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The ’90s Revisited: X-O Manowar/Iron Man in Heavy Metal #1

90srevisitedxomanowar_ironman_heavymetal001Heavy Metal part 1

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Artist: Andy Smith
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
Color Art: Twilight Graphics
Assistant Editor: Omar Banmally
Consulting Assistant Editor: Nancy Poletti
Consulting Editor: Mark Gruenwald
Editor: Lynaire Thompson
Editor in Chief: Bob Layton
Published by: Acclaim Comics/Valiant
Cover Date: September 1996
Cover Price: $2.50

I vaguely remember when this series was originally out. I don’t remember details, but I’m supposing (in retrospect) that the Iron Man connection is what caught my eye…though there was probably Wizard coverage, and I wasn’t unaware of X-O Manowar from the #0 issue at least. Of course, there was the video game, which this is based on or inspired by or what-have-you. Given Acclaim was doing the video game, and had bought Valiant, it makes a lot of sense that there’d be a tie-in comic.

While I’ve found many of the "later" Valiant comics, this issue has eluded me until recently when I noticed both issues of the "crossover" on eBay. Being edged out on the bidding at the last second I looked for other instances, and including shipping scored a copy of both this X-O Manowar/Iron Man issue and the companion Iron Man/X-O Manowar for the price of a single contemporary Marvel comic. While this oughtta be quarter-bin fodder, not finding it that way made it worthwhile to me to pay a bit of a premium just to HAVE the issues.

The cover looks rather odd to me–far from an ideal thing, and rather generic. There’s something a bit "off" to me about both armors…probably the "early digital" art, which may even be a still from the video game (I don’t care enough to investigate further). Either way for a cross-company crossover this does not look like anything special from the cover alone.

Upon opening the issue I immediately saw an art style that did not appeal to me. I don’t know if I’ve seen or liked anything else from Andy Smith, but in this issue, I am not a fan. It’s not horrible art, and it’s certainly far, FAR superior to anything I could possibly do myself. It gets things across and isn’t too wonky or anything…basically it does its intended job but does not stand out as anything special.

Seeing Nicieza‘s name as the writer was an immediate appeal for me…but getting into the issue I felt rather left down. This thing’s all over the place and does not feel developed at all. We jump from villains we aren’t given much about to other villains; and world to world. I found myself confused to realize partway through that we’re actually dealing with MULTIPLE sets of Iron Man/X-O Manowar and not just the two characters being matched up for a single double-universe adventure.

I believe this was a time when Iron Man had been "de-aged" or replaced by a younger parallel-dimension version of himself or some such, so that’s not ENTIRELY off-putting to "learn" here but that’s not really explained. And given this is an issue from Acclaim, it’s certainly well-past the X-O Manowar stuff I was familiar with, am familiar with…and having just read a 2015-published issue of the contemporary X-O Manowar series found the character dull and not at all 3-dimensional here.

I’ve often enjoyed Nicieza‘s work, particularly his X-Men stuff, and find myself seeing this as being completely hobbled by BEING a video game tie-in, presumably with a bunch of "checklist" points to be hit during the issue. And with Acclaim and Marvel both getting to publish an issue, there’s probably a certain bit of symmetry that had to be achieved as well. All of which ultimately leads to an issue that I didn’t enjoy.

I would be incensed at having paid full price for this–particularly had it been published in 2015 and passed off as anything supposedly special. However, it’s still something that I’ve been curious about for years, and a definite "artifact" of its time…so despite not enjoying the issue, I do expect I’ll read the Marvel-published one as well just to "get the story," and all that. Unfortunately this does somewhat taint my expectations toward the bulk of the Acclaim-published Valiant stuff and makes me hesitate just a bit on diving into reading any of those anytime soon.

From Ad to Home: Quantum and Woody Omnibus

This past summer, I was rather excited at the announcement of the first-ever Valiant Omnibus volume, featuring the complete classic Quantum and Woody series.

quantum_woody_omnibus_ad

It just seemed such a great concept to me…and almost immediately I decided it was definitely a volume I was going to want to own. Rather than “only” 8 or so issues like the classic Bloodshot or Ninjak volumes I got a couple years ago, or even going back several years to the X-O Manowar, Harbinger, and Archer & Armstrong hardcovers….I loved the idea of the ENTIRE SERIES being collected into a single volume.

quantum_woody_omnibus_home

And now several months later, my copy of the volume finally arrived, and I’m quite pleased with it!

