I remember the beginning, when Valiant published Magnus, Robot Fighter back in 1991, then came Solar and Harbinger. The giant Solar panel you assembled and those annoying coupons for Harbinger #0 you had to clip. I was along for the ride through Unity and beyond. All of it; the ouster of Jim Shooter, the ridiculous gimmicks that kept getting more ridiculous and gimmicky, the Acclaim years, the experimental phase with Bad Eggs and the Crossover. Then we had the return of Shooter and the heartbreak of two implosions. So why the heck would anyone want to reopen THAT wound? Especially when the cornerstone of both the Valiant and Acclaim universes was Solar and Magnus, and those properties are no longer in the hands of the current incarnation Valiant Entertainment? Well, Valiant did and damn if it doesn’t work.
The new series owe quite a bit to the original Valiant characters as there aren’t extreme makeovers which go off in a radically new direction (Sidenote: Quantum and Woody being stepbrothers is…well… we’ll see). Aric is still a Visigoth in modern times, Toyo Harada is still a madman collecting Harbingers and Pete Stanchek is the One Who Got Away. Thankfully the personalities of Archer & Armstrong have remained unchanged and now Valiant has recently returned to publishing their vaunted #0 issues.
Title: Archer & Armstrong #0
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Clayton Henry
Cover Artist: Clayton Henry, Lee Garbett, Tom Fowler
Pages: 32 pages
Archer & Armstrong #0 tells the origin story of the immortal brothers, Ivar, Aram, and GIlad. We’ve seen only hints of Ivar over the past year (seems he’s still a Timewalker), but it’s nice to get a full story with Ivar and his brothers before they become immortal. It seems the three are the inspiration for the Gilgamesh epic (or at least that’s what Armstrong claims), and, after discovering a spider-alien, they leave Ur for a quest only to stumble across a hidden valley of dinosaurs. It looks like a way to sneak elements of Turok into the story just in case. In the Valley they discover the Boon that’s been a major plot point in the Archer & Armstrong series. What happened to Ivar? How did the brothers gain immortality? Not all questions are answered, but enough hints are given to make this a satisfying origin story. The framing device is a little clichéd, and Archer’s habit of explaining things is a bit annoying, but the story by Fred Van Lente hits all the right notes. The tale ties nicely with the Valiant universe at large while giving us some great family dynamics to play with. Now we partly know why the brothers act the way they do. And reading issue #0 makes you want to see more of these characters.
Definitely a strong buy!
Title: Shadowman #0
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artists: Roberto De La Torre, Mico Suayan, Neil Edwards and Lewis Larosa
Cover Artists: Dave Johnson, Khari Evans, Lewis Larosa
Pages: 32 pages
Shadowman #0 starts us off with a knockoff Jim Steranko cover. Wait! What? Why is a story about a New Orleans voodoo-tinged hero introduced with a trippy SHIELD-esque cover? That’s not explained and then it’s a little unfair even though Shadowman (in a much improved costume from the 90’s) stands boldly front and center on the cover, this is the story of Nicodemo and Sandria Darque. We learn the origin of the Valiant uber-villain and, to be honest, it’s nothing terribly special. The “twists,” such they are, are obvious and the story is stock supervillain story #7B. No Shadowman at all – just a story about a boy who’s uncomfortably close to his sister gaining power over the dark arts. What saves this somewhat is the art by Roberto de la Torre and Mico Suayan who create a suitably creepy atmosphere and, especially a single panel… You’ll know it when you see it. Overall it’s a swing and a clear miss – at the very least it should have been a Master Darque #0 rather than a Shadowman #0, but beyond that the story is a cliché and a little dull.
Honestly this creative team can do better.
The run down on both issues…
Archer and Armstrong #0 – 8.0
Shadowman #0 – 4.0
Self-contained stories with plenty of old-school Valiant Easter eggs; Great writing and art for Archer and Armstrong; solid art for Shadowman;Archer and Armstrong tantalizes with hints of the future
Shadowman is tragically missing Shadowman and that issue's story is clichéd; Both issues work best if you’re a Valiant reader already