s Unity team, keeps insisting over the comm. A band of black market ne’er-do-wells have gotten their hands on an alien virus which, if unleashed, could cause catastrophic causalities. To make matters more complicated for Aric, there is the suggestion that it may be connected to the Vine. Problem is Neville is rather tightlipped on that last point, preferring to continually iterate how vital it is that Aric keep moving. Still there remains the lingering doubt that Neville does not have all his cards on the table. (Of course, does he ever?) Continue reading Advance Review Dead Drop #1→