And here it is. The home run at the end of The Valiant. In what is essentially the first big-budget/summer-crossover kind of thing the Valiant has attempted on this scale (or at least with this much A-List talent), they either had to knock it out of the park, or strike out entirely. (I apologize for all the baseball metaphors; it’s been a slow preseason.) Luckily, Lemire, Kindt and the Riveras all did some career-best work, and brought this one to a satisfying finish. This issue plays out on two fronts: on the one hand, we have the Eternal Warrior’s story (in more than one timeline), and on the other, we have Kay and Bloodshot in the mall vs. Mr. Flay for all the marbles. While this book has been nominally the Eternal Warrior and Kay’s story the whole time, this issue and issue 3, when taken as a piece, make it pretty clear that this is actually more like a Bloodshot story than anything. The finale of the whole piece ties back in to the Geomancer and the Eternal Warrior (in a little bit of a clumsy way that still makes sense), but the lasting ramifications of this book will really be felt in the Bloodshot: Reborn series.
Really the thing that sets this mini-series apart is its status as a game changer in a more literal sense of the term. While many event series like this promise and fail to deliver on major changes to the status quo, or shoehorn them in at the end (lookin’ at you, AXIS. Lookin’ right at you), The Valiant shines by placing its emphasis on the characters in the series and not the plot, and allowing those characters to leave changed or otherwise affected by the events. Most summer miniseries, they’re big, high concept affairs: Age of Ultron, Avengers vs. X-Men, AXIS, they’re all easy sells with intriguing plot hooks that force the characters to go through the motions of the plot. Things may change, but only in an arbitrary way. The Valiant forces the characters to change, and that organically sets up their next steps. It may be to its detriment as a whole story that the emphasis shifts from Gilad to Bloodshot halfway through, but as far as using the series as a way station for characters who wouldn’t normally meet to interact and affect each other, the series really nails it.
Good things have been said about Kindt and Lemire; not nearly enough good things for this writer’s liking, but more’s the pity. These two managed to write a series together that feels like a cohesive whole--look around it, you won’t find the seams. They handed off disparate parts to each other, especially relating to the books they may be writing now or in the future, and with both of them playing to their strengths, the whole book gels very strongly. As the resident quasi-Valiant guy in the Bastardly Bullpen, this series did its job by satisfying me with the narrative, and investing me so strongly in Bloodshot over the last four months that I can’t wait to read Bloodshot: Reborn.
Paolo Rivera. Oh, Paolo. I think I’ll miss your work most of all. The way you handled the crowd scenes, the way you handled the interpersonal bits. The way you used Bloodshot’s eyes as light sources in a dark room to emphasize his relationship with Kay. The Valiant was a book about small moments and big failures for the characters, and you conveyed every beat as a consummate pro. Usually, any one issue of a comic has at least one panel that will pull me out of the story and go, “Wait, what the hell is this artist doing?” The Valiant was a seamless experience, and a lot of it has to do with Paolo and Joe Rivera’s fine work. If you weren’t a fan before this series, pick it up and read it immediately. If Paolo doesn’t start getting gigs on Amazing Spider-Man or Daredevil or hell, even Detective Comics, we need to take to the streets and demand it. Alternately, if the man puts out something creator-owned, I’ll be first in line to pick it up.
This book was a big chance for Valiant. It opened up all their publishing lines and pushed them together for a little while. Their comedy teams showed up and got serious, their space warriors landed on earth for a little while, and the protector of the planet failed for thousands of years. It ran a very strong chance of being an unintelligible mishmash, but this was the best event book I read in all of 2014, and stands a decent chance at retaining the title for 2015 (your move, Secret Wars). Basically, if they can keep up the string of strong editorial choices, top-notch writing and art, all I can say is “Make Mine Valiant.”
The Valiant #4 Writers: Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt Artist: Paolo Rivera with Joe Rivera Letterer: David Lanphear Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/25/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital