Worlds Of Wonder

Published: Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 7:56:16 AM

A Valiant comeback

Unity is the first book from Valiant Comics after it reopened two years ago.

VALIANT Comics, which went out of business about 12 years ago, made a comeback under new ownership in 2012. And it only took the new guys two years to achieve Unity.

Unity is the name of Valiant’s version of the Avengers or the Justice League – it’s a book that features the publisher’s major heroes, all in one title. But that’s selling the book short, because Unity acts like no team book I’ve ever read.

For one thing, not all of Valiant’s big guns are in the book – and for the most part, they’re fighting each other. Here’s the deal: Toyo Harada, the most powerful psychic in the world, and the heart of the book Harbinger, assembles a bunch of powerful folks in the first issue to take out Aric of Dacia, the guy wearing the powerful alien armour in X-O Manowar.

Aric, you see, is a Visigoth who was kidnapped by aliens in AD402 – as Einstein predicted, time passes differently in deep space – and, after stealing their most powerful weapon and escaping, has returned to Earth and set himself up as the king of traditional Dacia ... what we now call Romania. That has freaked out the world’s governments, and Harada – who usually works behind the scenes – has taken it upon himself to eliminate Aric and his armour before the Russians go nuclear on Budapest.

On Harada’s “team” are Ninjak, an assassin-ninja-secret agent usually in the employ of Britain’s MI-6; Gilad Anni-Padda, an immortal soldier born in Ur thousands of years ago, and the star of Eternal Warrior; and Livewire, another psychic – this one can communicate and control machines – first seen in Harbinger.

The ‘k’ is not silent: The cover of Unity #4 shows Ninjak (with the sword) and team founder Toyo Harada (receiving end of the sword). 

That leaves out any characters from Valiant titles like Archer & Armstrong, Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps, Quantum And Woody and Shadowman.

But I sure don’t rule out any characters from those titles appearing, because Unity is an extremely fluid title. Most of this gang may have started out battling X-O Manowar, but as of the third issue, just about everybody has flipped, turning on Harada! That’s like – oh, let’s see: the X-Men battling Professor X, I guess. It sounds like a terrible betrayal, but in context of the story, it seems reasonable. Because, honestly, there’s something very, very wrong with Harada.

That situation is supposed to climax in the fourth issue, which was released two weeks ago. And after that ... well, it’s hard to say. But we have some clues.

Publishers provide covers and content descriptions to retailers a couple of months in advance, information which, of course, immediately finds its way to the Internet. That’s how we know the next three issues will be Ninjak-oriented, reviving his chief villain from Valiant’s original run years ago, a fellow named Dr Silk.

But among the other Unity “members” on the covers is our old friend Aric of Dacia. Wait – what’s he doing with a bunch of guys who stole his X-O Manowar armour and imprisoned him in Unity #1-#3? And I’m guessing Harada’s absence is no coincidence either. Evidently he’s not part of the “team” any longer.

And, yes, “team” needs to be in quotes, because nobody on this “team” thinks they’re on a team and nobody uses the word “Unity”.

It’s possible that a formal alliance may emerge, and the membership will stabilise, but unlikely. It’s really anyone’s guess who will stay, who will go, who will arrive and what any of them will do.

Which, of course, is loads of fun. Any book where comics veterans have no idea what’s going to happen next is a rare and wonderful bird. And comics fans have noticed.

Most Valiant titles fall in the #100 to #200 range on the monthly sales list at Diamond Comics Distributors Inc, the company that distributes most of the comics in North America. Unity #1 scored an eye-opening 21st place in November.

The next couple of months, Unity dropped to more normal numbers for a Valiant book. But for that one month, at least, Unity outsold Action Comics, Green Lantern Mighty Avengers and Wolverine And The X-Men.

Bad guy Dr Silk looming menacingly in the background as the heroes battle ... er, valiantly on the cover of Unity #5.

All of this is due to writer Matt Kindt (Mind Mgmt) and Doug Braithewaite (Justice), who have carried the book thus far. Plus, they’re abetted by two of Valiant’s best, Robert Venditti (Green Lantern) and Cary Nord (Conan), the creative team on Valiant’s flagship book, X-O Manowar. During the first arc in Unity, X-O Manowar ran a parallel story – you could read Unity without it, but it’s more fun if you read them both.

All of this isn’t by accident. Valiant was gambling big with Unity, and put a lot of resources behind it.

Unity is the single biggest thing that Valiant has thrown its weight behind since the launch of the company with X-O Manowar #1,” said Valiant CEO and chief creative officer Dinesh Shamdasani in one of the many, many press releases about the book. “Unity #1 could be our most important single issue to date, and we couldn’t be happier with the sales and excitement. ... It’s innovative, powerful and brilliant – there’s simply nothing like it on the stands today. Moreover, we’ve ... even bigger plans for the second arc of Unity beginning with issue #5 (in) March.”

Plans which, of course, they’re not going to tell us. But that’s OK. The unpredictability of Unity is one of its attractions. Like The Walking Dead, there are no sacred cows and nobody’s continued presence is a given.

So while the heroes of the Valiant Universe haven’t truly achieved unity, Valiant Comics has achieved Unity. And that’s good news for fans of team books. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Reads, Worlds Of Wonder, Valiant Comics, Unity

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