Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wednesday Is A Valiant Revival For All I Care #168

Harbinger #1 (2012)
Revival #4
Revival #5
Shadowman #1 (2012)

Harbinger #1 (Valiant, 2012, $3.99)
I never read much Harbinger, though I did like the prototypes Psi-Force and D.P.7 when they were in the New Universe. I know that it was basically Scanners meets The Fury meets Firestarter, assuming there's a need to speak of those properties as separate entities. Point being, I have no nostalgia going into this revamp, and judge it on its own merits. Luckily, it has them.

I kind of doubt the old series' protagonist was an escapee from a youth psyche ward carrying a pill dependent buddy on the lam. Not only is the series grounded in a very recognizable reality, but the attention to contemporary details makes the book feel of this time without wallowing in forced "newness." Joshua Dysart's dialogue is solid, and while his plot is cinematically decompressed, there's plenty enough details within that structure to get a feel for the characters, their world, and the trajectory of the story. Khari Evans' art recalls a looser Phil Winslade, perfect for the texture of the story. I look forward to reading the trade.

Revival #4 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
I can't say this enough-- I thoroughly enjoy Mike Norton's art and he's bringing serious game to this title, but he's still an entirely inappropriate choice to draw this story. The book looks friendly and clean and light and super-heroish, even when an adulterer is lying in bed with his disemboweled guts spread all over the sheets. Everything is too beautiful to be horrifying, which means an essential element is stripped out of a supernatural thriller. I wish Hack/Slash wasn't ending, since that book is more about sex and swagger with glossy slasher action that Norton would be better suited to handle.

The cliffhanger from last issue doesn't resolve at all like a thought it might, rapidly letting the air out of the situation. A coroner pokes a charred corpse with a knife and nasty commentary, yet somehow recalls Paul Pelletier's days on Ultraverse books more than Charlie Adlard on Walking Dead. The cast really has swollen like a daytime soap opera, and looks the part, despite aiming for True Blood naughty edge. So many things work on this book, as I truly enjoy Tim Seeley's writing, but those great things appear to work in opposition of one another. It's a shame, really.

Revival #5 (Image, 2012, $2.99)
I've been getting my comics by mail order from one distributor for a decade, but their incompetence since changing hands a year or so back has seen me shop around. I've had copies of these two issues of Revival lying around for a while, and I'm pretty sure I ordered #6 from the old guys. The new guys sent me the trade collection of #1-5 last Saturday, and if #6 had been released, it would have come in a shipment that still hasn't arrived a week after the new distributors'. I mention all this because a) if you're in the same boat, jump into a lifebuoy with better packing material and b) the first arc of Revival didn't end in a fashion worthy of filling multiple paragraphs on its own.

The most interesting character in the series to date appears to buy it in this issue, and that apparent death is the only real closure to be found. Martha becomes a full-on heroine, which contributes to the undermining of the "rural noir" promised on the covers by the cartoony art. A bunch of new subplots kick in, while nothing really resolves. I'm going to switch to trades, because the book doesn't seem to work as monthly floppies, but the next collection needs to supply a better balanced story if I'm going to stick with the series in any capacity.

Shadowman #1 (Valiant, 2012, $3.99)
I made an effort, often far too much of one, to sample all of the burgeoning comic book universes of the 1990s. This explains the complete set of Comics Greatest World that I read once a piece with consistent disappointment and regret. I ended up at DC, since that was the only place that had a wealth of (sometimes interconnected) comics that I wanted to read, whereas every place else I simply cherrypicked a favorite or two. At Valiant, Shadowman was my jam, even though it was rarely all that good of a read. It simply played to my bias for nighttime avengers of heinous misdeeds, plus I loved the name, symbol, and various costumes. Bob Hall added a lot to the lore of the character, and knocked a few issues out of the park, which was enough to keep me around through the end of the first volume. I never had any use for the Garth Ennis hack job that spawned the video games.

I liked the first issue of the new volume disproportionately well when you factor in the actual quality of work. Objectively, it's a shitty half-assed mash-up of common cliche found in any number of other titles currently being published. I don't want to be that fan, but the first volume took a while to find its groove, and this book would have felt fresher by synthesizing the original and later versions of Shadowman into one all-killer, no-filler amalgam. By departing from the source material, writer Justin Jordan dives head first into the orphan with mysterious parents discovering a birthright of power to protect the night from demonic zzzzzzzzzz...

Snores and whining aside, I'll still end up buying the trade. The updated costume keeps enough of the iconic but bland first look, while giving it more of the rugged edge of the Bob Hall version. The stark white skull face is a lot tighter than the old outsized Mardi Gras mask, and the asymmetrical placement of the Shadowman symbol is a smart call. I'm not so sure about the collapsible scythe, but I guess the guy could use a trademark weapon. We've got Jack Boniface back, even though he's the character in name and looks only. I'm pretty sure his absentee father is meant to evoke Maxim St. James, a good thing. Master Darque looks tight, and the raggedy demons on the loose are decent enough early issue fodder. Patrick Zircher's art is fabulous, and Shadowman is looking tough. You know, I'm a fan of the property, and the creative team basically just have to not shake me loose. So far, it's good enough, warts and all.


mathematicscore said...

I've been digging Archer and Armstrong, by our fellow MM booster Fred Van Lente, and my Barbarian vs modernism fetish means I was on X-O immediately. The new concept on Bloodshot didn't hook me though.

Diabolu Frank said...

If Valiant follows through with plans to make all their introductory trades $9.95, I'll give each a shot. $4 for a floppy is too much, though.


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