Publisher Flourishes as “Summer of Valiant” Comes to a Close

by Josh Starnes, CMRO Editor

Long-time comic book fans are sure to remember when adding the newest issue of any of Valiant’s titles was just as imperative as picking up the latest X-Men or Batman title.  The new owners of the Valiant brand seem intent on piggy backing on those sorts of fond memories and by all accounts they are succeeding.  The new/old publisher announced this week that it had sold out of its print-run for “Archer & Armstrong” #1–the fourth of its launch titles all of which came out this summer–at the same time they were adding “Shadowman” to their schedule this fall.

Closed since the final attempt to relaunch the series in 2000 with Unity 2000, the Valiant brand was bought from final owner Acclaim during that company’s own insolvency and relaunched this summer by former Marvel CEO Peter Cuneo and Hollywood entering Dinesh Shamdasani with fresh new takes on X-O Manowar, Harbinger and Bloodshot.

With the so-called ‘Summer of Valiant’ nearing its conclusion the company announced that it planned to have 15 titles in rotation by 2015, an ambitious plan by any standards, and is preparing its books to be able to minimize reader drop off and keep audiences coming back for more.

“Every new arc is a fresh “jumping on” point for readers. We’re really working hard to make each story-arc as new-reader friendly as possible,” Shamdasani told Newsarama on Monday. “We’re very lucky to have a tremendous first couple months here at Valiant; it exceeded our expectations on all levels. We have a lot of options going forward, and it all follows a very specific plan Fried Pierce put together in the past few years. We’ve been doing a lot of long-term planning, even before our first book came out.”

“The great thing about the Valiant Universe is that there’s something very exciting around every corner. I think we have a great opportunity to build something definitive and lasting. We’re not just jamming pieces together in our broader storytelling though; there’s logic underpinning all of our ties between the titles. I talk with the writers at-length about creating great individual titles and a great universe, and I’m excited with what we’ve come up with,” Executive Editor Walter Simmons added.

Old characters aren’t the only part of Valiant lore the publisher aims to bring back. At the Valiant panel at Comic Con the company announced it would be bringing back its Gold Logo program, issuing ultra-rare gold variant issues to fans who show their support for the company in a big way.

The Valiant staff plans to dig into its archives as well, looking to please both the old and new fan. Solicited for this October they company will be releasing Valiant Masters “Bloodshot” Vol. 1 containing the inaugural Bloodshot story arc from the first books run, along with a new original unprinted story from that era by the original “Bloodshot” team of writer Kevin Van Hook and artist Don Perlin.

“People may not remember this, but I too was part of the original Valiant line-up, as V.P. of Manufacturing and Operations,” new publisher Frank Pierce said. “I’d been gone from Valiant for almost twenty years, but still everyone asks about my time at Valiant so it’s great for me to come back full circle as publisher.”

After its successful launch in 1991, Valiant Comics grew to be one of the most popular brands in US comics. However, two years after its launch co-founder Jim Shooter was forced out of the company and print runs and numbers of titles were escalated to take advantage of the 1990’s comic book speculator boom. Finally, Valiant was sold to video game company Acclaim shortly before mid-1990s speculator crash leading to a period of transition for the company as it went through several creative hands while Acclaim upper management attempted to launch video games based on its characters including Shadowman and Turok. The cost of the acquisition proved too much as video game sales also dipped and Acclaim was eventually sold to Activision in bankruptcy while its holdings, including Valiant, were gradually sold off.

The Valiant publishing relaunch is not the only place to find some of the favorite characters from that period.  Starting in 2010, Valiant founder and original editor-in-chief Jim Shooter has been writing the adventures of the Valiant’s licensed Gold Key heroes–Magnus: Robot Fighter, Doctor Solar and Turok: Son of Stone–for Dark Horse Comics.

