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Reading/Re-reading Chaos Effect through pre-Birthquake (aka Year 3.5)

Sunday, October 06, 2019 11:18:58 PM
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The time when the wheels came off, Acclaim jumped in, and everyone knew it wasn’t working. This pre-Birthquake period very much feels like a big send-off to the original Valiant universe.

Chaos Effect – Epsilon (4020) titles were okay. Delta (space war) was pretty entertaining. But this “event” as a whole was a mess. Most of the titles had no real connection to what was happening. What was happening was poorly defined and didn’t come off as much of a threat. And the whole thing seemed to be built around the intent to shoot Dr. Mirage’s stature in the Valiant universe through the roof but then they just decided not to. The two-issue Epilogue with Magnus was interesting though. A weirdly half-hearted effort to create another Unity style event.

Magnus #41-48 – Once we come back around to focusing on Magnus’ return from the events of Chaos, and not his obnoxious son, this series returned to fun intrigue and political maneuvering. The two-issue flashback to end this period was an interesting, introspective look at what human cost of Magnus’ declaration to purge all robots.

Solar, Man of the Atom #38-45 – The birth of the Destroyer was definitely an interesting issue. Then the series treads water for a few months; recycling the same old plot lines making me wonder if editorial really just didn’t know what to do with a god-like figure. Priest’s two issues completely come out of left field and don’t vibe with the character traits at all, but were still a fascinating read.

Rai #26-33 – I surprised myself by eventually coming around to like kid Rai. Bring Ax into the mix was a fun nod to continuity that the books were drifting away from at this point. A very average but generally satisfying end to the run.

Harbinger #34-41 – With the exception of #36 & 37 that tie into the Chaos Effect Epilogue, this was just an unbelievable mess. I haven’t been a fan of any incarnation of Harbinger, but this just didn’t make any kind of sense from a storytelling point of view or a marketing one. “Let’s take everything that worked for us before and just throw it out the window and make Faith a wandering nomad. Oh, and let’s focus on the D team too!” Huh?

X-O Manowar #33-43, ½ – Ooof. This series fell on hard times after Chaos. Overly long story arcs with no payoff, including the impossibly bad Wolfbridge Affair storyline (which may include the worst Wizard #1/2 issue ever), and bad interlude issues, including the failure of a Shadowman crossover. I have to imagine people were welcoming the massive change to whatever Sears was bringing after this stuff.

Shadowman #29-37 – Probably the best series immediately following Chaos. I particularly enjoyed #30-34. The slower burn Ishmael arc that continues into Birthquake is less engaging though.

Eternal Warrior #26-35 – This series pretty much just treads water for me. I wanted to like both the Immortal War and Mortal Kin arcs more than I did, but there was never any real tension or feeling like Gilad would lose any of the fights.

H.A.R.D. Corps #23-30 – This series rarely ever was about Harbinger resistance, but this stuff about in-fighting with their psycho boss and the team fighting a new team was utter garbage. I love Mike Baron’s work on stuff like Nexus and Badger; but his run on this title was an absolute disaster.

Bloodshot #20-29 – This series was a mess following Chaos. The Ax fight didn’t work for me. The circus arc REALLY didn’t work for me. Thankfully the Rampage crossover saved it, but that was mostly due to Sean Chen’s dynamic pencils. Valiant had been fighting the idea they had a house style for months at this point, but this was the first time they successfully proved it.

Turok, Dinosaur Hunter #16-24 – Very much like Solar, there didn’t seem to be any clue what to do with this character. Regurgitated plotlines, ridiculous supporting characters, and ineffective art made #24’s return to the Lost Land a very welcome change.

Secret Weapons #13-21 – There’s no way to be delicate here, this series was an absolute steaming pile. Nothing about any of the generic, super-suit powered characters makes the reader care in the least about them or their motivations. Every one of them is at the same time forgettable and unlikable. The Rampage arc saves this series from being a complete write-off.

Second Life of Dr. Mirage #11-18 – With the failed attempt to make Dr. Mirage mean something to readers in Choas, the character just sort of bides his time through one similarly bad story after another until the merciful cancelation.

Ninjak 8-16 – Lanning and Abbnett fail to capture the imagination with their long-run White Wolf storyline until a bit too late. The White Wolf is actually pretty interesting and his motivations clear, but he just comes out of left field, as does his ties to the previous issues.

Armorines #5-12 – A merciful end to an unnecessary series. That said, the Chaos space war and Cuban Connection issues were pretty well done.

Psi-Lords #3-10 – Just another seven issues of indistinguishable characters and pointless fights. It’s hard to understand what editorial was thinking with this series.

Geomancer #1-8 – First off, I legit thought this character was a black guy from most of the cover art and coloring. Then I started reading a story about a blind, former NYCPD white guy and thought, “Man, that was a lost opportunity to do ANYTHING different.” Like so many other titles during this too-many-titles glut, there’s simply no character building or motivations. More issues are average than not, but we were never given a reason to care in the first place.

Visitor vs The Valiant Universe #1-2, Visitor #1-3 – Speaking of given no reason to care… This character is thrust upon the readers shrouded in a “mystery” that no one cares about. I remember reading this as it came out and giving up quickly. I see why. There’s zero attempt to engage the reader in these rote superhero stories.

Overall, it seems like there was absolutely no interest in producing character driven book during this period. It was all longer arcs and fights all the time. And while I hesitate to single out creators, I just couldn’t connect with anything Baron or VanHook did here at all. And they seemed to do a lot. At this point, Birthquake is a welcome change of pace in this re-read.

Eternal Warrior Yearbook #2, Shadowman Yearbook, Ninjak Yearbook – All very annual-style forgettable story.

Destroyer #0 – I didn’t dislike the end result of this issue, I just didn’t particularly enjoy the story to get there.

Harbinger Files #2 – A character so 90s, he could be X-Treme or Cabbot’s brother. This intro issue was actually fine, it’s just all the silliness that follows.

X-O Manowar Yearbook – Lots of punchy punchy.
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