The Valiant issue 2 is a solid second act entry in this prestige series from everyone’s favorite underdog publishing universe. The plot moves forward, there are some solid character beats and aside from a surprise art guest (trust me, it’s awesome), the appearance of everyone’s favorite secret agent ninja: NINJAK. Bloodshot and Neville’s mysterious crate from last issue shows up and continues to be mysterious; they bring Ninjak in to free Code Breaker from a Soviet prison, in the hopes that he can open the box. The story shifts to Kay, the new Geomancer, running from the Immortal Enemy, masquerading as a character from a horrifying story her (presumably irresponsible, because damn) father read her as a child. Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior enter the fray, but they’ll need a helping hand from one other member of their team to bring the Enemy to a standstill.
Valiant 2.0 has had a handful of crossover events since relaunching a few years ago, but this is the first one that’s felt really accessible to a new reader. Without having read them, Unity and Armor Hunters seemed like they were both steeped in the existing titles that were going to end up in them (and then Unity became an ongoing? I don’t know); they were scary jumping on points. The Valiant has a widely beloved creative team and a simple (but epic) storyline that you can follow with just a one-page recap. I don’t know why they didn’t do this kind of thing earlier, honestly.
Co-writers Lemire and Kindt are the quasi-indie darlings of the comics world right now, with Kindt writing Rai, Lemire writing Hawkeye soon and both of them working in the New 52, they’re straddling that line between low-key/high-quality stories and legitimate stardom. They’re juggling a cast of characters that don’t have the--I don’t know, the “comic book Q-score” might be the right term--that a crossover from the big two, and they’re making it thoroughly engrossing.
That’s not to say they’re doing it all on their own. Paolo Rivera’s art is deservedly praised in the back of this issue by Kindt, because Rivera’s art has personality and clarity like few other artists in the field these days. There’s never a question of who’s supposed to be who, or who’s throwing what punch, or what a character is feeling when they don’t speak. Rivera’s action and rendering of acting have been top-notch, and hopefully this series wakes up some of the people who have been sleeping on him.
This series is a lot of fun, and while this issue did feel like it was setting up stuff, more so than moving things forward. It at least did it in an unusual fashion, and kept audience interest high for next month’s installment. I can’t wait to read it.
Writer: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt Artist: Paolo Rivera with Joe Rivera Letterer: Dave Lanphear Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/21/15 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital