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Reading/Re-reading Unity through pre-Deathmate (aka Year 2)

SwiftMann
Monday, February 25, 2019 12:35:37 AM
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If Year 1 was the year of the spider aliens, Year 2 was the year of Darque.

Unity - It's easily been 15 years since I've read this. Overall story is ambitious and cohesive. The idea and plot are surprisingly strong for such a young company that was still finding its footing. The bookend issues were both phenomenal. The overall execution was a bit bloated though. Trying to tie in every title to two issues of crossover was simply too much. A&A was fun, but Magnus and X-O weren't. And none had all that much to do with anything. Plus, while I appreciate the attempt to not let anyone feel left out if they didn't read every issue, I'd guess there are some 30-40 pages of duplicated dialogue that has to be skipped several times because it's already been said several times. That said, I totally forgot about Magnus' lineage being explained in this and that was a pleasant surprise. Overall, I do appreciate the ambition and cohesive universe but it was a bit much.

Magnus #17-29 - Magnus limped it's way along for a couple post-Unity issues, but, hotd@mn!, Armageddon 4002 was an amazing status changing arc. It doesn't justify #26's "clip show" issue but it does buy time through the bloated (but at least Calafiore pretty) Lazlo Noel arc.

Solar, Man of the Atom #14-24 - This was a consistently good book post-Unity. Lots of interesting stories and fun ideas (even if Solar is repeating stupid mistakes). There's just good, fundamental storytelling happening even when the specific plots are a bit dated or Darque's story feeling a bit out of place. And, oh, those wonderful JoeQ covers.

Rai #8 & 0 / Rai and the Future Force #9-12 - I found this title to be technically bad (dialogue and art) pre-Unity. #8 wasn't much better, but thanks to the major fallout from Unity, the story was massively important and interesting. #0 deserves all the hype it gets. It's an amazing ride across 2000+ years of Valiant history in 22 pages. And coming off the fantastic "Armageddon 4002" storyline in Magnus makes the Future Force run something quite enjoyable at its start.

Harbinger #10-20 - Nothing has changed with this title. I still have to trudge through every issue. At best they are average, predictable comics. At worst they are insipid and trite.

X-O #9-19 - A very strong run post-Unity with the armor evolution/moon base storyline followed by the Turok team-up. Both stories are action packed and well paced. Things peter out a bit with the Operation: Deep Freeze arc due to some fairly rote comic book plotting, but totally readable.

Shadowman #6-16 - Easily my favorite post-Unity title. Even when the stories are a bit wonky, the writing and art go together so well (something that often doesn't happen with solo writer/artists) that it doesn't matter. There's just a flow to these stories. And they aren't all stuck in the "Who/What is Shadowman" vibe that every VEI issue falls into. Just some great stuff for a long stretch (although I'm a smidge worried after that New York issue).

Archer & Armstrong #3-15 - Barry Windsor-Smith had a clear vision for this title and, again, the solo writer/artist thing worked out quite well. The Andy story was incredibly well written and drawn. Sadly, after BWS leaves the title it falls into one-dimensional characterization and shadows of the plots before them.

Eternal Warrior #3-14 - With BWS at the helm, this book was a fascinating delve into Darque. It stumbled hard after that with the NYC in winter/generic villains plot about the Book of the Geomancer. But the Immortal Enemy arc was a really fun read. And seemed to come out of left field with no fanfare and be brushed aside after three issues when I could have been on that ride for a lot longer. I look forward to seeing what comes of it in the future.

H.A.R.D. Corps #1-10 - After reading #1 I thought, "Oh, this must be where Valiant started falling apart." It wasn't, but ten issues in and there is absolutely no justification for this dumber than dumb G.I. Joe wannabe series's existence. At least the Joes each had fun and unique outfits instead of ill-fitting red jogging suits. And "Softcore"?!? Really. They thought that was a good name for a female character? I really can not believe there are 20 more issues of this to get through.

Bloodshot #0-7 - So... They really didn't know what they were going to do with this character even after however many months of teases, build-up, and connection to Rai? And despite the terrible mafia-centered origin and early issues AND a dud of a Ninjak first appearance, I find myself liking the character. So, they are doing something right. I just can't tell what that is though.

Turok #1-2 - I had no idea this series was set before the rest of the Valiant Universe (1987 to be specific). That makes his cameos in the 1993-based issues even more interesting and definitely builds some intrigue into the approach for this series. Plus, it's got Bart Sears full-on crazy muscle art which I love for all it's inaccurate weirdness and poses. I doubt it holds my attention for too long, but it's a fun start.

Overall, Year 2 Valiant is still some pretty good reads, with Harbinger and H.A.R.D. Corps pulling the linewide praise down a bit.


Extras
Rai Companion, Valiant Era Companion, X-O Database - Let's just say it's a good thing these were all freebies with trade paperbacks.

Unity Yearbook - A disgusting money grab of a one-shot published 2 years after Unity that is 50% dialogue/story from the original with new, worse artwork and 50% filling in the blanks on a plotpoint no one could have possibly thought needed to be answered.
comicuniversity
Monday, February 25, 2019 12:54:47 PM
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This is a good read.

I loved early Valiant. I didn't get a chance to read it all though. Harbinger was one I missed in particular and am glad I did after reading your comments.
SwiftMann
Monday, February 25, 2019 1:33:37 PM
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Thanks!

I know there are a lot of people out there that remember Harbinger fondly; especially as a grown-up/honest/real version of teenagers with powers compared to X-Men at the time. I was exactly the age these kids were in this book when it came out and I don't see it. But maybe it's more like I said in my Year 1 review and it's just that it doesn't age well for new eyes.
MoonKnight1
Monday, February 25, 2019 6:49:27 PM
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I admire your use of "insipid" to describe Harbinger. That's a word that should definitely be used more often! Applause

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