While there are 20-some issues in the volume, it doesn’t seem OVERLY thick or unwieldy…as volumes like this go, it seems a nice, sturdy size. Larger than a “standard” oversize hardcover content-wise, with double the pagecount of the 12ish-issue volumes, but not some ginormous wrist-breaking thing, either.

quantum_woody_omnibus_home2

I like the look of the the book in general, the cover, and overall, I’m just very happy with this. EXCEPT that now it makes me want the upcoming X-O Manowar Classic vol. 1.

But…Valiant just continues to put out excellent product that rewards the fans. So long as they don’t rush a bunch of these out, I could see picking up the later omnibii editions…and as long as they keep their deluxe hardcovers in-print awhile longer, I certainly want to get those–particularly the Harbinger Wars one.

The ’90s Revisited: Ninjak Yearbook #1

ninjakyearbook001Writer: Mike Baron
Penciller: Bryan Hitch
Colorist: Steve Whitaker
Letterer: Adam Niedzwiecki
Editor: Maurice Fontenot
Editor-in-Chief: Bob Layton
Cover: Stu Suchit
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.95

After having recently read the Trapped by Webnet arc in the current Unity series,when I was flipping through a quarter-bin the other day, I bought this issue and actually read it same-day, even though I already had it. It was the immediacy, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, except a Ninjak story and the cover had a headshot of someone that I couldn’t imagine being anyone other than Dr. Silk.

For as many of the original Valiant books as I’ve amassed the last couple years, I’ve read surprisingly few so far (telling myself I’m waiting til I can read the entire Valiant universe start to finish with no gaps). So I didn’t quite know what to expect here. The issue is labeled as a Yearbook…I’ve come to realize that would be original Valiant‘s way of saying “Annual.” So this is the 1994 Annual for the Ninjak ongoing, and while I half expected a big To Be Continued, I was pleasantly “surprised” to find that this issue is self-contained.

I didn’t think about the art all that much as I read the issue, but I really didn’t have any problem with it. Nothing jumped out in any negative way, and I didn’t feel “distracted” by it, either. It just got the visuals across and told that side of the whole of the story. In typing this post I see Bryan Hitch was the penciler, so in retrospect I kind of “see” it, though it definitely (obviously) predates his work on The Ultimates by a number of years. Combined with the coloring, I’d have to say I prefer Ultimates to this, but there’s also the fact of reading this 20-year-old single issue, and that Hitch and comics/printing in general had a good 8-some years of development between when this issue was published and when The Ultimates came along.

The story is relatively simple: Ninjak’s out and about in his civilian guise, and gets recruited for a mission. Dr. Silk’s making trouble, and of course needs to be stopped. Ninjak encounters a rather personal foe en route to stopping Dr. Silk, and by issue’s end we’ve reached the adventure’s end.

Perhaps over-simplifying, I’d say this issue is basically a single-issue Ninja-Spy story: part ninja-guy in Ninjak, but he’s also a spy. And it sure as heck beats being just some kick-off to a longer story, or a concluding chapter of a longer story, or being a middle chapter of a story…etc.

I quite enjoyed reading the issue, and it was CERTAINLY worth the 25 cents, if solely for the amount of time it took to read. I’ve maybe read one or two other Ninjak issues through the years, though I’m honestly not even sure if I’ve read the first issue…I think I know more of the contemporary version of the character from the last couple years in current Valiant‘s X-O Manowar, Unity, and Armor Hunters titles. 

That being said…I never felt lost or taken out of the story by my lack of knowledge; though I’m consciously aware of “continuity” and such, this worked just fine for me as a single-issue “episode” of stuff. Perhaps it’s a bit formulaic…but for me, that worked in the issue’s favor.

While this is a sort of Annual as opposed to an arbitrarily-chosen issue of the ongoing series, it’s very satisfying to be able to just pick up one issue and have an enjoyable story, good art, and no burning desire to go grab another issue immediately to continue or finish the story.

Now recognizing the Yearbook issues as basically being annuals, I may actually target them for reading prior to getting down to any solid “reading projects” for classic Valiant.

If you come across this in a bargain bin, it’s certainly worth 25 cents to $1. While it’s good, it’s not any issue of particular or singular significance, and as a “generic ’90s book” I wouldn’t suggest paying more than $1 for a copy, and personally consider it truly 25-cent-bin fare.

