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Archer & Armstrong: Archer #0 [Review]

archerandarmstrongarcher000Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Pere Perez
Color Art: David Baron
Letters: Tom B. Long
Editor: Josh Johns
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

This issue was a welcome moment diving back into this title. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen a few months behind in my reading due to a misplaced issue, and have yet to ‘catch up’. Despite that, I didn’t mind jumping in here for the “origin” of Archer…and was kinda surprised at how much of an origin it proved to be!

I don’t know what I expected, exactly…but this origin perfectly fits what I know of the contemporary Valiant universe, and continues to show how things tie together even in titles that don’t normally mix. This issue introduces us to a young boy and his supposed benefactors, and follows what he goes through prior to being adopted by the Archers, and then the trials he faces leading us toward the status quo when we met him back in issue #1.

I greatly enjoyed the fact that this was functionally a one-shot issue. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything not having read recent issues, but I do feel like this has expanded my understanding of the character and his place in the Valiant universe. Though functionally a one-shot, the final scene and page set up the crossover between Archer & Armstrong and Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps beginning next month…while obviously intentional, it doesn’t seem gratuitous, and leaves me looking forward to that.

The story and art in general for this issue are the usual quality I expect of the title, and nothing and no one looks particularly different or out of sorts to my eye. This was simply a solid issue with good story and art.

While not in a “the last issue I read said ‘To Be Continued!’ sense, just for its shedding light on Archer’s background, this is an eventual “must-read” for fans of the series. I doubt it’ll overly detract from one’s reading experience if this is skipped, but it’ll almost certainly be enhanced by this issue. I’d also venture that this issue makes a good bridgepoint or jumping-on point if one’s interested in checking things out with the title, except that half the ongoing title’s main cast is missing, the focus of this being only on Archer’s side.

I’m glad to have picked it up, and read it now rather than putting it off, as it does have me eager to get caught up on the book.

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Bloodshot #0 [Review]

bloodshot000Writer: Matt Kindt
Art: Chrisscross
Colors: Moose Baumann
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Associate Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

This is the second distinct Bloodshot #0 I’ve read in the last year or so. I read the original 1993 issue last year, and I’ve been looking forward to this new one for awhile now. That’s one thing I definitely like with the current Valiant–they properly promote books without me feeling they’re over-hyped. Since seeing the cover image for this on one of those inserts with the issue checklist on the back, I’ve been curious about the revelation of this Bloodshot’s “true” origin, or at least clarification of the origin.

Reading this, I was surprised at the opening reference to 1992 (which was when the original series began and the original Bloodshot burst onto the scene). Thankfully any reference to the old is tangential/coincidental/”Easter Egg”-y.

This issue shows us several earlier versions of Bloodshot–essentially, the technology was there, but Bloodshot would be so focused on completing his mission that any collateral damage didn’t matter. Project Rising Spirit wanted to find a way to give their warmachine a conscience of sorts, so an outside scientist is brought in. He winds up reprogramming the nanites to not just record memories but to capture “everything”–in the hopes of catching a “soul.” While his results prove questionable, the scientist’s fate is fairly clear, and we as readers are left to draw our own conclusions from what we’ve observed in the previous 13 issues of Bloodshot.

Story-wise I quite enjoyed this. After the last few months of Harbinger Wars and the upcoming addition of HARD Corps to the title, this makes for a nice “interlude” or “break” between major chapters of this character’s existence. Having some light shed on the background is handy for allowing a bit more identification with the character…though I was a bit disappointed that we had no definitive names provided to clarify which (if any) “identities” Bloodshot’s shown are a “one, true” identity.

Visually I found this to be a mixed bag. There was a definite difference from what I’m used to seeing in this title, so it was a little “off” in that regard. Yet, nothing was really “bad” about it, so I can’t really complain. The style is fairly distinctive–I haven’t seen much of ChrisCross‘ art lately, but do remember enjoying his visuals on the late-’90s/early-’00s Captain Marvel series.

I wouldn’t call this a jump-onboard sort of issue, as it doesn’t really lay the groundwork or introduce stuff the way I would expect of a premiere issue. However, for readers who have been along for the ride this is definitely a worthwhile addition to the mythology of Bloodshot, adding some depth that is fairly timeless and allows for a bit of clarification to what we’ve already seen…and will likely yet see. In its own way, if one looks at the retitling as the beginning of a “new series,” this also provides a sort of cap to the first year, filling in some blanks and adding to what we’ve discovered.

Whatever the case, I enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing what else we get with the character, despite shifting creative teams.

Harbinger #9 [Review]

harbinger009Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Pere Perez
Color Art: Ian Hannin
Covers: Mico Suayan and Khari Evans
Lettering: Rob Steen
Associate Editor: Jody LeHeup
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

Nine (ten if you count the recent #0) issues in, and this title’s getting rather complex, juggling a number of characters. While it does so, this seems a fairly Faith-centric issue, focusing more on her than the other characters…which to me, really is the way to go; allowing character development and for the reader to get to know the character better, while keeping the entire, overall story progressing.

After being temporarily depowered and falling from a dangerous height, Faith comes to and discovers her friends/teammates have been captured by Project Rising Spirit (we as readers witness the kids’ capture). Interspersed, we get flashbacks to how Faith got into comics, a tragedy in her early life, as well as some added details that flesh out her off-panel time several issues ago…and the issue ends on a key moment for Faith and Peter as Project Rising Spirit prepares to move out with their mission accomplished.

Visually, this is yet another strong issue. I honestly don’t recall as of this typing whether Perez has been on every issue thus far, but the look of this issue solidly fits with earlier issues, and seems entirely consistent with my memory of earlier and most-recent issues. The visual style has a certain simplicity to it–it’s not overly or distractingly-detailed…but it has a certain authenticity that makes the characters all seem that much more real: they’re not virtual clones of one another…the faces and bodies are distinct and varied, as the characters actually are.

Story-wise it’s painfully obvious (particularly with recent house ads and other “meta” information (online news/interviews/etc that are not part of the story itself) that this issue is continuing to put pieces in place for the upcoming Harbinger Wars crossover/arc/event with Bloodshot. While I don’t much care for the feeling of “let’s get THIS over with so we can get to What We’ve Been Promised,” it still resonates with me a bit, as it’s that much more obvious how these titles are beginning to fit together as part of the shared universe.

While we don’t have much in the way of development for the other characters–we mainly just see what fate’s befallen them–we get quite a bit with Faith…and it makes her a much more interesting character. It’d be easy to “assume” stuff with her, but having the actual details keeps her grounded and relatable…on the surface, one might see her as some cliché, yet it seems to me that much of what she is even so far in this book comes from her making conscious choices, not mindlessly following the clichés.

Though there are plenty of positives for the other Valiant titles…more and more I find myself with Harbinger at the top of the list for the nice art and the complex, realistic (as much as they can be: that’s a given) story and characters. If you’re only going to follow one Valiant title, I’d be inclined to make it Harbinger.

Bloodshot #4 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com
.

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

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