Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Release Date: 4th March 2015
This series opens with a trick. A sneaky, dastardly trick. A trick so ingenious, that I’m fairly certain Joshua Dysart chuckles whilst twirling an imaginary moustache every time he thinks about it. It’s gorgeously done: initially presenting a far flung, utopian vision of the future where there’s some fairly awesome stuff going down – hyperloops, sea-bound recycling facilities, alien-looking skyscrapers, space elevators, interplanetary colonisation – only to have the rug pulled out from under our feet. It’s hard to give it its due without spoiling quite how this happens, but suffice to say, it’s ingenious, and in an impressively small space, it deftly raises the series’ central question: ‘Who’s really the villain here?’
Braithwaite’s art is rather good – of particular note is his exceptional understanding of form and figure, and various ways of convincingly mutilating and deforming them. Yes, there’s a morbid pleasure to be had in the way that he executes the brutal action that the script calls for.
The colour work by McCaig is mostly terrific too – draping the quieter moments with a deliciously clandestine miasma, particularly in the scenes aboard the Leviathan submarine in issue 2. He does revert to the age-old orange/blue contrast for the action sequences, but it’s done well enough here, and Braithwaite’s pencil work helps it stand out from the crowd
But it’s Dysart’s writing that’s the star here – not least because of the above-mentioned tricksy opening, but also thanks to beautifully intricate story that’s flowering out from that set-up. It’s a story rife with juxtapositions that aren’t just the traditional good/evil, white/black ones, and he grounds the lot in a contemporary timeline that gives it a rather pleasing cutting edge. Particularly hard-hitting is when the ostensible good guys are seen doing business with some shady looking folk who’re ISIS in all but name.
If there is a problem with the series thus far, it’s that of all of Valiant’s recent titles of late, this is the least new-reader-friendly one I’ve read. I’ve built up a decent level of familiarity with their canon of late, and so had a fair amount of knowledge going in, but if you’re looking for your first ride aboard the Valiant train, a lot of this book is likely to zip over your head. Dysart does his utmost to familiarise readers with the preceding events, whilst getting this new tale told, but ultimately, there’s a heck of a lot to take in, and this isn’t called ‘Valiant Next’ arbitrarily. If you’re up for it, and have the spare cash, you should go grab the relaunched Harbringer first before tackling this series – it’s worth it, I promise.
At the end, whilst not Valiant’s most accessible title, it’s certainly up there amongst its most absorbing, presenting what promises to be a complex and engaging narrative that’s already had its first major twist, and escalates the pre-existing status quo to a thrilling new level. It succeeds on multiple levels – as an action series, as an existential examination of the nature of villiany and necessary evils, as an espionage thriller, and even has time to address philosophical implications of artificial intelligence. Simply put, it’s great, and well worth your time.
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The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24