In 1989, at the leading edge of the heady days of when it seemed as if every comicbook company was interested in creating a holistic comicbook superhero universe, Voyager Communications, headed up by former Marvel Editor-in-Chief, Jim Shooter, established the Valiant Universe. This comicbook universe consisted of a conglomeration of new characters (Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Rai, and Shadowman) as well as a number of previously-existing, revived characters (Magnus, Robot Fighter, Dr. Mirage, Solar, and Turok). In 1994 the company was sold to Acclaim Entertainment, and the titles were re-launched under the Acclaim Comics banner, which lasted ‘til 2002 when the entire line was disbanded, which was too bad, as there were quite a number of very interesting characters and concepts bound up in that universe.
Welcome to 2012, and the new Valiant universe. Beginning in May of 2012 a reformed Valiant Entertainment began serving up new incarnations of several of their original characters, beginning with X-O Manowar, and including Harbinger (June); Bloodshot, (July), Archer & Armstrong (August) and Shadowman (November) the company is making a major push to re-enter the comicbook market. All four of the initial offerings delivering versions of the original characters that essentially follow the same histories of their initial incarnations, albeit with subtle differences. In effect providing not only what are essentially new characters for a new generation of comicbook readers, but familiar iterations for older readers who perhaps recall the first (or second) round.
Judging by what we have seen thus far, the new titles all are fairing quite well in walking that line between what was (and what some fans expect), and what is to come (becoming difference enough so that the new books aren’t simply a rehash of what went on before). X-O Manowar is still the Visigoths barbarian from in 402 A.D. who finds himself symbiotically linked to a nearly indestructible alien armor; Harbinger is Peter Stanchek a very powerful psionic with extraordinary power and even greater potential who is being sought after by Toyo Harada to become a part of his elite fighting team. Bloodshot a man with a past that has been whipped clean, distorted, and reloaded back into his head to suit whatever job he’s been programmed to do. He’s not really sure who he is, but what he does know is that he is a cyberneticly-enhanced meta-human who is now a self-regenerating killing machine.
Archer & Armstrong are one of the moist unlikely team to ever partner up. Armstrong is a nearly indestructible immortal, who is more interested in drinking and whoring around than in saving mankind, while the young Archer is a true innocent who was raised in a twisted religious enclave with which he is now at odds with having discovered their nefarious true purpose. Shadowman is Jack Boniface is a mystic living in New Orleans, who has been charged with protecting the corporeal world from all of the supernatural horrors that lie just beyond the fragile curtain that separates us from them. Together with Ninjak, the world’s most lethal assassin, and others these characters form the basis for the new Valiant universe.
This new universe is not only a less whimsical than it was back in the late ‘80s, but it also seems to be held together on a much firmer footing than it was at that time. To be sure, there were certain strong ties that bound that universe together, this time around, it seems as if there was a more cohesive plan as to not only what is related to what, but how it will all shake out over the long haul. Perhaps it is due to the fact that today’s creators have a loose blueprint of what went down before so they at least have some sort of a framework on which to drape their word. Or, it could be, perhaps that this new Valiant world had is a much darker, edgier place, that its predecessor. Still even as it feels like familiar ground that we the readers are treading, we know that the current crop of very talented creators are not completely bound by what has previously occurred — which makes this incarnation all that much more interesting.
So, regardless of whether or not you were around for the initi8al outing of these characters, discovered the comics in the bargain bin, or just met them as you walked through the doors of you local comic shop you need to know that you are certainly in for a wild ride.