Comics characters often return from the dead -- but sometimes publishers do, too. Such is the case with Valiant Comics, which has burst back onto the scene with an explosion of high-quality books.
Valiant emerged in 1989 with three top creators at its head: Jim Shooter, former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics; Bob Layton, who gained fame as co-writer and inker on "Iron Man;" and Barry Windsor-Smith, an illustrative legend. The line launched a host of imaginative original series, including "Harbinger," "Shadowman" and "X-O Manowar."
Valiant emphasized character and good writing in a field then dominated by artists, and it quickly became the United States' third-largest comics publisher (after Marvel and DC). But in 1994, at its peak, Valiant was sold to a videogame company, which de-emphasized the comics and eventually went bankrupt.
In 2005, Dinesh Shamdasani and Jason Kothari -- fans of the first Valiant universe who were college students at the time -- managed to get control of the company's assets. Now, after seven years of assembling investors and a staff, Shamdasani and Kothari have brought Valiant back.
And the new Valiant is putting its best foot forward, relaunching four of its most popular concepts: "Archer & Armstrong," "Bloodshot," "Harbinger" and "X-O Manowar." Little has changed in these titles since their incarnation -- including the fact that they are very good.
The first "X-O Manowar" launched in May. "X-O" stars Aric of Dacia, a Visigoth warrior from the Roman Empire who was, in the first three issues, kidnapped by aliens, joined by the powerful -- and sentient -- X-O Manowar armor, and returned to Earth, albeit in the present day. It's kind of an Iron Man-Conan mash-up.
June brought "Harbinger" No. 1. It stars teenage orphan Peter Stanchek, the most powerful telepath/telekinetic on the planet -- except for Toyo Harada, the first person with psionic powers, or the psychic ability to induce paranormal phenomena, as Wikipedia says. Harada wants to recruit Stanchek to his worldwide organization of super-powered "harbingers."
"Bloodshot" No. 1 arrived in July. It's about a U.S. military black-ops agent who has microscopic machines in his system that allow him to rebuild himself from almost any injury, but also allow his minders to implant thousands of false memories to motivate and control him.
My personal favorite from Valiant's inception returns this month: "Archer & Armstrong." Armstrong is an immortal warrior who has developed a strong taste for alcohol and a stronger sense of boredom over the millennia. Archer is an accomplished martial artist raised in a Christian cult that's a front for a hidden organization searching for the secret to Armstrong's immortality. Archer is sent to kill Armstrong. Instead, the two become partners to discover what's really going on -- providing they don't kill each other first.