Epic yet grounded, this rousing tale spans the ages, while delving into the motivations of three cornerstones of the Valiant Universe.
Over the last few years, it’s become evident that Marvel and DC no longer corner the market on superheroes. Thanks to years of convoluted continuity, trumped-up crossovers, and blockbuster events every other month or so, many fans and critics are turning away from the so-called Big Two to get their superhero fix elsewhere.
Two-time upstart publisher Valiant Entertainment has arguably been the most successful in providing readers with an alternative to the cookie-cutter comics and constant reboots that plague Marvel and DC.
While Valiant has not entirely steered clear of crossovers and team-ups, the company’s smaller stable of properties allows it to tell more succinct, manageable stories and explore their shared universe without the heavy yoke of decades of continuity.
Fearlessly recruiting some of the top writers and artists in the industry and having the good sense to allow them the room to tell the stories they want to tell don’t hurt either.
The Valiant is a prime example of the publisher’s business model. Totally self-contained but in-continuity and crafted by a triumvirate of critically acclaimed creators, this series could – and should – serve as a template for mainstream crossovers, regardless of the publisher and the size of their stable of characters.
Revolving around three of Valiant’s most integral heroes – Gilad (the Eternal Warrior), Bloodshot, and Geomancer – this non-team team book is a great introduction to the publisher’s shared universe for new and returning readers alike. Writers Jeff Lemire (Green Arrow, Trillium) and Matt Kindt (Rai, Mind MGMT) weave a saga that crosses time and space, while remaining grounded enough to really dig into the primary motivations driving the three heroes.
While the link between Gilad and Geomancer provides the driving action behind the plot, in the form of their eternal battle with the aptly named Immortal Enemy, Bloodshot’s connection to his contemporaries is a little less clear. Despite this, the issue never feels forced or circumstantial. Lemire and Kindt lay the groundwork for the unveiling of their tale with patience and craft.
The duo never scrimp on character development, as evidenced by Gilad’s framing narrative and Geomancer’s biting self-analysis of her life to date. Even Bloodshot’s action-packed appearance not only introduces the character ably but also clearly and naturally illuminates his motivations, without the cloying artifice that often hobbles event comics.
A large part of the book’s down-to-earth tone can be laid at the feet of superstar artist Paolo Rivera (Daredevil). Versatile, expressive, and blessed with the ability to use a bare minimum of brushstrokes to render action and emotion in equal measures, Rivera’s work on The Valiant is a wonderful reminder of why this artist is in such high demand. His super-clean lines and uncluttered layouts allow Lemire and Kindt’s script the room it needs to truly breathe and achieve a life of its own.
Fast-paced, smart, and accessible, The Valiant may not be a traditional team book in the mold of the Avengers or the Justice League, but it does possess the scope, sense of wonder, and eclectic characters of both those groups. Thankfully, the only thing this team lacks is a publisher bent on chaining virtually every book it produces to the next in an obtuse strategy to increase profits.
If you like your superheroes down-to-earth yet still willing to kick a little ass in order to save the world, then this is the book – and the publisher – for you.
Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt (W), Paolo Rivera (A) • Valiant Comics, $3.99, December 10, 2014.