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Imperium #1 [Review]

imperium001Imperium I: Overture

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Brian Reber & Dave McCaig
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Raul Allen
Editors: Alejandro Arbona, Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this, but on first reading found myself rather let-down. Consciously, analyzing, I can see it’s quite a good story. But this readily suffers from being only one PIECE of a singular, larger story. I read this in a mostly intentional “vacuum,” I’ve pointedly NOT kept up with spoilers, interviews, solicitations (other than seeing THAT an issue would be out), and all that, so where Harbinger ran 25 issues and ended to make way for the Harbinger: Omegas mini-series and now this…as well as Valiant in large part seeming to be moving toward limited-series over long-term ongoing stuff, I haven’t a clue if this is going to be a 4, 5, or 6 issue story; if it’s a mini-series or quasi-ongoing, or what. I see no “of X” with the number so would assume it may be an ongoing or at least a multi-arc/multi-volume series when it’s all collected…but most folks know what “they” say about “assume.”

There’s also a several-page insert in the middle of the issue, an Imperium Prelude, that I’d have to check recent not-yet-read Valiant issues I’ve gotten and keep an eye out in others this month to see if they have it, too. But its placement completely interrupted the flow of the story for me, taking me out of stuff and leaving me distracted more than engaged, and sent my mind toward thinking about other events, whether or not this is “just” an event, and so on. For this issue at least, I think that either should have been left out…or should have actually been placed at the beginning. Moreso, I think it should have been a separate piece altogether, perhaps a promo thing to be given out at comic shops as a 4-paged comic or such to promote this series. (I may even go so far as to rip it out of this issue and file it ahead of this in a box).

We open with Darpan, as an old man, traveling  about a clean, utopian future (well, to those of us reading this in 2015, anyway). He then finds his mine drawn back, and wakes in the present to realize he’d psychically experienced a lifetime in a “dream” projected from Harada. Harada gives Darpan and the others gathered a speech about how they must now adopt different tactics in bringing about the utopian vision he was granted by the Bleeding Monk. However, terrible things will need to be done to get to the end result…and that does not seem to sit well with everyone involved. Harada begins by staking claim to his own territory…putting himself at odds with the planet and the various different people–such as Aric, X-O Manowar–who will certainly come after him.

My initial griping above left aside, and “digging in” while thinking further on this issue, it IS a good issue and a solid start to a series. We’re shown a future, and then the present with people who want to move the world into that future vision. We’re introduced to several characters along with Toyo Harada himself and shown where they stand…undoubtedly some foreshadowing for coming conflict. And for whatever it might say about me personally, there’s both an authenticity to Harada’s end-goal and a part of me that would like to see him achieve it (as long as I don’t have to think too much about what he’ll have to do to get there).

If you’ve read Harbinger and/or Harbinger: Omegas, this is the next “phase” of the overall, ongoing story begun there. Despite that, as much as any such series is, Imperium #1 stands as a decently-accessible jumping-on point. You’ll benefit from the added context of reading Harbinger and Omegas, but you can jump into this pretty well by itself.

I like the art throughout the book…and thanks to the distraction from the placement of the prelude pages, I actually didn’t get distracted by the art itself or find anything really to complain about. It’s a high quality style, realistic without being overly so, plenty of detail over skimping…and quite familiar to me, having read other Valiant stuff with art from Braithwaite.

I’ve enjoyed Dysart‘s Valiant stuff and the “whole” of his stories tend to wind up larger than the parts. Paired with Braithwaite‘s art, this is one of the higher-quality not-exactly-superhero/not-exactly-NOT-superhero books out there…and well worth checking out. Alternatively, I’m confident this will make a very good reading experience in collected-edition format, whether it’s one volume or several.

Armor Hunters #4 [Review]

Armor Hunters #4Kill

Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Doug Braithwaite, Tom Fowler, Trevor Hairsine, and Clayton Henry
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I can say from the start that this did not end with quite the grandiose hugeness I was expecting. For an 18-issue (now 19 including the upcoming Aftermath issue) thing, I don’t know what I was hoping for exactly, but this wasn’t it.

