I hope I’m not jinxing it, but I’m going to call the new Valiant Comics a success story.
The original Valiant Entertainment exploded on the scene in 1989 and quickly became the third-largest comics publisher in the United States. But the company was sold to Acclaim in 1994, and management indifference and industry changes contributed to Valiant throwing in the towel by 2004.
The company has been resurrected by an entirely new team, and launched five new titles in 2012. Those books reintroduced most of the major characters of the old Valiant Universe, minus those whose rights were no longer available.
First out of the gate is “X-O Manowar Volume One: By the Sword” ($9.99), which tells the story of Aric of Dacia, a fifth-century Visigoth captured by aliens. He escapes enslavement by stealing (or being stolen by) the X-O Manowar armor, a mysterious, sentient Iron Man suit that is even more technologically advanced than his captors. Then he returns to Earth to discover, to his shock and dismay, that 16 centuries have passed. Everything and everyone he knew — including his beloved wife — are long since dust.
The art is by Cary Nord, formerly of Dark Horse’s “Conan” books, and is well-suited to a physical-action series, especially the scenes set in the blood and grime of the fifth century. The writing, by newcomer Robert Venditti, impressed me less — it offered little that I hadn’t already seen in the 1990s.
But that’s going to change with this summer’s big X-O storyline, “Planet Death.” Unlike his ’90s predecessor, according to Valiant publisher Fred Pierce, this Aric will attack the alien race that stole his life.
Next up is “Harbinger Volume One: Omega Rising” ($9.99), which also resurrects a concept from the ’90s. But this one takes everything up a notch.
Harbingers, in the Valiant Universe, are people born with psychic powers. They’ve only begun appearing since World War II, and one of the first is Toyo Harada, who is exceptionally powerful — one of only two known “omega-level” Harbingers. Harada has used his powers to build the enormously powerful Harbinger corporation, which quietly recruits and trains Harbingers to use their powers constructively. Or so he says.
The other omega Harbinger is Peter Stanchek, a homeless American teenager being crushed by the downsides of his power — he can’t tune out the thoughts surrounding him, he endangers everyone he loves and he doesn’t know if he’s sane or not. But one thing he’s sure of is that he doesn’t trust Harada, and he recruits other Harbingers of similar sentiment to battle this Professor X wannabe. The conflict between Harada’s Harbingers and Stanchek’s Renegades, and the murky moral ground both inhabit, is the core of the series.
The storybook world is expanding this summer with the new Valiant’s first crossover, a miniseries called “Harbinger Wars.” It ties together both “Harbinger” proper and Valiant’s third series, “Bloodshot.”