Avengers vs. X-Men #8 Review

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

Avengers vs. X-Men

Issue #8

Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Adam Kubert

Published: September 2012

Who knew that Namor could be just a bad-ass with just the right twist of crazy mixed in? Apparently Brian Bendis did and I think he really did a great job in this issue with bringing out a side of Namor I had never seen before, nor guessed was in him. While the last book was very engaging to me on a lot of levels, I think this one will appeal well to the masses. Bendis gets down and dirty as we finally get a real big battle going on between both sides with some serious hurt being laid down on both sides of the battle line.

The stakes are starting to get bigger and the larger style battle finally captures that this is a big deal for the future of the planet. Hopefully it will escalate some more, but so far it is on the right track. We have some great one-on-one action as well as group fights making for a very violent issue and I loved every panel of it!

For art we get a big team effort with Adam Kubert and John Dell doing the pencil work. I really don’t have much experience with these two but the overall work I will label as really good. There was a ton of action, big scenes, and lots of good facial work going on. The colors were vibrant and helped define things well as one would hope in a big Avengers comic.

This issue cranks up to a solid 9 out of 10 for me. It feels like this series is really hitting its’ stride nicely and looks like the story and tension are building nicely to a very dramatic ending. It was great having such a big battle in Wakanda for some nice variety. Hopefully they will keep shifting the battlefield around the world to showcase the global aspect of this conflict. I can’t wait for more of this series!

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Son of Hulk #7 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Son of Hulk

Issue #7

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Jackson Guice

Published: March 2009

Skaar: Son of Hulk #7 marks our protagonist’s leap toward villainy. Skaar certainly isn’t a Red King sort of villain, who kills people just for fun. Instead, he’s more of a Magneto-style villain, doing some horrible things in the name of good intentions.

As of last issue, Skaar regained the Old Power. Now he uses it to take vengeance on those who killed innocents on Sakaar. He starts with one of the Red King’s loyalists who blew up Crown City and killed Caiera. He moves on to try to kill Axeman Bone, but the Axeman is clever enough to leave the ground where the Old Power cannot follow him. Instead, Skaar threatens the Axeman’s children. It’s pretty low to threaten kids, but at the same time it’s hard to feel for Axeman Bone as he panics for his family, since he’s spent the last year killing children across the planet.

Skaar is delayed in his vengeance first by Hiro-Kala, the slave who now wields the Old Power as well. Hiro-Kala can hear Caiera’s voice, too, and calls out to Skaar to stop the madness. Skaar refuses, calling himself the killer of killers, so another force has to intervene. This time it’s the Silver Surfer, who comes to Skaar with a deal. Now that the Old Power has been accessed, Skaar can send the ancient great stone ships of Sakaar to evacuate the planet. The Surfer, once again acting as a herald of Galactus, plans to then contact his master. The Old Power within the planet will be enough to satiate Galactus for a hundred thousand years, saving billions of lives. Pretty tempting, and it’s a great way to cement Skaar as a true hero.

Unfortunately, Skaar cares little for the lives of those beyond Sakaar. Consumed with the desire to gain revenge against those who have killed others, he attacks the Surfer instead of helping. The Surfer proves that the Old Power is nothing compared to the power cosmic, stripping Skaar of his newfound abilities and restoring the magic to the core of the planet. Unfortunately, this means that the stone ships can’t be powered, which means that millions are going to die when Galactus comes to feed.

Again, Skaar either doesn’t care or doesn’t understand. Attacking the Surfer from behind, he plants an obedience disk on him, enslaving the herald of Galactus. You’d think by now that the Surfer knows to stay away from Sakaar – nothing good ever comes from it.

Skaar has been walking the line between hero and monster for a while, and now it looks like he’s coming down on the side of being a monster. Unlike his father, who has mild-mannered Bruce Banner to temper his rage, Skaar knows only pain and hatred and combat. Emotionally, he’s still a kid, and now he’s been given incredible power. Rather than see the big picture, he’s going for the instant gratification of delivering vengeance directly. His motives are understandable, but his actions are still deplorable.

