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Trade-Paced: Revisiting the Chaff

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Between Valiant Central and my Tumblr, I’ve reviewed every trade released by Valiant since their 2012 relaunch, and, most importantly, I loved nearly every one, which is why I went all-in on the publisher. There have, however, been a few that I didn’t quite enjoy for one reason or another. I do believe in second chances, plus I am someone who enjoys re-reading anyway, so in that spirit I’ll be revisiting the nine Valiant trades that I didn’t particularly care for to see if a bit of time and a second reading is enough to change my opinion.

Also, let’s be honest, it’s always great when an obnoxious blogger is forced to eat crow.

Harbinger vol. 1: Omegas Rising

I had two problems with this book: the date-rape in the first issue and the way that the plot felt like fairly generic YA Fiction. As for the first, even at the time I recognized that Joshua Dysart was handling rape in a thoughtful and mature way, but I am personally so adverse to rape in comics that it bothered me nevertheless. In this sense, time helps as I could really appreciate the deft touch that Dysart uses in this scene (Khari Evans also does a terrific job of selling this moment with the change in Kris’ face from dopey, love-struck to pure fury). More importantly, this horrific event is never forgotten about as it referenced multiple times throughout series, and even in the final issue Kris lets Peter know that she has never forgiven him for the rape. In other words, if every comic creator were as strong as Dysart, then I wouldn’t be so opposed to rape in comics, and any writer who can’t meet Dysart’s standard shouldn’t be allowed to write about rape (I’m looking at you, Mark Millar).

In regards to the second point of contention, Omegas Rising doesn’t fare quite as well. The plot still feels as if it has been lifted from the likes of Vampire Academy, Harry Potter, or Divergent. As a result, this volume really suffers, especially due to the current oversaturation of the YA genre (which is almost as oversaturated as superheroes). Readers of later volumes will know that Dysart immediately goes in new and interesting directions beginning with Renegades, but that doesn’t stop the first volume from feeling like a lot of bland set-up.

Verdict: Improved somewhat in hindsight

Quantum and Woody vol. 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team

My original review of this trade was actually favorable, but I distinctly remember racking my brains and having absolutely nothing to say about it, so I half-assed a few comments and called it a day. For a lot of people, “It’s good, I guess” is just as damning as a negative review, so it was worth taking a second look.

After a second go-around, my opinion of this book has considerably improved. Several sequences—the naked moment, the discussion about blackface, and the battle with the goat in the final issue—were even funnier than I remembered, but there were several surprising moments of pathos. Woody has been the biggest stumbling block throughout the title for me, simply because he’s right on the line between funny and grating, but I must have gotten used to him by now, as I did like him in this book.

Verdict: Much better the second time around

X-O Manowar vol. 4: Homecoming

As many readers have expressed, this volume felt like filler between the Vine arc (Volumes 1, 2, and 3) and the Unity-crossover; however, after hearing Robert Venditti himself say (during an interview on the Renegades podcast) that he felt like several of the scenes in this volume were his best work on the title, there was a seed of doubt in my mind.

As it turns out, Venditti knows what he’s talking about, because the flashback which shows Aric interacting with his parents as a child was beautifully written. More importantly, it’s the first instance of another side of Aric (which came up again with X-O Manowar #0). Admittedly, these moments aren’t absolutely necessary, but I’m not one of those unpleasant readers who thinks that every single panel of a comic book needs to serve a larger purpose. These softer sequences (with gorgeous art and colors by Lee Garbett and Moose Baumann) also allow the reader the chance to breathe in between two fairly action-packed arcs.

That’s not to say that this trade is without a strong plot. The set-up for Unity vol. 1 is quite strong with a confrontation between Aric and Gilad being a highlight. Additionally, the dissension in the Visigoth ranks, with several people rejecting Aric’s agrarian vision, is also a compelling idea. Altogether Homecoming is very well-written, and as long as reader is able to go into it with a different expectation than Planet Death or At War with Unity, then it’s a very enjoyable comic.

Verdict: The inspiration behind this post; I was totally wrong about this one

Eternal Warrior vol. 1: Sword of the Wild

In light of his work on Divinity, I’ve come around on Trevor Hairsine’s art, and I really found myself enjoying his work in this volume. It’s also fun seeing Diego Bernard pre-X-O Manowar, and Clayton Crain is always a welcome addition. Unfortunately, the characterization of Gilad is so far off from his established character (something is only confirmed with each subsequent appearance)  that it makes it difficult for a reader to accept this volume. Even taken on its own, Sword of the Wild is still flawed, with the struggles between the various Houses failing to draw the reader in, because the Houses were not sufficiently explored. Greg Pak was clearly building towards something, but even he quickly realized that it wasn’t working, and distances the second volume far from this (with the death cult of Nergal being the only common thread). It also appears that Valiant Editorial has done their best to quietly ignore this arc (an official retcon, if you will), making it feel like it is supposed to be part of a larger narrative, but since it’s not, it is frustratingly incomplete.

Verdict: Still a decent story, but it continues to feel out-of-place in Valiant continuity

Unity vol. 2: Trapped by Webnet

This arc was somewhat enjoyable the first time, but it still feels rushed due to the length (only three issues). The first issue is exciting, but the story grinds to a halt during Dr. Silk’s James Bond villain-esque monologue (credit to Valiant Effort for the analogy) in the second issue. This is especially distressing, because we are currently reading a much better James Bond story from Matt Kindt in Ninjak. There are a couple of hooks which Kindt does return to–Dr. Silk as well as the question of whether Livewire is human–but, even in retrospect, Trapped by Webnet still feels like Unity‘s worst installment.

Verdict: About the same, but at least there’s a couple of rad Clayton Crain covers

Shadowman volumes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Nope, just as awful as I remembered.

Verdict: I stand by my earlier statements

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