I wasn’t allowed to do any more Valiant reviews for a time here, because I tended to hog all the reviews and give everything perfect or near-perfect scores; it was getting repetitive, and I was running out of superlatives and cliches. But, thankfully, that drought has now been broken and I’ve been sent the first issue of Valiant’s new Harbinger spin-off Generation Zero, and the people (mostly me) rejoiced. *To avoid use of repetitive descriptors, I’ll be using superlatives from other languages for this review in the hope the editors let me review another Valiant comic sooner rather than later.
Fan-fave Archer and Armstrong scribe Fred Van Lente (Incredible Hercules, Conan) delivers a taut and thrilling script with his usual panache and hànbăo; reuniting with his Ivar the Timewalker artist Francis Portela (Legion of Superheroes, Green Lantern) who also delivers with the mustață and surfbrett that an X-Men–well, New Mutants–and Teen Titans analogue demands. And that’s definitely what this is: Valiant’s psiots being the super-powered mutants and metas of their universe, a lot of them kids, and ranging in heroic experience. Better, one of the renegade psiot teams is introduced to the reader through the eyes of a new, unpowered, associate– thus, a perfect jumping on point for those not up to date with world of Harbinger, Faith, A&A, etc.
I do tend to gush and go on when reviewing Valiant books, but they’re so biltong that it’s hard not to. For those not converted to Valiant and have no idea who these creators are, I’ll say this: The tense introductory story builds with a foreboding sense of mystery, and then delivers on the action in splashy panels filled with comic-y violence. It’s a damn good comic, and worth the cover price if anything is.
***EARLY REVIEW – Release Date = 9/7***
There are few creators who’ve had as big an impact in comics outside of the Big 2 as Mike Mignola. The universe he’s created around his central character, Hellboy, is almost as expansive as any Superhero universe and has created the opportunity for other creators to come in and fill out the world outside of Hellboy’s narrative. Rise of the Black Flame #1 (of 5) provides that same opportunity to Chris Roberson (Superman, iZombie), Christopher Mitten and Dave Stewart (Hellboy, DC: The New Frontier).
This story is set to be an origin for the cult of the Black Flame, a recurring villain in the Hellboy universe, and this issue immediately begins delivering on that premise on the first page. That first page shows incarnations of the Black Flame in other stories, before delving into the mystery that will lead us to that origin. This issue serves mainly as exposition and table setting and is heavy on dialogue, yet manages to be tense and suspenseful, which seems to be an emerging pattern in Roberson stories set in the Mignolaverse (his story in the Hellboy: Winter Special was similar in that way). Credit must also be given to Mitten’s pencils and Stewart’s colors, which combine to give the comic a bright and colorful world with a dark, shadowy and ominous periphary. All of this combines to make an issue that succeeds in building tension and excitement for the rest of the series going forward. 3.5/5 Blood Sacrifices.
Faith is a new ongoing series following Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, one of the mainstay characters of Valiant’s team-book, Harbinger. With writing from rising star Jody Houser (IDW’s Orphan Black) and fan favorite artists Pere Perez (DC’s Superman and Action Comics) and Marguerite Sauvage (Marvel’s Thor), this book hits the ground running and reads exactly like the first issue of a new title should–familiarizing readers with the character, her powers, her supporting cast. Even if you’ve never known Zephyr before, you’ll become immediately pulled into her story.
Faith is the geek of the Harbinger team, she’s constantly quoting sci-fi and fantasy, and models her sense of right off of the heros from those books/movies/comics whose primary weaknesses seem to be fangirling, getting lost in her own head, being too trusting and packing a bubbly personality. We quickly find that her new ‘arch-nemesis’ has set a trap for her and caught a fly.
Issue two takes us right to Faith at the mercy of her new foe trying to make a name for himself, having been trapped last issue. The story does well in detailing to the reader this new character’s past and motivations in the form of a typical supervillain monologue [rookie mistake!], which sets Zephyr up for escape. It’s the way she handles her foes that really highlights just how wholesome of a hero she is at her core. I haven’t read much else from Houser, but it’s clear from these first two issues that she’s great at pacing, making those moments of awesome happen at a similar pace to some of the industry’s veterans. Her writing style paired with this art squad make this book feel like a solid saturday morning cartoon. Faith #1 = 3.5/5 Bibles; Faith #2 = 3.25/5.