Skaar’s journey to find the Old Power is now over, which means we no longer have to speculate what kind of person he is. That means that these issues should be faster-paced than the preceding storyline. By bringing back the Surfer, Greg Pak hearkens back to his great success in Planet Hulk. While Skaar: Son of Hulk #7 does not compare to that great storyline, it is the kickoff of an interesting new development, wherein we see Skaar as his own man rather than viewing him as a poor man’s Hulk. The story looks like it’s only going to get more interesting from here on out, and this is a nice jumping on point for those interested in the next chapter.

Daredevil #15 Review

by Nick Walden, CMRO Contributing Writer

Daredevil

Issue #15

Written by Mark Waid, Art by Chris Samnee

Published: September 2012

I seriously cannot get enough of this Daredevil re-launch. Mark Waid has done an exceptional job of taking the base character of Daredevil/Matt Murdock and exploring and developing who his is and what drives him oh so well. In just over a year he has challenged the character so much more than in previous runs and it is such a great journey to be a part of. Since Daredevil has so few powers it really is a lot more about his personality and life that drives the character and story more than just him saving the world.

This book is a shining example of what Waid is able to accomplish. Daredevil is trapped in Latveria and basically has lost his radar sense. So Wait takes the opportunity to work within Matt’s mind and let us see things from that perspective as he struggles to overcome this adversity.

Chris Samnee is all over this storyline doing great things (in my opinion) with the panels to really accentuate the pure gloom of Castle Doom as well has the emotional tone that Daredevil is dealing with. The color work is also exceptional, really matching the mood as the story shifts and making the tone very apparent. While I really enjoyed Paola Rivera on pencils, Samnee is going strong and making his own case as to why he should stay on this book. The style is different but he really owns what he is doing instead of trying to copy previous style. It ends up working well, at least for this book and the last issue as well. Maybe things will be different in a more normal setting like New York, but in this book it goes really well.

The result is a nice solid 9 out of 10 again on Daredevil. This book has had more 9+ ratings from me in the last year than anything else and all comic fans should be reading it. There is even a bit of an interesting ending which really makes me anxious for the next book.

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Tales of Suspense #81 Review

by jfpj1991, CMRO User

Tales of Suspense

Issue #81

Written by Stan Lee, Art by Jack Kirby

Published: June 1966

I much anticipated this issue. We saw in the issues of Tales of Suspense (and Tales to Astonish) that Tony was going to testify for Senator Byrd’s committee and the Cosmic Cube in the hands of the Red Skull.

Tony seems to have decided tor relinquish his secrets regarding the Iron Man armor, and perhaps his secret identity as well. This makes the reader tense with the expectations of what to follow. I’ve been a fan of comic for years, but because I’ve never read this arc in particular, I do not know what exactly will happen with Tony’s identity and that keeps me on the edge of my seat.

We also see Titanium Man return to the scene. Personally, I found the introductory arc involving the Titanium Man to be incredible. It was emotional and action packed.

The only weak spot during all this great plot is nothing much happens in this issue. We see Tony thinking while heading to Washington in various modes of transportation, and we see the revitalization, preparation, and initial return of Titanium man. That one sentence sums it all up.

The Cosmic Cube issue was very lackluster in comparison to what it could have been. I can understand the Red Skull wanting to see Cap pulverized and punished, but one artificial man could never accomplish that. Then he buys that Captain America will serve him. He may feel overconfident, but he has learned through countless battles with his archenemy to never let his guard down around Captain America. The loss of the cube is very anti-climatic and the worst part is, the cube was man-made by A.I.M, so it could easily be recreated as some point, but Captain America doesn’t seem to consider this. He focuses solely on the one cube that has been buried.

Overall with such monumental appearances and letdowns, it all evens out for a 3 out of 5 stars rating.

Son of Hulk #6 Review

by Charlie Brooks, CMRO Contributing Writer

Son of Hulk

Issue #6

Written by Greg Pak, Art by Ron Garney

Published: February 2009

Skaar: Son of Hulk #6 has a few problems with pacing, but provides some interesting new twists to Skaar’s story regardless. The issue continues the journey of Skaar and his companions as they try to access the Old Power and unlock the son of the Hulk’s full potential.

