And no. It's not Marvel.
I grew up with DC characters. I love them. I like Marvel stuff too, but the truth is I have a limited budget (because I'm a pastor) and limited time (because I'm a pastor). Because of this, I just stuck with DC so I wouldn't get sucked into another universe and buy more comics than I could afford, or could read within my limited schedule.
Lately, though, I haven't been enjoying the books coming out of DC. With constant creative team change-ups, character re-boots (and re-re-boots), and massive 18-part crossover mega events, I'm just tired of the whole rigamarole and not loving what I'm reading.
Well, that's not entirely true. The books that I thoroughly love have been cancelled. Reading has become a chore instead of a joy.
I was ready to just throw in the towel and give up.
Then I checked out Valiant.
It wasn't a whim. I used to buy comics from their sales manager Atom! Freeman back when we both lived in Southern California. I'd kept up with his goings-ons via Facebook. I wasn't interested in jumping onto a new upstart, re-booted company, though. So I never gave it much thought.
But when the frustration grew, I turned to Doug over at my new comic store, Top Comics and asked him about this whole Valiant Universe thing.
He raved. He made suggestions. I bought trade paperbacks.
I fell in love.
(Not the kind of love a man has for a woman, or even a man has for his numerous cats. No this is a different kind of love. Like the love a man has for his sports team, or his car... only deeper.)
I've now made the decision to ditch DC and jump into the Valiant Universe.
1. Full Universe Submersion
Because there's only eight on-going series right now, I can afford to be fully involved in the universe. Unlike the Big Two companies, I don't have to make sacrifices and hard decisions on which characters to follow. I can follow them all.
2. Character Driven
So far, the vast majority of issues I've read are dedicated to character-driven stories. While the series all have very interested premises of their own, the plot devices don't drive the story. The story isn't about the technology. It's about the characters. (Even in the case of Bloodshot where the character is the technology.)
I haven't read anything I didn't like. The writing is solid. The art is great. Certainly there are issues better than others, and weaker storylines than others, but it has all been enjoyable. Never a chore.
Unlike the vast number of modern stories (movies, tv, books, comics) the Valiant Universe doesn't pretend like people's belief in God doesn't exist. Most people believe in the divine. And while I certainly wouldn't agree with all the theology of every book... Valiant at least acknowledges the existence of religion, and even gives Christianity a fair shake-down in characters like Archer in Archer & Armstrong. There's also been nods to Christianity historically in X-O Manowar. And a sympathetic Christian support character in Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps.
Moral conflict. Defeated heroes. Loss of dreams. Beauty in the midst of pain. This universe presents, what philosophers call "complex wisdom." It's not just a simple black-shirts versus white-coats sort of conflict. (Okay, there is some of that too....) Characters like Toyo Harada and Aric of Dacia have some very positive and negative intentions lurking behind their actions. Just like in real life! We also get a glimpse into family life (which comics often neglect), which includes foster families!
Certainly humor is not in all the titles. But in particular Archer & Armstrong and Quantum and Woody have moments where I laugh out loud. That's a hard feat to accomplish in book form. And Valiant does it consistently for me.
So, I've been reading Valiant now for about three months. I love it. I'm looking forward to continuing with them!
Don't get me wrong, I still love all my childhood heroes, but in the end story wins out. Story is king. And Valiant is telling extraordinary stories.