This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the comic book publisher Valiant Comics.
This week I wanted to draw your attention to a publisher that I feel is one of the most underrated publishers around right now, Valiant. Although you may (or may not – no judgment here) remember Valiant from when the publisher launched in 1992, but because this was never intended to be a History Of Valiant piece suffice it to say the Valiant of the nineties isn’t the same as the Valiant of today (if you want to read more about the different iterations of the publisher over the years, you can head to the Wikipedia page). The Valiant that’s publishing some of the best comics in the industry today started publishing comics in 2012, launching X-O Manowar in May to be followed by another three series over the coming months.
Although I remember hearing about Valiant from the British magazine Comic Heroes, my LCS didn’t really have that many Valiant comics in every month; I was able to pick up a couple issues of Eternal Warrior: Days Of Steel, but it wasn’t until I started writing for Graphic Policy in 2015 that I fell in love with Valiant.
Why, you might ask?
Well, dear reader, I shall tell you! I’m going to give you some easily digestible bullet points in a little bit, but before I do that I wanted to reiterate that I am unabashedly a big fan of anything Valiant have put out since they relaunched. While there are a few series I have left to read, I can honestly say that I haven’t read a bad Valiant comic yet. Sure, there are some that don’t measure up to the others, but even those haven been better than at least one or two of the other comics I read in any given week.
Before I discovered Valiant, I was primarily a Marvel fan who enjoyed his comics with a side of Batman, although I found myself gradually reducing my pull list to comics that weren’t from the Big Two as I began to lose interest in superhero comics for various reasons that weren’t entirely limited to the cyclical nature of Marvel’s big event that changes nothing, but sets up the next big event that also changes nothing but has multiple needless tie-ins that I didn’t care about… It was getting exhausting trying to keep up with every subsequent renumbering, crossover story or sales boosting initiative, and at the same time the quality of what I was reading had been steadily trending downward – a few comics aside – and I’d stopped reading them because I didn’t want to spend money on drivel.
By the time I joined Graphic Policy I had begun to drift toward standalone series from smaller publishers, but I was still missing the interconnected superhero titles that drew me into comics in the first place so many years ago. And then I was introduced to the most exciting superhero universe I had seen in a decade. I’ll admit to being hesitant to calling the Valiant characters superheroes, because very few of them are superheroes in the typical sense, but thanks to Valiant’s characters I found my faith in superheroes, and by extension comics, again.
Here come those bullet points I promised you.
- The Characters.
As I mentioned, I’d hesitate to call these characters superheroes in the traditional sense; they’re incredibly nuanced characters considering they’ve only been around for at most five years (in some cases, even though the characters were introduced in 2012 they may not have had continuous appearances since then).
Characters such as the time displaced warrior Aric Of Dacia who is in control of one of the most powerful and advanced weapons in the galaxy in the X-O Manowar armour. Reading about his struggle to free himself and his people form the alien race who enslaved them only to return to Earth to find that hundreds of years had passed… the comics within the fifty issue run that I have read so far feature some of the most incredible stories I’ve seen in comoc form. But then the same can easily be said for the recently ended Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior series featuring an immortal in service to the Earth itself; Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior, who has lived thousands of years serving the Earth as protector to the long line of Geomancers. Despite Gilad being one of my favourite comic book characters, it’s Faith Herbert’s adventures I most look forward to reading every month. Although she’s a heavier person, her weight is rarely ever the focal point of the character; instead it’s her relentless optimism, and that she just loves being a superhero that makes reading her comics so great. She is what Peter Parker would have been had he debuted within the last half decade.
- The Sheer Number Of Jumping On Points
Every preview email I’ve read, Valiant are quick to let you know whenever there’s a new jumping on point. Although more often than not that’s the first part of a new arc, I’ve actually found that these jumping on points are quite accessible to new readers because the publisher frequently has some concise recap pages to give you the relevant information to help you enjoy the comic ahead. Not every comic is going to be an ideal jumping on point, but Valiant’s CEO Dinesh Shamdasani has said the company tries to ensure that as many as possible can be. For the most part, I think they succeed in doing so – after all one of the first issues I read was X-O Manowar #38.
- Their Event Stories
Valiant Event stories tend to focus around a single miniseries (usually four issues) with four standalone tie-in single issues. Although there are some who would hesitate to call this format an event as the story doesn’t always cross into the ongoing comics that are being published month to month, I’m a big proponent of the format. It allows you to choose how many comics you want to pick up in relation to the event; whether that’s just the main four issue miniseries or if you’re going to go all in and get them all. Added to this, Valiant’s events have been received incredibly well critically over the last three years (the only one that struggled was 4001 A.D., and I think that had more to do with the fact it was a direct continuation of the story that had been building in Rai which resulted in having several pages of recap in the first issue of 4001 A.D.).Something that a lot of websites don’t seem to mention as often as we should is that a lot of Valiant’s miniseries have a sturdier cover that makes the comic feel much sturdier – I’m guilty of this, as I typically read the review copies rather than the print copies from my LCS in order to have the reviews ready every Wednesday.
- Their Comics Are The Dogs Bollocks.
I already mentioned how I haven’t read a bad Valiant comic, but what I didn’t say was how awesome their line is; nine weeks out of ten at least one of the three best comics I read that week would have been a Valiant book. Every week they have some of the best comics that I’ve read (and yes, I do read other comics), and they are pound for pound the best publisher of superhero comics in the market right now.
- The Fans.
This may seem like a cop out to say this, but Valiant’s fans are some of the most dedicated and passionate individuals you’re likely to find. They have created a genuine community of like minded individuals who are united in their love of the publishers comics. The Valiant Comic Fans Facebook group is a prime example of this, where recently one of the artists working of Faith, Joe Eisma, took the time to draw a free digital sketch for those who provided proof that they had, or would, be buying a copy of Faith #8 (you can see a selection of those sketches here).
I could easily keep writing about Valiant’s comics and characters, and why you should be reading them, but this is already longer than I expected it to be, so I’m going to cut it short here. There’s a good chance we’ll revisit this in the near future, but until that happens, if you’re wondering where you should start, Humble Bundle has a wide selection of some of Valiant’s comics and trades available over the next ten or so days here if you’re so inclined to find out just why the publisher is Underrated.