Valiant Beer – a Darque Brew

While I tend to collect a lot of things–comics, books, toys–typically it’s mass-market stuff. But tonight I acquired what seems to me to be a very unique object:

An unopened bottle of Valiant “Darque Brew” beer from the 1990s.

Valiant Beer (Darque Brew)
It even still has the original card and shipping container from Acclaim.

Bloodshot (1990s) #0 [Review]

Family Blood

Writer/Penciller: Kevin Vanhook
Inker: Dick Giordano
Colorist: Jade Moede
Cover: Joe Quesada, Dick Giordano, John Cebollero
Letterer: Jade Moede
Editor: Jorge Gonzalez
Published by: Valiant
Cover Date: March 1994
Cover Price: $3.50

We open on a flashback to the 1860s, on the man who would be known as the Eternal Warrior as he laments his inability to prevent the Mafia from gaining a foothold in the United States. The story then shifts to 1991, as we meet Angelo Mortalli–the man who has been tasked by the Mob to take down the Eternal Warrior. The two come together, and Mortalli believes he’s killed his target–not realizing the man’s nature. Not long after he’s framed for several murders that turn his family against him, and realizing he wouldn’t last on his own, turns himself in. Unfortunately for Mortalli, he becomes the subject of an experiment, as microscopic robots–nanites–are injected into him. When he’s released by a Geomancer, he has no memory of who he once was, but he’s become an ultimate survivor, proficient in all sorts of weaponry.

As I first read this issue, I wasn’t sure who the narrating character was; but I was pretty sure this was not the Shadow Man, nor Ninjak. As I sat down to write this review, it actually occurred to me this might be the Eternal Warrior–a character I know virtually nothing about, but by that name he sounds immortal and thus it would be reasonable to assume that his longevity lends to narrating this story. Having made that connection, I did a quick bit of research and confirmed it: I assumed correctly.

The story is pretty straightforward, introducing us to the various characters pretty quickly, setting up the situation, and moving us through the main points. We get a little bit of backstory as well as the ongoing insight of the Eternal Warrior’s narrative/knowledge of what happened, and we get to see bits of Mortalli’s life as a part of the mob and what he’s like as a person…which seems a stark contrast to the vigilante he would become as Bloodshot.

The art is pretty good–nothing negative, really, to say about it; it fits the story quite well and conveys what’s going on, making things easy to follow, and the issue as a whole flows quite nicely. I’m unfamiliar with Vanhook‘s art offhand, and it reminds me a bit of Barry Windsor-Smith, and the visual style of the entire art team has a look that–for me–screams “1990s!” This is not a bad thing, just an observation…and something that I think helped my enjoyment of the issue, as it looks and feels like the early/mid-1990s comic that it is.

I’m pretty sure this is the first-ever issue of “classic” Bloodshot that I’ve read–though I bought #1 when it came out, that was the dumb collector in me in the early-1990s, bought for the fancy cover and on the chance it’d be come THE “hot, new book.” I don’t recall buying this issue when it came out, though I’ve acquired several copies through the years out of bargain bins, specifically for the shiny cover and my having a thing for these chromium covers.

As something I don’t believe I’ve ever paid more than fifty cents for (so even with multiple copies, I’ve yet to pay a total of the 1994 cover price), this was an excellent issue. It’s given me the origin of Bloodshot (as expected, assuming going in that this was like the X-O Manowar #0 issue that did the same for that character), which–while it takes the mystery away–will likely inform my reading of the early issues of the series.

I approached this as a one-shot; just a lone single-issue I could read, to “sample” Bloodshot after all these years…but I found myself quickly drawn into the story, and by the end of the issue, I am very interested to get into the series proper and experience this original version of Bloodshot.

This is my first-read issue of Bloodshot (1992) but it’s my fourth Bloodshot comic overall–having already read the first three issues of the 2012 series. I can’t help but wonder how much the two inform each other–how much detail in the new series is actually drawn from the original, and how now reading the originals will affect my enjoyment of the new material.

As back-issue bargain bin comics go, if you can find this in a quarter, fifty-cent, or dollar bin, it’s a solid read and well worth picking up. Just beware it igniting an interest in the character and this series that might lead you to hunting a bunch of other issues to read more.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 9/10

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