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Looking back at The Valiant (Retrospective)

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Much like the Big 2, Valiant seems to be in the habit of publishing two events per year; however, the brilliance in their approach is that they don’t advertise it as such lest readers begin to feel “event fatigue” the way that they do for Marvel and DC. That said, there’s no way that anyone can argue that the first four issues of Unity (as well the relevant tie-ins in X-O Manowar) and The Valiant aren’t events given their profound effects on the Valiant Universe.

That said, while there are the hallmarks of an event present–with the large-scale battle involving nearly every protagonist who has appeared in a Valiant comic in the third issue being the most apparent event trope–this is ultimately a small, personal story centered around Kay McHenry, Bloodshot, and the Eternal Warrior. These characters, much like every character who appears in this book, are brilliantly introduced in a way that is both accessible to someone new to Valiant while also taking advantage of continuity in a way that is sure to excite Valiant fans. It’s an incredible balancing act that most creators wouldn’t be capable of. Fortunately, Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Paolo Rivera are three of the industry’s top talents. The result is nothing short of breathtaking.

(WARNING!!! MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW)

The Valiant follows a fairly traditional plot structure. The history between the Immortal Enemy and the Eternal Warrior is laid out in the first issue, and the other characters–Bloodshot and Geomancer Kay McHenry–are introduced as well as the possible means of defeating him, the crate. The second issue sees the first full appearance of the antagonist who quickly takes out several of the heroes. In the third, the quiet, personal scenes between Kay and Bloodshot are contrasted with the Immortal Enemy single-handedly taking out nearly every Valiant character. Only in the fourth does the story really deviate from the classic formula. Although there is a final showdown between the unstoppable Immortal Enemy and Bloodshot and Kay, Lemire and Kindt unexpectedly have Kay killed just as she appears to have the edge. In her last moments, she uses her powers to turn Bloodshot fully human. Meanwhile, the crate is opened only to reveal that rather than being a weapon to defeat the Immortal Enemy, inside is actually a child Geomancer from the future. The idea being that since the Immortal Enemy only appears once a generation to kill off Geomancer, and since he has already killed Kay, theoretically that makes now the safest possible time for the young child.

As you can see, unlike many events done by the Big 2, which inevitably promise to “shake the ____ Universe to its core,” but in reality have very little repercussions, The Valiant promised major changes to the status quo and delivered on its promise. The final panel directs the reader to the upcoming Bloodshot: Reborn, and given what has occurred here, it is clear that regardless of what direction Jeff Lemire intends to take that series in it will be considerably different from the previous Bloodshot title. In addition to marketing, another reason why “event fatigue” has yet to affect Valiant fans is that their events aren’t just a big exercise in spinning wheels but going nowhere. Instead, the Valiant creators attempt to mirror the real world by having an event such as this have consequences. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fallout from The Valiant plays out in multiple titles.

Generally, Valiant has opted for a “Moneyball” approach to acquiring talent—signing undervalued creators from other companies—personified by the likes of Joshua Dysart, Fred Van Lente, Doug Braithwaite, and Clayton Crain, among several others. That said, like any good rising sports team, Valiant really announced themselves with the presence of Paolo Rivera, who, to continue with the sports metaphor, is the equivalent of landing a premium free agent. Rivera is one of the top artists in the industry to the point where he can be incredibly selective about which projects he works on. That he choose to join The Valiant creative team speaks volumes about the quality of Kindt and Lemire’s script.

As one would expect, The Valiant looks incredible. Much of why this series is so accessible is because Lemire and Kindt are able to rely on Rivera to convey a great deal of information visually. For example, there’s a panel early in the first issue that essentially tells the reader everything that he needs to know about Bloodshot—his eye is shot out, and the nanites in his body instantly repairs it. The real tour de force occurs in the third issue during the battle between the Immortal Enemy and nearly every protagonist in the Valiant Universe. Essentially, the Enemy defeats them all simultaneously by waging them against their greatest fears. It’s a testament to his skill as an artist that he is able to convey the chaos of this moment while also organizing the page in a way that makes it clear to the reader what is happening.

Additionally, enough credit cannot be given to Joe Rivera who takes his son’s pencils and makes them pop off the page with the inks and colors.

Although it is only April, it clear that The Valiant will be one of the best comics that come out of 2015. Both the script and the art are head and shoulders above any other superhero(ish) comic being published. While The Valiant has already garnered almost unanimous critical praise, the book has also sold quite well. That said, anyone who has not already read this really ought to lest they miss out on one of the best comics of 2015.

Originally from ValiantCentral.com

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  • Jon_Anon

    That ending was crazy. I know Bloodshot: Reborn is being launched out of this but I really hope a new Eternal Warrior book is spun out as well.