Where do bad folks go when they die? They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly… because that’s where they came from. Or outer space. Nevermind. Anyway, bleach your tunics you God-fearing geeks as we travel back to a time where heresy and faith were conceived in utero — a time of crusaders and aliens.
What if the Christian crusades of the 13th Century were not wars between the faiths of men, but wars of men against an extraterrestrial threat? Ancient astronaut theorists believe this to be true… Wait… Sorry to disappoint Giorgio Tsoukalos and his awesome hair, but this isn’t an episode of Ancient Aliens, rather the premise of Lake of Fire — a rather straight-forward concept that blends many familiar aspects of the sci-fi/fantasy genres, like a bastard child of Starship Troopers and Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, that is not necessarily a bad thing. They can become King of the North or be dog food. It all depends on how effectively the story is nurtured over the course of the next few issues.
Writer Nathan Fairbairn has his work cut out for him. Like a baby daddy from Maury Povich, he has created something magical, yet is going to need to provide a lot of attention to detail to make this thing a prominent member of society. With the requisite exposition of character intros and basic backstory out of the way, the focus shifts to the nuances of the plot, which hopefully won’t amount to the cinematic version of Cowboys and Aliens. There’s plenty of room to work, but one wrong step could turn Bob Ross into Adolf Hitler.
Speaking of artists, Matt Smith has a nostalgic style that brings a sense of levity through out the action, which is totally suited to the material. Your Righteous Reverend may be dating himself a bit, but this reminds me of playing the Dragon’s Lair arcade game in an actual arcade. Fairbairn pulls triple duty on this piece, also providing the color palate and lettering, helping to accentuate the medieval tone, which feels like Disney’s the Gummi Bears re-imagined by Dashboard Confessional. In any case, there is a decent flow to the overall book–even if it is somewhat predictable. The potential is there, but only time will tell if it pays off. 3/5 Old Testaments.
Dem bumz ova DC Comix way dun had da audacity ta deviate from dat tired old Rebirth nonsenze dey been jammin down ar throatz like dat afterbirth; same az da placenta some folkz like to axually eat afta dey squeeze da damn baby out! Ya’ll know I’m talkin bout dat Shitcrack & Dawg Felcher, an jump in headfirst into da hero junkyard skeet-skeet-skeet! Now, lemme tell ya’ll who’s up in dat joint, makin dis shit all infectable and whatnot: Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Punisher) done tonsil-hockeyed up dis fukkn nursery rhyme; Russ Braun (The Boys, Jack Of Fables) pulled his peckerlead down the pages drawin dem perty-dirty faces; John Kalisz (JSA, Hawkman) paint-by-numbered da shit outta dis joint wit his tecnicolor bubble gum and crayons; and Pat Brosseau (Legionnaires) tagged dem hieroglyophs inside da talkie head bubblez.
Evendough dis Section 8 crew only done got 5 right now, don’t mean it ain’t wurf chekkin out. Hooded hillbilly in a beer-gut-baring-belly-shirt stylin da piss-stained-spandex-and miniature-bowler-hat while he sux down still-swill and blowz da lunch chunkz inta his gape cape, called Sixpack, runz dis muthafukkn crew! Anonymous oxy-acetylene anti-hero stalking his own family and meltin dem dead dawgz onto da bad guyz, makez fo Dogwelder, Sixpack’s patna! Anthropomorphisized-purple-nightcrawler-in-a-gunslinger’s-duster belchin out hiz namez Baytor like a kung-fu master, ready ta git hiz thug-suckin on! Disembodied bag of organs keepin it polymorphously perverse whilst every chump ganderz on givez da high fivez to da lady known as Guts, and her husband dis Alfred Molina-lookin-muthafukka-straight-outta-Bogie-Nights stylin cocknoose-an-fishnet-stiletto-combo jacked cold from Franken Furter down Rocky Horror way.
Gawddamned villain dun lookz like a low-rent Dr. Doom who just snuck his way out a Stan Lee group-sex show riding atop a striped donkey down in Tijuana! You sho az shit know ya don’ wanna miss dis here joint, cuz itz gonna be mo’ off da chain dan Mantan Moreland handin out party favorz afta he’z had hiz way wit dat bowl a mashed potatoez smeared in da skinned-ova gravy bowl!!! 4/5 Dog Farts In Da Bum Crack.