SPOILER WARNING: Multiple spoilers for several Valiant Universe stories ahead.
Ever since it relaunched in 2012, the Valiant Universe has provided comics fans with a gritty, streamlined alternative to the more mainstream universes of Marvel and DC. Grounded in a more realistic setting drawing from both science fiction and fantasy, Valiant’s pantheon of heroes includes some of the most powerful and intriguing characters in comics.
With the announcement of Valiant Digital, a new division dedicated to developing short, live-action Web content starting with “Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe,” it seemed like the time was right to rank the publisher’s heroes from worst to best. Our method was somewhat less than scientific, boiling down entrants’ origins, powers and defining moments to a score based on overall competence and influence.
So, without further fanfare (except, perhaps, for the braying of a particularly pernicious and strangely powerful goat,) here are 15 of Valiant’s greatest heroes ranked worst to best.
He’s lazy, self-aggrandizing and, if truth be told, a bit of a tool. Be that as it may, if this was a list based on sheer coolness, our first entry might just come in at number one. First appearing in the late '90s as one half of what would become one of the most beloved duos in comics history, it’s safe to say Woody cares less about superheroics and more about scoring with the ladies.
In the relaunched Valiant Universe, Woody gains his extraordinary energy-based abilities when he and his brother Eric stumble upon an experimental reactor, while investigating their father’s untimely death. Bound together by the accident via a pair of metal bracelets, their shared abilities come with a strict caveat: the brothers must touch them together every 24 hours or dissipate in a cloud of atoms.
“Quantum and Woody” has never just been about superheroes in the traditional sense. Rather, the series explores a relationship between two extremely different people that is just as unstable as the powers they share. Think "The Odd Couple's" Felix and Oscar, dialed to 11.
Playing the straight man to Woody’s madcap, grandstanding fop, brother Eric would likely place higher in Valiant’s superhero rankings if it weren’t for his partner’s decided lack of focus. While Woody ran the streets as a conman and fraud, Eric joined the Army and hoped to one day serve his community as a cop. Imbued with the same unstable energy abilities as his adopted brother, Eric takes his superhero career much more seriously. Creating the costumed persona of Quantum, Eric even accepted a job as a private superhero for an influential security firm for a time.
Although the brothers spend an inordinate amount of time arguing and brawling with each other, Quantum and Woody remain dedicated to saving each other’s asses, even if doing so places everybody else around them in danger. This isn’t selfishness or even a finely-tuned sense of self-preservation. It’s just straight-up incompetence, sprinkled with a healthy dusting of tomfoolery. They aren’t called the World’s Worst Superhero Team for nothing, you know!
Only slightly more incompetent than our previous two entries, the man known as Armstrong is one half of another superhuman odd couple who have experienced their own fair share of misadventure. As one of three immortal brothers destined to wander the Valiant Universe for all eternity, Aram Anni-Padda was granted immortality, immense strength and near invulnerability when he and his siblings stole an ancient artifact called the Boon.
While his brothers devoted their newfound abilities to constructive ends, Armstrong chose to become a personage of Falstaffian proportions, committed to spending eternity sauced to the gills and writing poetry, preferably surrounded by a charming entourage of female admirers. Despite his hedonistic lifestyle, Armstrong has a reputation as one of history’s most prolific adventurers, his legendary exploits demonizing or canonizing him in roughly equal measures. Which brings us to our next entry -- a young man who trained his entire life to kill the elusive “He Who Is Not To Be Named.”
Obadiah Archer -- the young assassin trained from childhood to kill his future partner Armstrong -- only ranks higher on this list than his much older compatriot because as far as the hero gig goes, he actually (kind of) knows what he’s doing. An expert martial artist adept in various disciplines and trained in the use of a multitude of edged and ballistic weapons, Archer’s intensive regimen came at the cost of a regular childhood.
After turning his back on his abusive adoptive parents and their fellow members of the Sect, Archer devoted himself to his former target, Armstrong, who he now considers a friend and mentor. Although similar in tone to Quantum and Woody, their all-too brief team up with the World’s Worst Superheroes in The Delinquents illustrated how different each duo really is. Most recently, Armstrong has been seen in Valiant’s hit series “Faith” as the title character’s new boyfriend, in what has to be one of the strangest, most endearing superhero pairings in years.
11 Ivar, Timewalker
The second of our Anni-Padda brothers to make our list, Ivar has the distinction of being the eldest sibling and the only brother who isn’t technically immortal. It was Ivar who activated the Boon in ancient Sumeria (Sumer), in a desperate bid to save his brother Gilad’s life.
