This article originally appeared in the Den of Geek New York Comic Con special edition print magazine. You can find the digital copy here.
Since its 2012 relaunch, Valiant has arguably been the most consistently entertaining publisher of superhero comics. It has a stable of talented creators, unique characters, and superheroes who operate in a variety of genres, making each book stand out in a crowded market. But it’s easy to be intimidated by Valiant’s catalog: While the company may not be as prolific as Marvel or DC, there’s still a lot of different comics to choose from. Fortunately, if you like superhero comics and you’re looking for an easy way to get into Valiant, we’ve got some suggestions for you.
If you like Dr. Manhattan, check out Divinity.
It’s got the aloof, super powerful being with a perspective beyond time as we experience it, with the narrative adjusted for that aloofness — just without the giant blue wang.
Abram Adams is a black Soviet cosmonaut sent to explore deep space in the 1960s. What he finds is some craziness that gives him power over space and time, enabling him to experience a battle with present-day Unity (think Valiant’s Avengers) while simultaneously leaving loved ones behind in ‘60s Moscow.
It’s beautiful work from artists Trevor Hairsine and David Baron, and a remarkable blockbuster cape comic from writer Matt Kindt. The follow up, Divinity II, is a philosophical dialogue on the importance of kindness and the butterfly effect. The final volume of the trilogy is due out in December 2016, and in the tradition of its predecessors, I expect it to be a meditation on fate and the storytelling process.
If you like the Supergirl TV show, try Faith.
Jody Houser, Frances Portela, and Marguerite Sauvage’s Faith takes all the great stuff about Kara from the Supergirl TV show and plants her at the center of one of the most entertaining shared universes in comics.
Faith Herbert is a psiot (think mutant) with the ability to fly. She writes listicles for a web aggregator as her day job, occasionally pretending to be a journalist to further her goal of helping people, with the powers she loves having, as Zephyr. She’s basically Superman with updated trappings and a lot of joy.
If you like cyberpunk, check out Rai.
Matt Kindt’s story about class divisions and weird technology in an orbiting New Japan 2,000 years in the future and the crossover it spawned (4001), has been great. But read one arc of Rai and I promise that when someone asks you to think of a cyberpunk future, the second thing that will pop into your head is Clayton Crain’s incredible designs, staggering scope, and the casual grime and shadow he peppers into this world. The first will be the humid shittiness from Blade Runner, but there’s not much we can do to dislodge that.
If you thought Escape from New York needed more zombies, try Bloodshot USA.
Ray Garrison is a soldier whose blood is suffused with nanites that enable him to regenerate from any wound and give him a variety of powers. Prior Bloodshot stories have looked at how a functionally immortal being could love, or how violence screws with a man’s mind. In Bloodshot USA, the entire island of Manhattan gets infected with the same nanites, so presumably this is going to be a joyous bloodbath.
If you liked the idea of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain but found the movie impenetrable, you are preaching to the choir.
Also, try Wrath of the Eternal Warrior! It stars Gilad Anni-Padda, a (mostly) immortal warrior responsible for protecting the Geomancer, the constantly updating human voice of Earth. Wrath of the Eternal Warrior is the story of his latest return, and fleshes out Gilad’s backstory and life outside of reaving for the embodiment of the planet.
If you want to see what Valiant’s secretly best at, read A&A: Archer & Armstrong.
Valiant consistently publishes the funniest superhero comics around. It started with the predecessor to this book, Archer & Armstrong, which paired Gilad’s immortal brother, a drunk who likes to fight, with a teenage boy raised to be the chief assassin for a fundamentalist Christian cult that lives in a creationist amusement park. It continued with Quantum & Woody and The Delinquents, and ran through Ivar, Timewalker (secretly the best romantic comedy ever).
Now, Archer and Armstrong have returned as headliners, and Rafer Roberts, an indie cartoonist with great timing, is paired with David LaFuente, an artist with expressive faces and vibrant body language perfect for nailing comic comedy, making this the funniest comic regularly published.
If your favorite comic book character is Lex Luthor, Magneto, Doctor Doom, or Amanda, you need to read Imperium.
Toyo Harada is the most powerful psiot on the planet. He has spent the majority of his life secretly shaping human society in an attempt to create the utopia that he believes himself uniquely capable of leading. Until his cover was blown, at which point he said “fuck it” and took over half of Somalia to use as his base to openly continue the work he had been doing in secret under the guise of the Harbinger Foundation.
The team that writer Joshua Dysart and artists Doug Brathwaite, Kano, Cafu, and Juan Jose Ryp assembled around Harada is often compared to DC’s Legion of Doom, but that’s not entirely accurate. The Legion of Doom was a gaggle of lunatics, sociopaths, and thieves led by Lex Luthor’s singular vision. Imperium is populated by some awful people – Angela Peace Baingana, a woman possessed by an extradimensional sadist, and Lord Vine-99, a sentient plant assassin. But there’s no one in the Legion of Doom like Sunlight-on-Snow, the former Mech Major, whose AI developed deep compassion and a strong moral compass.
Harada is less Luthor and more Dr. Doom or Black Adam: a brutal dictator, but one who provides for his people so long as they obey his commands. He’s a fascinating comic book despot, which makes Imperium one of the best political thrillers in comics.
If you’re hooked, but you’re still only a book or two into the Valiant universe, you should definitely grab a copy of The Valiant.
What Valiant does best is scale: not just in its publishing model, in which it never overextends its characters or talent; but in the storytelling, too. The company kicked off its fourth year by bringing all of its characters together for a huge crossover that retooled the entire line. Kindt and Jeff Lemire, two of the best writers at Valiant, co-wrote the crossover – with interiors from Paolo Rivera. The result was the best comic Valiant has published yet.
It’s a smart, clever, immaculately-paced action blockbuster with brilliant artwork. It also spawned a wave of excellent comics (Ivar, Bloodshot Reborn, Imperium) and led directly into another excellent crossover (Book of Death). The Valiant is the kind of high-level line-wide rework that Marvel and DC wish they could imitate.
If you want to start at the beginning, any Valiant book is a safe bet.
If it’s an ongoing series, the first volume is only $9.99. You’re pretty much stealing from them, so I promise you’ll feel like you got a good value for your money.