I approached the booth, with some hesitation; I didn’t know anything about these characters, nor what to expect from this company. Immediately, the two men running the booth, Atom and Dinesh, struck up a conversation with me and my wife. They started showing off the cool, new trade paperbacks collecting the first arcs of each of their new lines. Due to their clear passion for the characters, and an assurance that these books would be understandable for new readers, we decided to try three of them. We got Harbinger, Archer & Armstrong, and X-O Manowar. Below are my reviews of each book.
X-O Manowar Volume One: By the Sword
by Robert Venditti (Writer), Cary Nord (Pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (Inks), and Moose Baumann (colors)
This book is Valiant’s flagship title and, from the cover, seems to be about an Iron Man-like hero fighting aliens with an energy sword, but upon reading it is so much more. This is a story about a Visigoth warrior who gets taken prisoner by strange aliens called the Vine. After years of being enslaved on their ship, he stages a revolt and steals a holy relic that transforms into a suit of armor. Upon escaping and returning to Earth, he finds himself not in his own time but in modern day, where the Vine have infiltrated our society using shapeshifters. It is kind of like if you took Thor, misplaced him in time like Captain America, and gave him an Iron man Suit then made him fight the Skrulls.
This book was awesome! Robert Venditti has crafted an incredible hero in Aric, who is headstrong and flawed but also brave and noble. The art team does a wonderful job delivering tons of raw emotion as Aric struggles against his foes, as well as tons of explosive action. This doesn’t feel like reading a monthly comic, this feels like watching a big blockbuster movie where everything is amped up to 11.
Harbinger Volume One: Omega Rising
by Joshua Dysart (Writer), Khari Evans (Artist), and Ian Hannin (Colors)
Harbinger is a book about a kid with crazy mental powers; he can read minds, project thoughts and commands into other people’s minds, and do crazy telekinesis. He is also a huge jerk. Joshua Dysart has crafted an incredible character who has gone totally off the deep end and started abusing his powers to the detriment of everyone around him. Then, he meets a man who has similar abilities but has used them to make the world a better place while getting incredibly stinking rich. This sets up an interesting dynamic, as our main character Peter learns why he has these powers and just how this philanthropic billionaire Harada wants Peter to use them.
Dysart does a wonderful job of simultaneously building the world of Harbinger while creating an amazing cast of characters. Just when you think you know what is going to happen next, he likes to turn things around on you, and make you question everything you thought you knew. Khari Evans and Ian Hannin do a wonderful job on art, especially with how they visualize the mental powers of the characters, and the way they fight and interact with each other.
Archer & Armstrong Volume One: The Michelangelo Code
by Fred Van Lente (Writer), Clayton Henry (Artist), and Matt Milla (Colors)
This was, by far, the weirdest of the three but also might be my favorite. Young Obadiah Archer has trained his entire life for one mission: to assassinate a man his parents have essentially told him is the most evil man on Earth. Archer, the man he finds, is definitely not good - he’s a loud-mouthed boozehound - but he doesn’t seem evil. Together, these two get wrapped up in a huge globetrotting adventure full of mystery and intrigue that seem to be both inspired by, and poking fun, at the Da Vinci code.
Fred Van Lente deftly maneuvers between humorous, buddy action movie, and intriguing spy thriller while delivering two more incredible characters to the Valiant world. The art by Clayton Henry and Matt Milla is perfect with incredible action and super tight pacing. It is very clear that the team is having fun on this book, filling it with tons of great jokes and quite a few nods to other comics and pop culture.
There you have it! Three amazing story arcs by three different creative teams. Marvel and DC should be reading these books and taking notes; this is how you do it! These books are intense, action-packed, and tons of fun to read. Even better, it is clear that Valiant is building up a shared universe, and when all these different characters start to clash, it is going to be amazing. Each of these first volumes cost $9.99 and are definitely worth checking out. In fact, they are so good, I already bought Volume Two of X-O Manowar and am looking forward to getting the next Harbinger and Archer & Armstrong books.