However, before the artifact’s strange energy could imbue him with the same abilities granted to his younger brothers, Ivar was plucked into a time-arc by the woman who would one day take up the Timewalker mantle. Even still, as the world’s oldest time traveler, he possesses a form of eternal youth and the ability to move through time, even if doesn’t always know where he’ll end up. Although the final issue of his 2015 series established an all-new female Timewalker in physicist Neela Sethi, Ivar is set to appear alongside his immortal brothers in Valiant Digital’s new web series “Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe.”
10 Peter Stanchek (Sting)
In the Valiant Universe, Harbingers are much like Marvel’s not-so-merry mutants: human beings born with extraordinary abilities forced to live apart from the rest of society out of fear and ignorance. Peter Stanchek is one of Earth’s most powerful beings, an Omega Harbinger with the full complement of mental abilities (telepathy, telekinesis and mind control) and the power to activate other Harbingers.
Once a student of the megalomaniac (and fellow Omega Harbinger) Toyo Harada, he revolted against the powerful Harbinger Foundation after the murder of his close friend. Over the past couple of years, Peter has grown into a purposeful and capable leader, with a clear agenda for his people. This November, Peter heads up a new team of super-powered subversives in “Harbinger Renegades.” In the wake of the general public’s awareness of the Harbingers’ existence, Peter and stalwart compatriots Faith, Torque and Kris Hathaway travel across the country trying to unite a fledgling people.
“Harbinger Rengades” drops November 16th.
Back in the day, Shadowman was one of the most popular and lucrative comic book properties around. Along with X-O Manowar and Ninjak, the original Valiant Comics and Acclaim Entertainment managed to leverage Shadowman’s popularity with readers into equally popular video games.
In the current Valiant Universe, the Shadowman isn’t just one hero but a lineage of heroes, who have protected the city of New Orleans from several mystical attacks over the years. Jack Boniface took up the legacy left to him by his father and gained a variety of voodoo-inspired occult powers, including the ability to travel between the Earthly Plane and the limbo realm known as Deadside. Although he hasn’t appeared in a regular series since 2014’s “Shadowman: End Times,” Jack Boniface remains an integral part of the Valiant Universe, providing a necessary and important link to its paranormal underpinnings. He’ll be appearing alongside a host of other fan-favourite heroes in the aforementioned live-action web series “Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe.”
8 Doctor Mirage
One of the coolest things about the Valiant Universe is that, despite its sleek lines and grounded fictional setting, there’s still plenty of room for a character like Doctor Mirage to find an audience. Essentially an epic love story that traverses the boundaries of life and death, the tragic tale of the late Hwen Fong and his wife Shan captivated readers in a pair of critically-acclaimed limited series.
As the foremost paranormal investigator, with the ability to communicate with the dead and extensive experience in occult matters, Shan -- like our previous entry, Shadowman -- serves as an intriguing gateway to the Valiant Universe’s vaguely-defined supernatural corners. Her relationship with the shade of her late husband informs every aspect of her life and drives her willingness to do virtually anything to see him fully and corporeally resurrected.
Caught between two warring tensions -- her desire to do good in the world and her character-defining need to reunite with Hwen -- Shan becomes an even more complex and intriguing representative of Valiant’s burgeoning supernatural realm.
The brainchild of fan-favorite creators Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine, Divinity is the first original major character produced by Valiant since the company’s rebirth in 2012. A character of startling complexity, marked by a conflicted nature, Divinity’s origin has its roots in a clandestine, Cold War-era Soviet space program that launched three cosmonauts into the furthest reaches of known space.
Through unexplained circumstances, one of the cosmonauts, Adam Abrams gained god-like powers over time, space and the very fabric of reality. Upon returning to earth, Abrams would encounter Toyo Harada’s Unity, after transforming the arid Australian Outback into a fertile paradise. In “Stalinverse,” Valiant’s latest line-wide crossover event, a mysteriously-absent Divinity rests at the center of a reality-altering event that transforms the Valiant Universe into a dystopian Soviet police state that spans the entire globe. It falls to Ninjak, the only hero to remember the former reality, to locate the missing Abrams and restore the Valiant Universe to its original status quo.
In the year 4001, the orbiting island nation of New Japan is ruled by the mysterious artificial intelligence called Father, who tasks Rai with keeping the peace in his gleaming “utopia.” Something of a folk hero or urban myth to the general populace, Rai begins questioning the established status quo, while investigating the first murder in New Japan in a thousand years. He eventually breaks from Father and discovers that everything he knows about New Japan is a meticulously cultivated façade.
Rai possesses most of the same abilities as his antecedent Bloodshot, even if the context has changed somewhat since Matt Kindt reintroduced the character to the Valiant Universe. As the rallying point for the revolution against Father, Rai embraces his role as a true champion of New Japan, hoping to lead his people out from under Father’s yoke. With his ties to the past through Bloodshot and the Eternal Warrior, Rai stands as a symbol of hope and heroism in the Valiant Universe’s bleak future.
