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Harbinger (2012 Series) #2

July 20, 2012 1 comment

July 13, 2012

Title: Omega Rising Part Two 

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Khari Evans & Lewis LaRosa
Letters: Rob Steen
Colors: Ian Hannin & Moose Baumann
Cover Art: Arturo Lozzi
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

Since its relaunch earlier this summer, Valiant Entertainment has been firing on all cylinders. While Harbinger #2 is by no means a misstep, it may be the first book in the line to fall victim to the hype machine. Promised as being something that would send old-school Valiant fans a-twitter, the book tells a solid story, but isn’t quite the mindblower we were led to believe.

Peter Stanchek has been on the run from the Harbinger Foundation for some time now. Along with his best friend (a mental case) and the girl he’s got a crush on (and who he’s used his powers on to force her to be with him), he now finds himself trapped by the very people he’s been fleeing. This issue sees a fateful confrontation between Peter and Toyo Harada, the architect of all his miseries… or is he.

The good thing about the new Valiant is, not unlike DC’s New 52 or the early days of Marvel’s Ultimate line, things are familiar enough that we have certain expectations, but have changed enough that it’s still reasonable for the writers to use those expectations against us, subvert them, and go in a different direction. This issue does that, and does it well. Is it enough of a subversion to make me recoil in shock and run away, though? No, no it isn’t.

The story works, fortunately. Peter faces up to some of his sins and pays the price for them, and in such a way that you’ve got to question whether one of the members of our cast is going to come back at all. Then again, perhaps that’s just par for the course in this new world – totally new ideas, totally new paths, somewhat familiar characters. I’d be okay with that.

Evans, LaRosa, Hannin and Baumann are doing a good job here on the artwork. As I think I’ve noted elsewhere, they’re making a good effort to make these characters look fairly realistic. They aren’t the perfect action figures or pin-up models that so many superhero comics feature, and in that way, they’ve actually got far more character than a lot of those other creations. The opening pages are perhaps the most striking, with colors that really set the tone perfectly and set the prologue apart from the rest of the issue.

Perhaps most striking – as it should be – is the cover. It’s a small moment that actually fits well into the issue itself, aside from just being a bizarre image that takes you by surprise. And thanks, Valiant, for actually using word balloons on covers – most publishers these days, it seems, are afraid of such a simple device, but when it’s done well, it adds a lot.

Good issue, and perhaps if I hadn’t had my expectations raised it would even have been great.

Rating: 7/10

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Harbinger (2012) #1

July 6, 2012 Leave a comment

June 10, 2012

Title: Omega Rising Part One

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art:
Khari Evans
Letters:
Rob Steen
Colors:
Ian Hannin
Cover Art:
Arturo Lozzi
Editor:
Warren Simons
Publisher:
Valiant Entertainment

Peter Stanchek is a boy on the run. Cursed with hearing the thoughts of those around him, gifted with the ability to influence people into doing his bidding, Peter and his friend Joe have been fleeing the clutches of Harada Conglomerates for some time. As Toyo Harada closes in on them, Peter decides to return home and look in on an old friend.

Like the new X-O Manowar #1, which premiered first, this new Valiant title is taking the DNA of the old series and dressing it up in a more modern way that really works very well. Pete does some questionable things in this issue, but all of it feels justified for the character… they’re no worse, really, than the things he did in the original continuity. We’re just spending more time dwelling on them here, examining the consequences of his actions, looking deeper than the original comic did in 1992.

In fact, this is a fair way to look at this whole new Valiant Universe thus far. There have been relatively few changes from the original series, we’re simply looking at things from a modern perspective and with a different filter, a different pacing, that helps to update those stories for the modern day. For the first two Valiant titles, this is a formula that is working extremely well.

Khari Evans nails the artwork here, giving us characters that look more like real people than your standard comic book superhero teens. The design for Kris in particular seems much more contemporary and much more realistic than she did in the original Valiant Universe, which itself made a great effort at creating characters that were realistic compared to the superhero titles of the day.

At any rate, this first issue is great, with a lot going for it and plenty to make the longtime reader happy. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see just where this series goes.

Rating: 9/10

X-O Manowar (2012) #1

May 11, 2012 Leave a comment

May 6, 2012, 2012

Title: Blades and Open Fields

Writer: Robert Venditti
Pencils:
Cary Nord
Inks:
Stefano Gaudiano
Letters:
Dave Lanphear
Colors:
Moose Baumann
Cover Art:
Esad Ribic, David Aja, Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, Cary Nord
Editor:
Warren Simons
Publisher:
Valiant Entertainment

In 402 A.D., an army of Visigoths prepare to face the forces of Rome. Outnumbered and outmatched, the warrior called Aric refuses to back down – a determination that serves him well when he is taken captive… not by the Romans, but by alien colonists looking at Earth as their next target.

In fairness, I should tell you guys that I am a huge fan of old-school Valiant Comics. They came into their own as a publisher at roughly the same time I really began to expand as a reader, and as such, there’s always been a soft spot in my heart for them. That said, I’d like to say I’m objective enough to admit if the book sucked. I’m glad to say it doesn’t. Robert Venditti has captured the flavor of Aric of Dacia nicely, presenting a rebooted character that feels very similar to the original. If there had never been an X-O Manowar #0 from the original Valiant Comics, this story could easily fit with the rest of the regular series.

