“The Valiant” continues to be one of the most engaging and entertaining event books on the market right now. Issue three focuses in on the relationship between Geomancer Kay McHenry and Bloodshot as they try to outrun the Immortal Enemy.
The interaction between the two is easily the highlight of the issue, with Bloodshot delivering some of the best straight man lines in comics. Jeff Lemiere writes him as a cross between Schwarzenegger’s Conan and the T-800, an unstoppable killing machine that takes any interactions at surface value. A lot is learned about McHenry and Bloodshot’s points of view and their ability to co-exist with one another. Their scenes are quiet and offset the chaos happening on the battle field with the remaining members of the Valiant universe.
This makes the most sense, as the Immortal Enemy handily disposes of the entire roster in a rather memorable fashion on a poster-worthy splash page by Paolo and Joe Rivera. This page is the stuff of nightmares and wall art all at once. In fact, the entire issue features more of the fantastic character work that has really made this series worthy of its prestige format. In the backmatter, Lemire mentions that Rivera’s characters are real people and he’s completely dead-on. Even outrageous designs like the Immortal Enemy feel like they could be real. There are certain moments between Kay and Bloodshot in the department store that feel like they were pulled directly from celluloid. That’s not a disservice to the cartooning; rather, the composition of shots and the balanced amount of detail in every panel lend a reality to the fantastic proceedings that increase the dread factor of the villain’s presence. The shot choices are all very well considered and provide maximum impact for each action beat throughout. It’s a testament to the compelling character work that the action is almost an afterthought.
Matt Kindt and Lemiere are working in lockstep with this series and this issue is no different. They remain true to the character roots of everyone featured in the issue. Immortal Enemy’s power feeds on a character’s biggest fear and each fate befallen on a hero matches who that person is. Quantum and Woody, typically the comic relief of the publishing line, are given a nightmare to deal with that is equally funny and horrifying and spot on with who they are: Vincent the goat, an unstoppable, oversized force of destruction. It is not just a funny visual gag but also a representation of how their father looms in each of their minds, a staggering presence whose approval both characters need so desperately that they fear he will not give that and instead choose to destroy them. The box is also finally opened as the issue draws to a close, leaving the door open for a sliver of hope against the unbeatable foe who has made it his job to scorch the Earth.
This is a high point for Valiant as a publisher and as a universe. “The Valiant” makes maximum use of its characters, its page count and its concept. With one issue left to go, the series is on track to be a classic. This issue is must-own comics.