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.
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.
Once again, Valiant Entertainment requests your attention. Last month, for Free Comic Book Day, the company led with a story pulled from Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello’s outstanding X-O Manowar relaunch. That book also contained a preview of this week’s Secret Weapons by Eric Heisserer, Raul Allen, and Patricia Martin. This isn’t the same Valiant super-team from the 90’s, however. And, as such, much like the new X-O, it serves as a great jumping-on point for readers looking to find out what the fuss is all about.
Amanda McKee, AKA Livewire, is the lone carry-over from the original crossover series. After learning that her former employer, Toyo Harada, has been disposing of powered psiots whose abilities are considered less than useful, Livewire takes it upon herself to track down and protect as many of these scared young kids as she can. Together, this new Secret Weapons team prepares to fight off a deadly power-absorbing cyborg codenamed Rex-O, armed with not-so-devastating skills like talking to birds, conjuring umbrellas, and making random shit glow. The result is an engaging getting-the-band-together adventure that sits somewhere between Warren Ellis’s Wildstorm and virtually every one of Marvel’s young mutant books.
In this new heroic age of superpowered entertainment, I’ve begrudgingly accepted the fact that Hollywood is now driving the bus. Characters I’ve known and loved for decades have undergone some subtle and some not-so-subtle transformations in recent years, as the origin stories and personality traits developed onscreen work to inform their comic book identities. I’ve made peace with it. I like this world we’re living in, and I appreciate the fact that, given movies like this month’s Logan, folks are finally starting to realize that “superhero” isn’t a genre unto itself. Superpowers are a tool, not unlike science-fiction tropes or fantasy archetypes, that are being used to tell lots of different stories and to explore many different themes. It’s a fun time to be a comic book fan.
And I appreciate the fact that so many of Netflix’s MCU shows have been so damn good that we expect big things from their new Iron Fist series. But what happens when the show doesn’t live up to expectations? If Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange had been lousy, would Marvel have yanked Jason Aaron from the monthly series? Would we never have seen the development of the recent Sorcerers Supreme comic? And if Netflix’s Fist ends up being as bad as the critics seems to indicate (and as at least one Idler has attested), will the new Iron Fist comic by Ed Brisson and Mike Perkins suffer neglect and early cancellation?
Hopefully not. Whatever this comic is, and whatever editorial or departmental mandates it’s trying to fulfill, it’s first and foremost a gritty, kung-fu slugfest. And so long as that’s the case, I’m interested.