That’s not to say, however, that the book is married to the original. There’s a very interesting subplot introduced in this book that doesn’t seem to play into anything that was done with the character in the old universe, but that’s just fine. Let ‘em try something a little different. As long as it feels true to the character, I welcome it.

Cary Nord does some excellent work here. The book looks like a sword-and-sorcery comic, a style that would fit in with the likes of Conan the Barbarian (which Nord has done before). When the sci-fi elements arrive, though, they don’t look out of place. Aric fits with the world of the alien spaceships and armor that are essential to the story at hand.

I’m ecstatic to have the Valiant Universe back to begin with. I’m even happier that the first issue starts things off so well.

Rating: 8/10

X-O Manowar: Birth HC

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

May 21, 2008

Quick Rating: Great
Collects: X-O Manowar #0-6

A warrior from a different time comes into possession of a weapon beyond imagining.

Writers: Jim Shooter, Steve Englehart, Bob Layton & Jorge Gonzalez
Pencils: Barry Windsor Smith, Sal Velluto, Mike Manley, Mike Leeke, Steve Ditko, Mark Moretti & Joe Quesada
Inks: Bob Layton, John Holdredge, Tom Ryder, Kathryn Bolinger, Ted Halsted, Ralph Reese & Jimmy Palmiotti
Original Colors: Jorge Gonzalez, Paul Autio & John Cebollero
Digital Colors: Rob Ruffolo
Letters: Jade, Ken Lopez & Sorah Suhng
Editor: Dinesh Shamdasani
Cover Art: Sean Chen, Bob Layton, Anthony Castillo, Chrysoula Artemis & Rob Ruffolo
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment

Back in the 90s, Valiant Comics were the hottest thing going. The company burned bright, put out some brilliantly innovative comics, then died a painful death when Acclaim bought them out and proved conclusively that making video games in no way qualifies you to run a comic book publisher. But the Valiant fans never died, and now Valiant Entertainment has bought the rights to these classic comics, and is beginning to bring them back to us – first with the Harbinger: The Beginning hardcover, and now with X-O Manowar: Birth.

Collecting the first six issues of the book, as well as the zero issue, this handsome volume introduces us to Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth who was kidnapped by an alien invasion force in the year 408 AD. Aric was one of many humans brought on a faster-than-light journey, delaying their aging as the Spider Aliens studied them in the hopes of using them to impersonate humans and infiltrate Earth society, until in 1991 the superhero called Solar, Man of the Atom, thwarted their invasion. During the battle, Aric escapes their clutches and manages to steal their most powerful weapon – the sentient X-O Manowar class armor that none of their people has been able to use without going insane.

Returning to Earth, Aric and the armor bond with one another – which will be necessary as the Goth tries to integrate himself into a society that passed him by over 1500 years ago. This was the second original Valiant title (following Harbinger), and was a fan favorite for obvious reasons. The elevator pitch for this book would be “Conan the Barbarian meets Iron Man,” but it’s so much more than that. Aric makes no effort to emulate the morals of a different time, clearly not understanding why his way of doing things is no longer acceptable, and his relationship with the “Wizard” named Ken helps to flesh out and enrich the character, while still giving the reader someone more contemporary to help view the story. Likewise, his armor is much more than anything Tony Stark ever creating – it’s living, it’s sentient, and in many ways it’s much more of a guide to Aric than Ken is. Everything in this book is rich, layered and as entertaining today as it was 15 years ago when most of these issues were first printed.

Valiant Entertainment has done something interesting with the artwork. Unable to work from the originals, they instead scanned the printed pages, removed the color and re-colored them digitally, using the original colors as a guide. The result is a book that has much more vibrant, exciting colors than any of the originals did, but also occasionally includes a page where the scan wasn’t quite sharp enough, resulting in slightly fuzzy linework. It’s not a big problem, and most of the time it isn’t even noticeable, but there are occasionally pages that make it clear just how they were done.

The book also includes the zero issue, which showed Aric’s pre-abduction life for the first time, and greatly expanded the story of his escape. This chapter, penciled by a young up-and-comer called Joe Quesada, particularly benefits from the new colors.

The book is topped off with “The Rise of Lydia,” a new 8-page story by original series creators Bob Layton and Mike Leeke. This short story, like the new story in the Harbinger hardcover, feels sort of like a “Secret Files” story to me. It’s not essential to understand the story, but it adds another dimension to one of the primary villains of the tale and fills in a lot of the blanks of her past.

If you’ve never read these stories before, if you were too young for Valiant in the first go-around, this is your chance to get on board. If you were a fan the first time, you owe it to yourself to revisit these classic stories. We can only hope that these hardcover books are merely harbingers of big things to come.

Pun intended.

Rating: 9/10

(2010 Note: Sadly, two years later only this and two other hardcover collections of Harbinger and Archer and Armstrong have come from the people at Valiant Entertainment.)