But then, I wasn’t buying this because it was Armor Hunters. I wasn’t following the story because of it being “an event” or the “latest event” or anything like that. I wasn’t following it because of chromium covers or variant covers. I wasn’t following it BECAUSE of any of the marketing or checklists or whatever. I was buying this because it was Valiant, and from May 2012’s relaunch to present, I’ve been “all-in” on Valiant.

That said, I found this issue to be a solid one, wrapping up this particular “core chapter” in the ongoing story that is Valiant continuity as a whole.

The art is very good as usual…I really had no complaints there. The style works and fits the story, and I was never taken out of things because of some visual quirk or stylistic twinge or otherwise anything distracting about the “meta” nature of anything with the art. The characters all looked good, the action was easy to follow, everything seemed consistent with what I’ve seen before. The art thus was good in the best way: only consciously “noticeable” because I’m choosing to comment on it in the capacity of this review. In the reading, it simply “was.” Nothing stand-out distractingly “great” but nothing distractingly bad–it allowed the story to take the stage.

Through the issue, we see Aric armor up again with the X-O suit, and reconnect with Bloodshot and the Unity team, as all come back together and the immediate threat of the team of “Armor Hunters” themselves is brought to a close.

The story is relatively simple on the surface for the issue–a lot of fighting as the hunters are laid low while the Earth-heroes take their own share of physical punishment for the trouble. But we also get some interesting elements for moving forward, and I feel like a key “promise” was indeed fulfilled–and satisfyingly so. While I don’t recall now if it was in some preview or interview or such (it may have been outside the “normal, organic” nature of following the comics themselves withOUT having comic news sites or such involved) but in my mind I’ve had the notion that we’d learn more about Aric’s armor in particular, and then as an event we’d have some lasting elements to carry on beyond.

We’ve learned that the armor is one of many, that they exert a parasitic influence over the “host” (that they’re a “host” rather than simply a being that is wearing the armor says plenty), that it’s not some one-shot thing of the armor being able to heal the host, and so on.

We have the lasting impact of Mexico City’s destruction–a city does not just get wiped off the map and get forgotten. That will be a long-term lasting thing in the Valiant continuity, setting it apart from the “real world” where we as readers know Mexico City has NOT actually been destroyed during an alien attack.

We also have the impact of things on Aric with the armor now totally bonded with him, and the limitation that he now lives with–he’s in control of the armor and it won’t just take him over, won’t heal him automatically. He now can WILL the armor to heal him…but in so doing, he cedes that much more control TO the armor, such that if he takes enough physical damage in need of the armor’s brand of healing, eventually he WILL be lost to the armor.

We also have a new relationship between Aric and MERO…as well as the first explanation I can consciously recall of the title X-O Manowar being given beyond some arbitrary X-O class armor also known as manowar armor…as an “Executive Officer” titled “Manowar,” Aric sort of has a “superhero name” now, yet not…but the title is given to him, as a thing, rather than merely being a description of the armor that he happens to wear.

While an 18 or 19 part “epic” is a bit grandiose for such a small family of titles as Valiant puts out, and rather large for ANY “event” or “crossover” as an independent thing…it totally makes sense as it has played out. The core story’s been in this 4-issue mini-series. Given the ties to the X-O Manowar title itself, we’ve gotten Aric’s story here and background on Malgam and the Armor Hunters in that title. Something of this scale would certainly affect the world as a whole, hence Unity’s involvement. Bloodshot’s recruitment fits and as one of the main/big players in the Valiant Universe his action should not be relegated to off-panel “mentions.” And as Generation Zero steps out into the world in general it’s logical that they–and the remnants of the Renegades–would become involved in disaster relief efforts.

Granted that’s a much larger-scale view than “just” this fourth issue, but having read everything, this is “just” a part of that.

