I don’t work for these folks, and I have no illusions about my marketing prowess, but someone over at corporate should have known to kick off 2017 by declaring it the Year of Valiant. Or something to that effect. Matt Kindt’s X-O Manowar is one of the most gorgeous and engrossing space fantasies in years; Heisserer and Allen have mastered the misfit hero shtick in Secret Weapons; Faith and The Future Force is that rare breed of superhero event books that is actually fun; and now, Jeff Lemire offers up yet another exhilarating jumping-on point for readers interested in learning what Bloodshot’s all about. Along with art by Lewis LaRosa and Mico Suayan, Bloodshot: Salvation #1 picks up after the conclusion of Lemire’s Bloodshot: Reborn and Bloodshot U.S.A. stories. This first issue contains the right amount of backstory to get the uninitiated up to speed, and then it’s right back into the best action movie in comics.
Ray Garrison is Bloodshot, a nanite-powered super soldier commissioned by Project Rising Spirit to do its covert (and sometimes not so covert) dirty work. Both in origin and abilities, he’s basically a cross between Wolverine and The Punisher, but Lemire hasn’t allowed uninspiring similarities to prevent him from developing a distinct character, or to tell stories that live in their own world of government conspiracies, super-powered death machines, and high-tech wizardry. As is often the case with Lemire books, this issue plays with linear narrative chronology, hopping between the near future and the recent past.
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Not since Jim Shooter pulled an impressive assemblage of creators together in the early 90’s has Valiant garnered this much attention. And, arguably, never in the company’s history has the acclaim been as well deserved as it is right now. Jody Houser’s Faith series, chronicling the adventures of Zephyr, found itself in many of last year’s best-of lists. And this week, she’s back with a brand new event series, Faith & The Future Force, featuring a team of Valiant heroes from across the timestream. Despite attempting to keep the lowest of profiles following being framed for murder, Faith Herbert can think of only one possible response when being told, “Come with me if you want to save history.” I mean, we’ve all wanted to hear those words, yeah?
And this really underscores the primary appeal of Faith. While generations of comic book superheroes have captured various aspects of human virtue, representing our greatest qualities and most profound aspirations, Faith is one of those rare heroes who truly feels human. She looks like a real person, talks like a real person, and behaves how any one of us fanboys and girls would likely behave if given half the chance to save the city, the world, or, indeed, all of history.
Together with Timewalker and Ank, the dinosaur lady, Faith must skip across time to combat a killer robot who seems to be consuming every action movie catchphrase, while decimating everything else. The book is beautifully illustrated by Stephen Segovia and Barry Kitson, with vibrant colors by Ulises Arreola, and is another big win for Valiant in 2017.
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Jeff Lemire already dominates the comic book shelves. Whether it’s his outstanding creator-owned series for Image and Dark Horse, his superhero work for Marvel and Valiant, or the bookcase full of Vertigo trades and original graphic novels, the indefatigable Lemire already has your attention. And deservedly so. But his new Image book may deserve the most attention of all. Royal City is at once a return to the comics work that first introduced us to Lemire almost a decade ago, and, at the same time, something unlike anything he’s done before.
Like the graphic novels that comprised his Essex County trilogy, beginning with 2008’s Tales from the Farm, Lemire’s new book is a realistic family drama set in smalltown North America. Unlike those singular, well-defined stories, however, Royal City is an ongoing title, a format that lends itself to longer “seasons,” if you will, and an opportunity to fully explore the Pike family and the human tremors that epicenter from the titular town. In his afterword, in fact, Lemire mentions being inspired by this Golden Age of Television. And I have to say, the first thing I thought of after reading this first issue was Netflix’s Bloodline. There’s a shaky familiarity to every tense exchange, every terse comment, like the way you’re afraid of a Eugene O’Neill play because of the truths it uncovers.
The inciting event, family patriarch Peter’s stroke, brings the three siblings and their associated baggage into focus. Patrick returns from the big city, where he’s a novelist struggling against writer’s block; Tara is a real estate developer looking to turn the city’s manufacturing center into a resort community; and Richard works at the aforementioned factory – or would work, if he was ever sober. And then there’s one more sibling, Tommy, who moves through the narrative as a haunting memory unique to each family member.
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