Valiant Comics made their comeback last year by relaunching many of their most popular comic series with brand new directions. If you were around in the ’90s, or have visited a comic book store in the past year, you probably have heard of some of these characters. X-O Manowar was recently used as the inspiration for the US Olympic Luge team’s uniforms and Shadowman is the latest Valiant comic character to get a movie deal. Like every other comic book franchise though, the Valiant comics suffer from one fatal flaw: reader accessibility. Some readers would really like to get into these comics but they don’t have a frame of reference for what it is they’re reading and where to start. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of our favorite Valiant characters and comics. Check it out below.
ARCHER & ARMSTRONG
What it is and why it’s awesome: Archer & Armstrong is one of the most unlikely superhero duos in all of comics. Composed of Archer, a master martial artist born into a stark religious home, and Armstrong, an immortal being with enhanced abilities, the pair find themselves at odds originally as Archer seeks to kill the immortal globe hopper. The two quickly form a bond when they realize that they’re being hunted by a secret group called The Sect. The Sect has infiltrated every government and religious organization in the world, including Archer’s family church from his childhood, all in search of Armstrong, who they believe will cause the end of mankind simply due to his existence.
This pairing is so unique due to the very distinct nature of the characters. Archer is a highly moral, sophisticated fighter that is barely an adult, and Armstrong is like a big drunk Superman. You’re not going to find a duo like this in another comic book. The new series, relaunched last year, plays more for the conspiracy aspect of the overarching narrative while the original series did its best to place the pairing in fantastical situations with other comic characters popping in like X-O Manowar and Turok the dinosaur hunter.
We recommend: The charming original series has its first seven issues collected into a gorgeous hardcover by Valiant, which makes it a must buy for fans.
What it is and why it’s awesome: Ninjak takes two things that comic readers really enjoy, playboy spys and ninjas, and melds them together. Unlike other Valiant heroes, Ninjak doesn’t actually have any super powers. But after growing up in Asia, Colin King developed a masterful understanding of ninjitsu and other fighting styles. Using those and other skills, King takes on the identity of Ninjak at night and becomes an elusive spy and master assassin. The core of Ninjak takes the best things about other stories, the playboy and espionage side of James Bond with the over-the-top violence and fighting of ’90s comics. While it might seem like a rip-off on paper, the execution of the stories never feels like “Ninja James Bond” or “British Batman,” it has its own tone and feel.
We recommend: The first seven issues of the series are available in a gorgeous hardcover collection, which you can get by clicking here. Furthermore, the character has recently resurfaced in the newly rebooted X-O Manowar series.
What it is and why it’s awesome: One of the most unique creations from the Valiant catalogue, X-O Manowar is one part Iron Man and one part He-Man with a dash of Star Wars. The series sees its lead character Aric, part of the nomadic Visigoths, being accidentally transported onto an alien world after he attacks a troup of aliens called Vines on Earth in 400 AD. From there Aric finds himself in the presence of the “X-O” armor, a powerful weapon that some of the vines worship as part of a religion. Wearing this armor, coupled with Aric’s ruthless ancient Rome fighting style makes X-O a very nasty opponent.
Throughout his adventures, X-O has faced off against all sorts of aliens, races, and planets. One version even saw him as a 1940’s scientist that wore the armor while captured in Nazi occupied Europe. It’s his suit, with the most unique color scheme in a comic, and abilities that make him stand out. The X-O armor makes him practically invincible, and even regrows his long lost hand after it was cut off. He can fly through space and fire lasers from his wrists, which may not sound original but it never quite feels like a Green Lantern, Nova, or the other space superheroes.
We recommend: The latest rebooted series is a must read. While maintaining a similar setup to the original comic, the way the story unfolds in the new X-O Manowar makes each issue exciting and different.