The original line of Valiant comics was one of the best, and also one of the last of the good, things to come out of the 90s. The early stuff in particular was really dark and mature for its time. The latest resurrection of Valiant has fittingly been one of the best new additions to the world of comics. Sure, practically everything is extra grimdark and complex these days, so it doesn’t really stand out in that area, but it does stand out for having some of the most solid and enjoyable books around, by some of the most underrated writers in the business.
First, we have some excellent comedy/adventure in Archer & Armstrong and Quantum & Woody. Archer & Armstrong is a typically fun and solid book by Fred Van Lente, about the clever, but comical, adventures of an immortal hedonist and his naively young, but extremely capable companion. It often feels almost like a spiritual sequel to his work on Incredible Hercules. While the series has since ended, today it partially lives on in the excellent series Ivar, Timewalker, by the same original creative team of A&A.
Quantum & Woody is about two estranged brothers, who suddenly find themselves with superpowers, with the catch that they must now stay close together to survive their new powers. Naturally this leads to wacky adventures, and it was easily the funniest book on the stands while it lasted. Quite a surprise coming from James Asmus, a previously lesser known comic writer, who had never done any comedy books before this. I really hope they bring this one back someday. They sure left it open to another series.
On to the standard, serious titles: Bloodshot is the story of a nanite-empowered super-soldier who escapes his handlers and also gets into some wacky adventures, and by wacky adventures I mean he brutally murders the shit out of his former captors and anyone else who gets in the way of him remaining free and finding out who he really was before he was captured and experimented on. Bloodshot has changed hands a few times, in terms of writers, but has had a consistently good line-up, with more great underrated writers like Duane Swierczynski and Christos Cage, and is currently continuing in a new series Bloodshot Reborn by Jeff Lemire. Bloodshot is also scheduled to be the first of a planned series of Valiant movies, starting in 2017 or so. That should be interesting.
Harbinger is the story of a group of renegade superhuman teens fighting everyone’s favorite morally confused uber-powered CEO and would-be world ruler Toyo Harada. Morality is questioned at every turn as the renegades bungle their way through trying to be superheroes via some terrible choices and some sometimes selfish motives and Harada truly sees himself as the hero too, only doing what he thinks is necessary to improve the world for the better. The renegades do their best, but often fail anyway, to do everything in their power to expose Harada, never really considering what the long term consequences could be. I’ll just say that they are not what they, or you, would expect. Again, this series ended, but it continues under the same writer, Joshua Dysart, as Imperium. Imperium deals with the aftermath of the events in the Harbinger series and shifts the focus to Harada and his “team”. It’s a very unusual book and is one of the best out there right now, I think.
(and Harbinger Wars was a crossover between the two!)
Last, but not least, is X-O Manowar. This book is basically Iron Man meets Conan. X-O Manowar is a visigoth named Aric, who was abducted by weird spider-man-aliens, escapes and steals their most powerful weapon, and returns home only to find that centuries have passed due to time dilation shenanigans. He then has to deal with various cosmic threats and trying to fit in in the modern world. Armor Hunters is basically just a big X-O Manowar-centered crossover event.
Now, there are other great Valiant titles, like Matt Kindt’s Rai, Unity, and Ninjak, but the previously mentioned ones are the only ones out in deluxe hardcover format so far, and as you may have noticed, I do like to show off my new hardcovers. Anyway though, the modern incarnation of Valiant has been pretty consistently great (except for maybe the failed Shadowman revival.That one didn’t work out too well.) and doesn’t show any signs of changing that quality any time soon. Like the original line, they take some pretty colorful characters that may look an awful lot like standard superheroes, but don’t necessarily behave in the same manner, and make great use of them in new and interesting ways. My only complaint is that they still haven’t managed to get the rights to Solar, Magnus, and Turok so they could bring them back into the mix too. I’d definitely recommend these to fans of superhero comics and even those that aren’t into the “big two” style of hero books, and I’d suggest that if you were to do so, you do it soon, while the line is still relatively young and not that complicated in terms of continuity.