Five Awesome Valiant Entertainment Books
by: Jake Hill
It feels like superheroes are everywhere today. They’re TV almost every night of the week and in movie theaters every month. Most of these heroes are hailing from the Big Two, Marvel and DC. We love those time-tested supermen and women, but with decades of backstory, retcons, reboots, and continuity snarls, sometimes it can be hard to dive into a character. Enter Valiant Comics.
Valiant first started publishing superhero books in the 1990s. The publisher vanished for a while, but was restored in 2012 and since then have put out some of the most diverse and compelling superhero books on the stands. Valiant strives to have approachable and consistent continuity between their books, while promising the crazy high concept hijinx we expect from a superhero comic.
In just a few years, Valiant has put out a number of different comics, across a bunch of different superhero genres in their ongoing shared universe. Here are five Valiant titles to check out for a fan who wants their superheroes to be a little different.
Faith Herbert debuted in Harbinger as part of the Renegades, a team of Psiots, born with psychic powers and on the run from various bad guys who would want to control them. She was so gosh-darn excited to be a superhero that she started calling herself Zephyr, and went on a bunch of crazy superhero adventures. Now she’s working as an upbeat entertainment blogger in L.A. Faith is totally upbeat, and is always looking for someone to talk about her thinly veiled parody of a Marvel Cinematic Universe Tumblr, or her Sherlock fan fiction with.
Faith has been recommended as a good superhero comic by plenty of comics focused sites, but also as a good comic for libraries to recommend in Library Journal, and a was a book of the year on NPR. The comic is lauded for how enthusiastically artists Marguerite Sauvage & Francis Portela celebrate the female body, in this case the body of an unapologetically fat female superhero, a rarity in, well, everywhere. Faith is one of the few, and the book takes full advantage in having a lot to say about that.
The story in Faith is a self contained mystery, only really concerning characters who appear in the single trade paperback. If you decide to branch out and check out other books in the Valiant Universe, Faith is a main character in Harbinger and goes on adorable dates with Obadiah Archer in Archer and Armstrong.
Colin King is Ninjak, the top MI6 agent in the Valiant universe. Not above using underhanded tricks, Ninjak poisoned his opponent before his first fight in his first appearance. By the time he was on the page and the fight started, it had already been won. He is at first an antagonist in X-O Manowar, but Ninjak has gone on to be in demand for almost every superhero team in the Valiant universe.
The best place to catch this suave ninja is in his self-titled first volume Ninjak. King is half charming, gadget loving superspy and half shadowy Katana master. The crown sends him to bring down black market weapon dealers Weaponeer, and he comes up against crazy Bond-esque supervillains, including deadly assassin Roku. Roku is a psychic with full control over her razor-wire hair. She’s super weird, and a perfect example of the kinds of threats Ninjak comes up against.
When he’s not chilling in his palatial ninja mansion, Ninjak makes appearances as a villain or ally in just about every other Valiant series including Bloodshot, Unity, and the Valiant.
Archer and Armstrong
Obidiah Archer is a superpowered assassin raised in a science-deying Christian theme park. His senator mother and preacher father taught him that God is great, sex and alcohol are bad, and cavemen rode dinosaurs until they were killed in God’s great flood. Aram Anni-Padda (sometimes just called Armstrong) was a prince in ancient Mesopotamia until a mystical accident gave him eternal life. Now he agelessly wanders the earth drinking all the best booze, writing sensitive poetry, and trying to pick up beautiful ladies. Archer is sent to kill Armstrong, but after a battle with an evil capitalist cult, the 1%, they become best friends, and team up for a life of adventure and hilarity.
Archer and Armstrong is part of the lighter side of the Valiant universe. The book is a straight farce, but a combination of clever adventure and shocking pathos make it a worthy superhero story as well. The titular duo mainly battles ancient conspiracies, but they occasionally run into other denizens of the Valiant world, travel through time, or team up with battle nuns to solve mysteries left by the sculptor Michelangelo.
In many ways, Bloodshot is similar to the X-Men’s Wolverine. He was turned into a living weapon, can heal from any wound, and he has no memory of his life before he was experimented on. Of all of Valiant’s heroes, Bloodshot is the one who most retains his ‘90s roots. He’s stoic, violent, and despite having access to insane nanite-based superpowers, he mostly uses guns to solve his problems.
If that sounds like your jam, you could check out the Duane Swierczynski Bloodshot series. It explores the original mystery of Bloodshot trying to learn the secrets of his past and figure out how he got to be the way that he is. If ‘90s comics are not your thing, you still might enjoy Bloodshot: Reborn. Penned by Jeff Lemire, this picks up a bit later in Bloodshot’s career, at a time that his powers aren’t functioning to their full potential. It finds the humanity and vulnerability in an otherwise emotionally detatched anti-hero.
Valiant likes to use Bloodshot in crossovers. He’s a relatively simple character, so he’s an easy point of view for some of their more outlandish stories. He’s also slated to appear (alongside Ninjak) in their upcoming live-action webseries, and there is a discussion of a Bloodshot movie ushering in a Valiant Cinematic Universe.
Finally, the most recent comic on this list, Britannia represents the historical adventure side of Valiant. One unique thing about the Valiant universe is that while there is a lot of time travel, events are rather set in stone, allowing writers to jump around to other time periods like the far future or in this case, the distant past. Antonius Axia is “the world’s first detective” and serves Emperor Nero in 65 A.D.
A number of Valiant’s characters such as Armstrong, or his ageless brother the Eternal Warrior, are immortal and thus have the opportunity to show up in the ancient world. Other characters, such as Shadowman or the Geomancer, are titles that have existed for many years, and the previous holders are woven throughout Valiant’s history.
The first Britannia miniseries is relatively self contained, but 2017 looks to be bringing us another Anotonius Axia comic, perhaps bringing him face to face with Valiant’s immortals.
Each of these titles touches on different corners and flavors of what Valiant has to offer.There’s plenty to dive into, including supernatural detective Doctor Mirage, the wacky antics of Quantum and Woody, and Valiant’s flagship character X-O Manowar, the Visigoth Iron Man. There’s a lot of possibilities in the superhero genre, and some of the best stories are coming from newer publishers.
Have you already read a Valiant book or two? Are you one of the die-hard fans? What was your first Valiant book?