If Year 1 was the year of the spider aliens and Year 2 was the year of Darque… well, I think, maybe Year 3 was supposed to be the year of Dr. Silk, but that didn’t work out.
Deathmate – Overall, this was a giant clunker of a story. And, unlike 25 years ago, I got to read this in a short timeframe. Still didn’t help. The Valiant produced issues are objectively better than the Image ones as Valiant at least made an effort to mix up the company characters. The Image ones pretty much replace a useless background Image team member with a Valiant character who remains useless and tell an Image story they would have told anyway. This just ends up being a weird crossover that doesn’t come across as having any kind of actual storyline mapped out in advance.
Magnus #30-40 – The Battle of South Am is great. And the Malev War, while long, is an engaging read throughout. It’s a tight read that flows in and out of Future Force amazingly well. I didn’t know there was going to be a time jump with #38, which I found engaging. Unfortunately, following his son for a couple of issues as we head into Chaos Effect does not work out at all – petulant, entitled brat does not make a good protagonist.
Solar, Man of the Atom #25-37 – This run goes back and forth between battles against Dr. Eclipse and tales of Solar’s Destroyer half with mixed success on both fronts. There’s never a bad story in the bunch, and occasional a great one, but they are inconsistent quality month-to-month.
Rai and the Future Force #13-25 – The battle of South Am and the Malev War carry this book to consistently good heights. Unfortunately, like Magnus, I care a whole lot less after the time jump and the new focus on sons of Rais.
Harbinger #20-33 – This book finally gets interesting with the big battle in #25 and then, poof, all that story goes away so this title can focus on the D-Team that now includes Faith. From there, the book mostly treads water for six months doing absolutely nothing special with the exception of #30 coming back to Harada for a bit.
X-O Manowar #20-32 – The inclusion of Randy in this title brings forth a needed relatable character; even if she’s just barely relatable, but she’s the most normal human in the book. There’s a solid to very good long story playing out over these issues with a continued focus on spider aliens and what exactly the X-O armor really is. The negative to the long-play of this series is that the pacing and crossovers in this and other titles is completely off the rails as far as timelines go; that is, this series spends many, many issues in just a few days’ time while the rest of the Valiant universe has moved months ahead.
Shadowman #0, 17-28 – I think this series continues to surprise me by being my favorite for a second publishing year in a row. The characters are all fun and memorable. There is continual growth and change in Jack and the Shadowman. Plus, a whole new level of Shadowman history is unwinding before us. Bob Hall really did something unique here.
Archer & Armstrong #16-25 – This series had zero reason to go on past #12. There is nothing in these issues that forwards any kind of title plot, let alone a bigger Valiant universe one. I love Mike Baron’s Badger, but this just felt like a sad attempt to recreate some of that magic with the wrong characters in the wrong comic line.
Eternal Warrior #15-25 – With the pleasant exception of the Mirages’ appearance in #19, this entire run is just a big bag of fine. There’s nothing particularly special about the stories or all that EW-centric really. Three issues of past adventures as we head into Chaos Effect illustrates a huge lack of knowing what to do with Gilad. The bland plots here are only further watered down by stories in Secret Weapons being indistinguishable from this title for several months.
H.A.R.D. Corps #11-22 – Other than the two issue crossover with Harbinger about Harada’s coma, this title has zero reason to exist and adds absolutely nothing to the greater Valiant universe. At least A&A felt connected at the very beginning, this has never. And it’s not like the disconnected stories are in any way good reads.
Bloodshot #8-19 – There are a couple good issues in this run, #12 (Bloodshot’s Day Off) in particular, but this is another title that treads water with no direction. Unlike Harbinger’s water treading, this one at least has a compelling (although I’m not sure why) lead character that I keep hoping does something cool.
Turok, Dinosaur Hunter #3-15 – Another book that exists without much of a plan. Mike Baron and Tim Truman take over for David Michelinie without any of the three making much impact with the character other than causing a few instances of having to play the home version of “Is That Racist.” And while this title feels connected to the greater Valiant universe, it seems to take place six months behind everything else. I think.
Secret Weapons #1-12 – This series started off as a nice attempt to Avenger-ify the Valiant universe, but, unfortunately, they gave up on that very quickly. Then the book was indecipherable from EW for a while. And then it decided to give us a third unnecessary team (see: HARDCorps & Armorines) of useless characters in terribly designed costumes. I mean, seriously, who greenlit the logo taking up the entirety of her right breast? While it felt repetitive for a while, at least the Gilad stories had some overall impact. It’s hard to see the latest version of this book mattering at all.
Second Life of Dr. Mirage #1-10 – This title begins interestingly enough with the Mirages being (yet) another foil to Master Darque. And the Shadowman crossover (#5) was particularly good. Unfortunately, the stories become repetitive, the “costume” grows ever more annoying, and the weird lovebird dialogue and sexual frustrations become clunky.
Ninjak #0-7 – I don’t get it. I just don’t get why anyone cares about this character. There is absolutely nothing in the storytelling here that is clear and/or interesting. The first four issues (and bloated two zero issues) all tell a generic “Westerner in Japan” story that Wolverine had already done awkwardly not long before (or a dozen times since). Other than Joe Quesada’s art in the first three issues, I once again don’t know what the outline of this title’s first year could have been.
Armorines #0-4 – What was Valiant thinking? Let’s take some generic as all get-out characters, make them so unidentifiable in their battle armor they have to make a plot point around customizing their helmets (which does not actually help the reader), poorly introduce them for a couple months in other books and give them their own series backed by no possible reader demand. Oh, and let’s have the first three issues take place underwater where the battle armor doesn’t really work and they have to fight mutated sharks.
Psi-Lords #1-2 – And to round out Valiant’s inability to launch a good new title between Deathmate and Chaos Effect comes Psi-Lords. Heck, this one they couldn’t even get the copyrights figured out before advertising it as the already taken Starwatchers. But they followed the exact same path as Armorines with a generic, unidentifiable, unlikable team of characters lightly rolled out for a couple of months before launching into an ongoing no one would have wanted. Oh, and to add a cherry on top of this latest misstep, the first three issues are in Valiant Vision so all the art is colored in headache inducing red, yellow, and blue.
So, based on these last batch of titles having July to October 1994 cover dates, it seems Valiant went off the rails creatively and/or editorially sometime in early 1994. Also, no mention of Dr. Silk anywhere in those reviews, despite it feeling like Valiant was trying to make him into something. Mostly titles stuck with spider aliens or Darque. Probably a good choice.
EW Yearbook – I don’t remember anything about this issue, but apparently I hated it because I gave it one star.
Timewalker Yearbook – A decent enough story about Ivar meeting early H.A.R.D. Corps members while Unity was going on.
Bloodshot Yearbook – A highly sexualized book that was fascinating and odd all at once.
Turok Yearbook – Probably the most plot driven issue in a Turok book to this point, still kind of bland though.
Valiant Vision Starter Kit – Man, that was a lot of 1994 dough to shell out for a couple pages of comics, a pair of glasses, and a poster.
Secrets of the Valiant Universe #1 – I enjoyed this jump around the Valiant universe even if not everything revealed was all that “secret.”