WONDERCON 2017 [Panel Reviews]: Valiant vs. The Comic Universe!
VALIANT DIGITAL: NINJAK vs. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE AND BEYOND (Saturday) – Almost 5-years ago now, superhero comics readers bore witness to something beautiful: the birth of a universe. “The Summer of Valiant,” as it was dubbed, was the most exciting thing I’ve experienced as a comics reader to date. We witnessed the rise of X-O Manowar, Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger, Bloodshot, and–best of all–Ninjak. Therefore, for me to say that I was excited by the announcement of Ninjak vs. The Valiant Universe as the first adaptation of the Valiant Universe to a visual medium, might be the biggest understatement of my lifetime. At Wondercon ’17, Valiant Digital decided to bring an inside look and some exclusive footage to my backyard so I had no choice but bear witness and report back to GHG readers and Valiant fans, wherever they may reside.
The panel began with an inside look at the project where directors Sean and Aaron Schoenke (father and son co-founders of Bat in the Sun Productions, respectively) revealed that Sean, a classical composer who worked in the Hilton as a pianist for five years, designed the score; while Aaron, who directs Super Power Beat Down under the BitS banner, focused mainly on bringing different fighting styles that reflect every character involved. They also revealed that Ninjak would fight a different character in every episode, including all of the previously mentioned characters (Livewire being the Harbinger) with Roku (Chantelle Berry) as the main villain. Michael Rowe, who will be portraying Ninjak, spoke about how this series reminded him of old school kung-fu movies and, as such, will include a long, single take fight scene that Rowe did the stunts for himself.
The footage itself was almost exactly what I wanted it to be. The first scene was a Ninjak fight with a bunch of ninjas in a hotel room that was exciting and well-choreographed. The only drawback is that there’s some corny dialogue, not at all uncommon for a web series. Bloodshot was showcased in the second scene, which–while suffering from some of the same issues as the previous–was still an excellent showcase of style and power (a grenade blows up near Bloodshot’s hand, but the nanites regrow it). Colin King’s fighting style was slick and smooth, whereas Ray Garrison’s was much more brutal and gory. Ultimately, taken for what it is and judging the footage on its own terms, it was excellent. It’s clear that the people working on this series know what they’re shooting for and it seems they’ve hit the mark. 4.25/5 Ninja Blades. – Kevin Palma
VALIANT: THE ROAD TO HARBINGER WARS 2 (Saturday) – Sad I wasn’t coming back to WonderCon on Sunday (for the panel just down below), fans in attendance at the 3rd of 4 Valiant panels this weekend were blessed with some insight into the new X-O Manowar series–not to mention receiving a sweet Gold cover for X-O #1. Fred Pierce, Valiant Publisher (and surprise funnyman cameo on GHG’s WonderCon Wrap-Up Show coming later tonight), deadpanned on artist son-in-law Ryan Bodenheim “who happens to be the best in the industry” to great crowd laughter. But the persistent thrillride that is the new X-O Manowar art line-up is of no laughing matter; the backbone of the Valiant Universe, this most ever identifiable man out of time and place, will see his latest entry entirely offworld, with the chilling visuals of Rai‘s Clayton Crain on “Emperor”.
“First, let me apologize with what’s gonna happen in Harbinger [Renegades] #5 — it’s gonna be a horrible, terrible bloodbath,” semi-joked Warren Simons (Editor-in-Chief), on the death of a very important character. Simons also went on to claim that Harbinger Renegades scribe Rafer Roberts set the tone of scope and scale for Valiant for 2018, with that very issue. September’s Bloodshot Salvation #1 sees writer Jeff Lemire and artists Lewis Larosa & Mico Suayan — all of Bloodshot Reborn fame — delivering more classical-style Bloodshot villains. Oscar nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival, the upcoming Harbinger) was on hand to talk Livewire, who gets her much deserved spotlight in Secret Weapons #1. Heisserer, in addition to embracing villain Rex-O from the O.G. Jim Shooter Harbinger run and his artist Raul Allen “making him want to write better”, loved that Livewire was a hero with a big moral compass, full of empathy. “I need that in my life right now. I’m kind of writing [Secret Weapons] as therapy.”
Here, I may have saved the best for last with Jody Houser, of her 2017 breakout character Faith fame. She really enjoyed writing a villain who mirrored Faith with plenty in common iconically, but had complete opposite personalities. Movie star Chris Chriswell became a character with “Hollywood villain A-List money — which is what they do”, joked a baffled Houser to great crowd response. To close out the panel, Valiant praised Matt Kindt and CAFU‘s work on May’s Rapture #1, which sees the return of Shadowman meeting Ninjak, full of massive Lord of the Rings-sized armies and double page spreads. Rapture (out May 24th) also features two new unique and riveting characters — an “Old Man Conan” in Rex the Razor; and Babel, who may or may not be the first Geomancer. #Aliveside 4/5 Bibles. – Travis Moody
VALIANT: 25 YEARS OF X-O MANOWAR (Sunday) – With the release of X-O Manowar #1 last month, Valiant relaunched one of their first original characters, Aric of Dacia — Visigoth warrior-turned-20th century warrior/traveler between worlds. The new X-O storyline (with the dynamic art of Doug Braithwaite coming to the second arc, “General”), set to be at least a year-long endeavor, kicks off a year of pure awesomeness from Valiant. As I stated in my review of X-O Manowar #1, it’s a great place to start if you’re new to the character; and, for those who are familiar with the story, it takes the character to new places, exploring new worlds and stories. Valiant is providing an added bonus to comic readers that are interested in committing to Aric: pre-ordering a comic bundle (1-3 is closed already, 4-9 is open for pre-orders) gives the reader access to exclusive covers, extra content, and a deleted scene that didn’t make it into the books. For the foreseeable future, the third Wednesday of every month is Manowar Day – marking the release of the current issue as well as another Valiant title. For April, that title is Britannia: We Who Are About To Die.
The publisher is getting extra exposure this year thanks to a deal with Warped Tour. The website, promotional materials, and badges will feature exclusive art of major Valiant characters, including Bloodshot, Ninjak, and Faith. During the panel the moderators, Simons and Hunter Gorinson (VP, Marketing), suggested that some limited edition Valiant vans might not be too far off. Valiant has been turning out solid books, and their current crop look to keep that streak alive. If you haven’t picked up the new X-O and want to see what it’s about, or have missed the awesomeness that is Bloodshot, head to your local comic book store on Free Comic Book Day and snag the Valiant title – it’s got backstories for both, and will provide hints of what’s coming up in the second half of 2017 and beyond. 5/5 X-O Bibles. – Sarah Obloy