5 The Eternal Warrior
The third and final Anni-Padda brother on our list, Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, has had an undeniable impact on the evolution of the Valiant Universe ever since he and his brothers Ivar and Aram had their fateful encounter with the Boon. Granted a unique form of immortality fueled by the very Earth he walked, Gilad Anni-Padda has served as the dedicated protector of the Geomancers for millennia.
It’s a role that has often forced him to make hard decisions and even harder sacrifices. More than once over his storied career, he’s had to choose his calling as the "Earth’s Fist and Steel" over his friends and allies, putting him at odds with the rest of the Valiant Universe. As the world’s most accomplished warrior and tactician, the veteran of countless wars and battles, only one thing is certain about the Eternal Warrior: He’s a much kinder friend to his allies than he is adversary to his enemies.
Lurking in the shadows, its tendrils influencing events in the Valiant Universe from behind the scenes for decades, lies the clandestine military organization called Project Rising Spirit. Much like Marvel’s Weapon Plus program’s mandate to create a super-soldier, Project Rising Spirit is responsible for the creation of the unstoppable killing machine Bloodshot.
Historically one of Valiant’s most popular characters, the current incarnation of Bloodshot is Ray Garrison, a former soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country in Afghanistan. Injected with a colony of regenerative nanites and memory implants, Ray discovers he’s a man without a past, who can access an encyclopedic knowledge of battle tactics and survive virtually any wound. Imagine a perfect amalgam of Captain America and Wolverine and you get the picture. Bloodshot’s influence on the ever-evolving Valiant Universe is undeniable, stretching thousands of years into the future, where in a previous incarnation, he is hailed as a hero.
One part James Bond, one part Storm Shadow, the man called Ninjak is MI-6’s most valuable asset in a world overrun with immortal warriors, undead soldiers and wearable alien super weapons. Using nothing but his supreme intellect and mastery of several disciplines of martial arts, Colin King has managed to hold his own against more powerful adversaries such as X-O Manowar.
Historically one of Valiant’s most popular properties (his inaugural series topped the charts during the Nineties), this Joe Quesada co-creation is once again positioned to break out for a new generation of fans, thanks to a gutsy live-action web series from the newborn Valiant Digital and Aaron Schoenke of Super Power Beat Down fame.
“Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe” stars Michael Rowe of Arrow fame in the title role, as he takes on the most powerful heroes of the Valiant Universe in an effort to save them all. Marking Valiant’s first foray into live-action productions, the series provides a launching pad for future in-universe projects and further underscores Ninjak’s importance to Valiant’s success onscreen and on the comics page.
2 X-O Manowar
Along with Ninjak and Bloodshot, Aric of Dacia is one of the Valiant Universe’s cornerstones. Created by Jim Shooter and the legendary Bob Layton, the franchise hero’s established popularity with fans was a huge factor in the success of Valiant Entertainment’s launch in 2012.
A former slave of the Roman Empire, Aric was shanghaied off-planet by the insidious alien race called The Vine. He would return to Earth centuries later the bearer of the X-O Manowar armor, an interstellar superweapon light years ahead of current Terran technology. A true power player whose existence drastically affected international security interests around the world, X-O Manowar’s impact on the ongoing development of the Valiant Universe cannot be overstated.
Although last month saw the conclusion of his most recent ongoing series -- a classic run under the guidance of scribe Robert Venditti -- the next chapter of Aric’s epic journey as X-O Manowar is sure to continue influencing Valiant storylines for years to come.
1 Faith Herbert (Zephyr)
Arguably one of the most popular breakout characters of the 2010s, Faith Herbert epitomizes everything that is great about superheroes. First appearing within the pages of “Harbinger,” the young woman known as Zephyr was a founder of the Harbinger Resistance and features as a major player in next month’s new “Harbinger Renegades” ongoing.
What makes Faith so endearing is her unabashed positivity. Perhaps more than any other entry on our list, she willfully and purposefully embraces her role as a bona fide superhero. Guided by the deft touch of fellow comics darling Jody Houser, Faith has set up shop as Los Angeles' premiere superhero, complete with a day job and secret identity. Along with her new boyfriend Obadiah Archer, Faith patrols the skies above the City of Angels, a true guardian of its inhabitants.
Speaking to a younger, more sophisticated and diverse comic book readership searching for more positive and realistic costumed role models, Faith stands as a beacon of light in a market where grim and gritty heroes still seem to be the norm. Faith is a character who resonates across a broad audience spectrum, igniting the imaginations of demographics previously ignored by major publishers.
Along with characters such as Kamala Khan and America Chavez, Faith heralds an exciting new direction for mainstream superhero comics. When viewed in that light, is there any wonder she took the coveted top spot as our list’s premiere ambassador of the Valiant Universe?
How did you rank Valiant’s heroes? Who did we overlook? Let us know in the comments!