Context is vital, and while there’s no gigantic singular event in this issue that in and of itself will HERE change the Valiant universe, if you’ve been following the whole thing or just this mini, or X-O Manowar, this is definitely an issue to get, not to be arbitrarily skipped for some random reason. It’s good and worthwhile, and a solid issue in itself. Of course, if you have not been following anything associated with this, it would thus be a rather strange-ish point to attempt to jump into stuff, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a jumping-on point. (Yet every issue is bound to be SOMEONE’s first).

Armor Hunters #1 [Review]

armorhunters001regArmor Hunters / Part I: Quarry

Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Jorge Molina, Clayton Crain, Trevor Hairsine, Doug Braithwaite
Assistant Editor: Josh Johns
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99 ($5.99 Chromium Cover)

It’s definitely safe to say that this is an issue I’ve been looking forward to specifically for quite a few weeks now. Valiant‘s done a great job with “pushing” their titles, and as someone who’s already “all-in” for present, an event like this is well-suited for me. Though I believe the “main” story will be contained to this 4-issue mini-series, there are some tie-ins with X-O Manowar and Unity, as well as several tie-in mini-series. As the opening/first chapter in the event itself, this issue stands alone fairly well while sitting in the midst of established continuity.

This issue opens with an attack on a Russian facility where suits of armor are being developed in as-close-as-possible approximation to Aric’s X-O armor. The aliens attack the base, killing those within, having located the place due to the armors. While no sentience is detected, the armors are destroyed, and the aliens left baffled as to why humans would seek to duplicate such dangerous things. After this attack, Aric finds his people’s new homeland invaded by US forces–though said forces claim to be there to protect them, not to invade. Aric is brought up to speed from the US forces’ side, and seeks further counsel from Malgam (the alien he fought in the Armor Hunters Prelude in X-O Manowar #s 23-24). The alien “hunters” then unleash an attack that leaves little doubt as to their power, and the devastation possible on Earth if the X-O armor is not turned over to them.

As said, this issue sits in the midst of estabished continuity–particularly in references to goings-on in the X-O Manowar title. While readers of that title will have a fuller appreciation of Aric’s attitude and and what led to the present status quo, reading this issue by itself one is simply presented WITh the present status quo. Said status quo can be accepted at face value, but those interested in more can seek out the earlier stories to get the details.

By and large, this issue reads like an issue of X-O Manowar (which makes sense, given Venditti is the writer on both). The aliens are presented as the antagonists, yet don’t come off entirely as ‘villains’–moreso they come off as a “Federation” with no “Prime Directive” and no qualms about razing planets to make sure the apparently sentient armors are eradicated. The characterization seems consistent with the X-O Manowar title, and I have no issues with the story so far as “merely” the opening chapter.

Visually, I don’t have much to say except that I really enjoyed the issue, and nothing to the art really put me off or distracted me from the story. I know Braithwaite‘s art from Unity at the least, which adds to the consistent familiarity of the issue’s look/feel. I like the aliens’ design–they look suitably alien, while also being distinct individuals.

While this issue in and of itself doesn’t seem to justify the huge crossover, its ending does show how the crossover works quite organically as the impact of the issue is not limited to a single facility or base and truly will affect the entire planet.

Though one could presumably “jump in blind” with this issue and reasonably follow stuff, the full enjoyment (at least for me) of the issue comes from its growth out of continuity.

As there are a couple covers/editions, I recommend sticking with the standard cover…I was not suitably impressed at the “enhanced” “chromium” cover, finding it did not have the same boldness of the classic ’90s Valiant Chromium covers.

If you’re reading X-O Manowar, this definitely works as an extension of the title. It’s also worth picking up if you’re planning to follow any of the tie-in minis to get what I imagine will be the larger/broader context. And if you’re just looking for a mini-series to “dabble” in Valiant, this is also worthwhile on the whole.

