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(Re-)Reading Birthquake through The End (aka Years 4 & 5)

SwiftMann
Wednesday, December 18, 2019 11:52:42 PM
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The time when Acclaim decided to become DC, then Image, and then gave up and let Giffen tear it all down.

Magnus #49-64 – Birthquake was lost on Magnus. Saravia’s art is dreadful and Bedard’s story is just a retread. Combing Magnus, Rai, and the Psi-Lords into one book didn’t do it any favors either. Giffen’s first two issues aren’t bad. I actually quite liked #55. But after that, it’s all junk. And the ending… It’s just lazy. And infuriating.

Solar, Man of the Atom #46-60 – Jurgens’ take on Solar (including a five issue run that writes a whole new world) is ambitious and probably looked a bit better on paper than the final versions. They feel very cartoony or cheesy in the Valiant Universe. I enjoyed Bedard’s follow-up on the title quite a bit. Why they handed it off to Giffin for the final, awful issue, I have no idea.

X-O Manowar Birthquake Prelude, #44-68 – This book was on life support post-Chaos Effect, so the insanity of Bart Sears and Andy Smith was a welcome change of pace. Initially. But no real plots, zero character development, and villains of the month to punch just became tedious. As does the ridiculous art, which can be fun when it’s on, but is often rushed with the twice a month schedule. By the mid-50s I completely lost interest in the title, so Bob Layton returning for the swan song was a blessing. Not so sure how I feel about the ending. It’s a definite cop-out, but not as bad as Magnus or Solar.

Shadowman #38-43 – I wish I had known this was going to become my favorite Valiant title. I would have bought up all the Bob Hall signed copies my LCS was selling cheap. I loved this run and this initial version of Shadowman. It’s crazy, it’s kinetic, it’s fun, it’s heartfelt. It’s about Jack and not the Loa like everything VEI attempts. And to leave us wanting more with that cliffhanger!

Eternal Warrior #27-50 – This book just never fully clicked for me. The Birthquake stuff was generally fine (like everything before it) to good (Mortal Kin). But when they switch to the “global freedom fighter” take with #39 it feels wrong-headed. After however many thousands of years he just mentally breaks over and over again? This is one of the few characters that I feel like VEI has done far more with than the original.

Bloodshot #30-51, Last Stand – And here’s another one, cause they never figured out what to do with the original Bloodshot. They got close at the end, but were saddled for so long with the mafia ties stories that it was all blah by the time they got there. VanHook just didn’t do much for me as a writer. The Breyfogle drawn issues were a mess. Mike Grell and Brent Anderson had a great two issue stint. And then they brought Moretti back in as a writer and he seems to have just wanted to get back to early run Asia storylines (which I hated). I did like the last three issues much more (mostly because Moretti introduced some new beats to the plotting and it’s a very solid final issue that leaves a lot of questions on the table.

Turok, Dinosaur Hunter #25-47 – This one is simple – If it’s a Lost Land story, it’s a ton of fun. If it’s in America (present or past), it’s not. And gets weirdly preachy. So, go enjoy the fun of #24-27, 31-33, 36-40, and 45-47. The others aren’t terrible, but they definitely interrupt the adventure.

Ninjak 17-26 – No version of this character has ever interested me. That said, Jorge Gonzalez’s version is by far the worst. Along the way, the costume gets progressively dumber and less detailed, as does the art in general. And this seems to have simply been cancelled mid-story versus the other titles all getting a chance to wrap up in some fashion.

Timewalker #0-15 – Looks like I forgot to include #1-7 in my Year 3.5 review, so here’s the whole series. This had a good first couple months and then stumbles into silliness with #5’s Hollywood trip. Harbinger Wars is okay and ends well, but had so much more promise than it delivered. After that it’s a roller coaster ride of really good (1920s story) to crash and burn awful (#10, #14) with some little peaks in between. Sadly, it was just a book that missed its mark as there was never any Ivar character building. It was simply used to tell bad Quantum Leap fanfic.

Visitor #4-13 – What an absolute dumpster fire this was! It would probably be amazing to see the internal meetings from generation of the title and HUGE marketing push to the catastrophic failure it turned into. There was absolutely zero suspense built. We all knew who Harbinger was from his first appearance. The Visitor reveal is more a head scratcher than an “Ohhh!!” moment. And nothing of consequence happens to the broader Valiant Universe over these 15 issues despite a clear intention that it was all “important.” And the art on that final issue! Everyone just hit the F-it button by then?

Punx #1-3, Manga – So, I kind of loved the subversive nature of the first two issues. And having some Understanding Comics thrown in the mix along with other narrative interjections was a lot of fun. That said, I have absolutely no idea what the main plot was going on about and have never been a Giffin artwork fan, so everything that wasn’t meta commentary was nonsense to me. I do wonder if the unpublished fourth issue would have done anything for the story, but I doubt it. The Manga issue was a cute-ish idea. Bugged the hell out of me that while they went for the back to front page format, they didn’t with the panels.

So… Over a year of reading about 720 comics, it seems Valiant had a good three year run (May 1991-May 1994 cover dates) and, frankly, have been riding on the merits of those early issues for nearly 30 years. I think this is the conventional wisdom when it comes to VH1, but it’s still startling how little high quality stuff exists after the first couple years.

And seriously, what was Acclaim thinking with Giffin at the end there?


Extras

Turok: The Hunted #1-2 – Not too bad. Kind of a throwaway story, which I guess is why it was a mini, but wouldn’t have been out of place in the whipsaw triangle storytelling (1850s, 1990s, Lost Land) from month to month of the main title.

Eternal Warrior: Wings of Justice – This was totally fine. Seems like it was something they found in a draw and couldn’t fit into the regular series.

Eternal Warrior: Fist and Steel #1-2 – Straight up terrible. It was a Geomancer (the annoying one) mini, not EW. There wasn’t enough story for one issue let alone two. Just a mess.

Outcast #1 – I think the general wisdom on this is it was a vanity project to get Breyfogle onboard, but, why? It is a few half-baked ideas with little to no momentum or possibility of fan interest. Weird.

X-O/Iron Man – These two issues had some really fun moments mixed in with WAY too much exposition for this kind of mash-up story. I really dug the first issue (Valiant published with Smith art) and appreciated the second (Marvel) but wish the art had been stronger. Especially if this really is the book that creates the Acclaim Heroes universe.
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