Written by: Matt Kindt
Art by: Doug Braithwaite
Color by: Brian Reber
Published by: Valiant Comics
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
In comic shops on November 13th!
I’ll admit it…I’m a bit behind on my Valiant Comics reading. I’ve been a pretty big fan of Valiant’s stuff but as someone who’s pretty much given up on weekly/monthly comics and who relies on trade paperback releases in order to read his favorite comics I’ve pretty much resigned myself to not being quite current on what’s happening with some of my preferred comic story lines. At this point I’ve pretty much been able to read all of the first trade paperbacks of all the Valiant releases and the second volumes of both Harbinger and Bloodshot. So far the quality’s been pretty stellar but I’ve been very content to just wait for the collections. When the opportunity arose to check out a preview of Valiant’s latest release,however, I decided I had to take it. Spoilers be damned. Yes, I’m behind on what’s happening in the Valiant U but Unity looked like it was too good a book to pass up. So I decided to take a look into my comic book reading future and check out the much hyped launch of Valiant’s Unity and I have to say that I’m glad that I did.
Despite the fact that I’m somewhat out of the loop, I didn’t find myself lost at all when it came to trying to figure out the plot of this first issue of Unity. If you’ve only read some of Valiant’s early trades or if you happen to be going into the story completely blind Unity is still enough of a good read to keep you entertained and not give you the feeling of being lost in some massive multi-part crossover. The story’s setup is direct enough so that anyone who isn’t well versed in the Valiant mythos will have a clear understanding of what’s going on and be able to keep up with the story as it moves along. So that is the first positive thing I have to say about Unity: it’s a very good introduction to some of the major players in the Valiant Universe. It doesn’t depend on other comics to fill in its back story and keeps things interesting while fulfilling the goal of a single narrative. All the players are introduced, the plot is spelled out and the story is put into motion. It does what a team book is supposed to do which is pull characters from different books together into a story that doesn’t rely on having to know the minutiae of their individual histories. For that alone, this first issue of Unity scores major points in my book.
Unity also succeeds in its general premise as well. Much like the basic core of Marvel’s Avengers, Unity brings a group of characters together that really shouldn’t really be working with each other at all. As a matter of fact, one of the cornerstone characters of the Valiant U isn’t actually part of the larger group and actually serves as the antagonist of the series. It’s interesting for me to see a character who has his own comic set up as the apparent villain for this series. In all honesty, though, Unity is a play with no real actors of straight moral character. Everyone has an agenda, whether it be strictly mercenary or ego driven, and every major player in this book is to some extent working to forward that agenda. So the trope of the selfless hero is thrown pretty much out the window from the get-go…which is what makes Unity so interesting. There is a moral ambiguity to the events playing out that makes it hard to just out and out root for one person. What Unity presents is a world of supers that are generally acting out in their own self-interest and that gives this book layers which a lot of superhero comics may not have.
In the end that is what gives the Valiant line of comics its strength right now. None of the characters are corporate tie-ins and have yet to be subject to the whims of a larger machine. Because of this the “heroes” in the various books and in this particular comic can act in ways that characters in the big two comic companies may not be able to behave. Valiant is still defining itself as a company and that allows for more of a freedom of ideas and concepts.
Writer Matt Kindt is able to embrace this freedom and have the story move in an interesting and compelling way. Unity reads very much like a spy thriller with superpowers. These are not your typical fighting heroes in a typical comic book situation. World powers are involved and the world stands on the brink of nuclear exchange. From the beginning of the comic one gets the sense that the stakes are very high and that things could go very badly very quickly not just for the characters involved but for the whole world. Kindt wraps Unity up in the feel of a John Clancy novel and throughout the book he’s able to keep the tension ratcheted up as the world attempts to deal with an individual who is not interested in negotiating and has the raw power to make his desires a reality.
Doug Braithwaite does an admirable job with the art chores as well. His draftsmanship is perfect and his sense of story is terrific. Braithwaite keeps the momentum moving from page to page and his crisp artwork keeps the events compelling and clear. It seems as if with this issue of Unity the trend of coloring directly from the pencils has been employed but this technique doesn’t pull focus away from the power of Braithwaite’s talent. I still do have to say that I miss the crisp line of ink work even though the art in Unity is obviously more than impressive. A big part of this has to do with Brian Reber’s coloring skill. Reber does a fantastic job of painting in the details that might have been lacking from the darker details of inked artwork.
So it seems to me that with this series Valiant has another winner in its stable. Valiant continues to impress me for the most part and Unity will be another series that I’ll be following up with in trade paperback once that collection is released.