Skaar provides both amusement and menace overall. He forgets that most people get incinerated when they’re exposed to lava, but drags his companions along on a rock island after being reminded. He also threatens to kill some of them, which leaves many frightened but which causes Old Sam to point out that while Skaar talks a tough game, he has protected innocents so far.

Old Sam also provides one big bombshell of the issue when he explains the origins of the legend of the Sakaarson. This story, which has driven just about everything on Sakaar since Planet Hulk, turns out to have been entirely made up by Old Sam. He old man saw some of Marvel’s cosmic heroes from an observatory and modeled the Sakaarson after some of them, which explains why the natives thought the Silver Surfer was their savior back in Planet Hulk. Sam did this as a way of bringing hope to the world. It’s an interesting twist and one that can probably be read as a commentary on religion in general, but I’m going to give Greg Pak the benefit of the doubt and assume that it wasn’t some sort of author tract.

Chased by the forces of Axeman Bone, the refugees find a city and another surprise. The Red King has been reborn and bonded with machinery thanks to some wildebot technology following his death in battle against the Hulk. He now claims to have a new outlook on life, and offers to help Skaar access the Old Power of Prophet Rock.

The Red King’s reappearance seems like it should be the cliffhanger of the issue, but it happens at about the two-thirds mark instead. While I like the fact that the story isn’t padded out like so many comics these days are, I can’t help but feel that the pacing seems a bit uneven as a result. Regardless of the pacing, though, the conflict set up by the Red King’s reappearance is excellent. Princess Omaka immediately attacks the man who now claims to be her father. When Skaar decides to side with the Red King and access the Old Power, the alliance with the worst monster the planet has ever seen causes Omaka and Old Sam to defect, going to join forces with Axeman Bone instead.

What we do get for a cliffhanger at the end of this issue is the return of the Silver Surfer, which is a choice I applaud. The Surfer is the first character who really knows the Hulk and who can draw a direct comparison between father and son here.

This issue has its share of pacing problems, but also has some thought-provoking moments and interesting twists. We’ll see very soon what kind of hero or monster Skaar really is. The return of the Red King is a great addition to the story, and the arrival of the Silver Surfer provides a hint of interesting things to come. Even if this particular issue has a few drawbacks, it sets up for better stories.

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Strange Tales #146 Review

by jfpj1991, CMRO User

Strange Tales

Issue #146

Written by Stan Lee, Art by Jack Kirby

Published: July 1966

There were two things about the first part of this issue that really stood out to me.

The first was the pacing. We see the action sequences as Fury employs various methods of attack against the differing types of androids being created in the base of THEM. This is simultaneous with what we see at the base. There seems to be a growing sentiment within the top tiers of the hierarchy that Fury is not the man for the job. This is first shown by the general’s disregard for the two security agent’s assigned duty requirements. Later this is also shown within the board room, despite Fury showing how competent he can be when dealing with real threats like Hydra.

The second was how neatly THEM and AIM was connected in them mind of the audience and Fury. The writers have been linking the two for a few issues, prior to this, but this time we finally see it all come full circle. We know that the two entities are one in the same now. This issue also shows that unlike many fanatical groups, the geniuses that comprise AIM are not willing to sacrifice their own lives to kill Nick Fury. This develops the character of AIM as a whole, and allows Fury an advantage to know his enemy a little better.

The second portion of this issue was a huge letdown. It wrapped up almost every storyline that Strange has had. First we see Dorammamu fighting Eternity. There are some well drawn panels (points for that) regarding the fight but it seems so short for such an epic battle. I do realize that it is difficult to draw a fight sequence when the battle is taking place on a plane that is supposed to be beyond human comprehension. Therefore, I cannot deduct many points for that particular item. The rest of the story wrapped up too neatly for my taste. The woman, Clea, was saved. Mordo was instantly the prisoner of the Ancient One, and Strange, along with essentially a newly sworn in army, run off to fight evil. This would create a decent jumping on point in the future for new readers of the time, but I feel this could have all been resolved over the course of several issues, rather than being rushed.

Because of the points I mentioned from the Fury story, and the nature of Dr. Strange, I give this issue a solid 3 stars out of 5.