Unity #1 [Review]

unity001Written by: Matt Kindt
Art & Cover by: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Brian Reber
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I have yet to read the original Unity stuff from the ’90s as I’m still missing an issue or two and haven’t spent the money on the series of collected volumes. And given that Solar and Magnus are not part of the contemporary Valiant universe and the tagline for THIS series is “Victory is not absolute” (rather than “Time is not absolute”), there’s plenty of difference.

THIS Unity isn’t an event so much as it’s a title, a team…one that is formed in response to Aric (with his X-O Manowar armor) setting down in modern Romania (ancient Dacia) and claiming it as his own, re-claiming it for his people, liberated from the Vine homeworld. Russia launches an attack–this is their backyard–and Aric is victorious, which makes them all the more nervous, and the chain effect is that the entire world is poised on the brink of World War Three. As self-styled savior, Toyo Harada gets involved, first sending in his Unity team, before realizing that he’d have to get involved personally, leading an elite team of his own.

Truthfully, I don’t know if this is a “limited series” a la Harbinger Wars (if so, no clue how many issues), or if it’s actually an ongoing series, and the big “instigating event” for the formation of a status quo is “just” this tie-in to X-O Manowar. But for the moment…I’m not too concerned. I’m “all-in” with Valiant at present–getting basically anything they put out as in single issue format. As such, limited series or ongoing, I’m getting this either way.

This felt like a longer issue than usual, with a lot going on. Really, having kept up with X-O Manowar, this actually felt like an issue of that, just involving a more diverse cast than usual, and less focus on Aric as the protagonist (he’s definitely the antagonist here). That this fits so well with that is definitely a credit to continuity in my mind, and what can be done with characters that are typically involved in separate titles coming together in one. At the same time, while I mention continuity, this can also be a decent entry-point for newer readers. The “core” story is given on the inside front cover, about Aric’s past. The other characters come into play throughout the issue and you get some context for them on a surface level at least. Of course, longer-time Valiant readers will have even more context, a deeper appreciation for some of the various character interactions, based on having come across them before…particularly Ninjak and Harada; as well as Aric himself and Gilad (the Eternal Warrior) from the actual X-O Manowar series.

As a first issue, I liked this. We’re introduced to the instigating event: Aric has claimed Romania and isn’t budging from his ancient homeland. The rest of the world isn’t happy, but have yet to put together an effective (for them) response. We get the introduction of major players–Aric himself, Harada, the Eternal Warrior, Ninjak–as well as the actual Unity team Harada deploys. The opposing sides actually meet and battle in this issue (we aren’t left solely with posturing and “setup” or “building anticipation” for this issue). The effects of the first battle are felt, and set things in motion that the issue’s end promises will be brought into play next issue.

Visually, not a bad issue. After all the months of anticipating this series, wondering what would actually play out, and so on, I was far more eager to dig in on the story side than anything with art. The fact I read right through the issue without having to stop to wonder what exactly was going on action-wise is certainly credit to the art team. Doing the job well, I like when I don’t “notice” the art much one way or the other.

I doubt this issue alone would ‘sell’ you on the Valiant Universe as a whole. But if you’ve been curious, it’s a good point to get in, and be introduced to characters involved in at least three other titles (X-O Manowar, Harbinger, Eternal Warrior), and a huge influence in a fourth (Bloodshot/Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps). And following only a few months after Harbinger Wars, this title brings the Valiant universe together, bridging multiple titles without forcing a multi-title crossover…you can get the story from this issue even without having read any of the other titles.

My only real problem with this issue is the many variant covers; I’ve long had issue with there being so many/regularly variants anyway, but with five or six (at least) variants, this was rather ridiculous to me.

Ultimately, variants or otherwise, if you’ve any interest in Valiant past or present, I do recommend this issue. And if nothing else…you have a $3.99 book that is not being double-shipped, and does not continue (directly) into some other series.

X-O Manowar #6 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

X-O Manowar #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

Story: 4/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Harbinger #2 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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