The Ninjabot

Why “The Valiant” is My Favorite Comic of All Time

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 1:59 pm by Tyler Waterman

Before I get started, I have a bit of a disclaimer: I don’t like articles about why a particular title is the “best comic ever.” To me, the very best part about comics is that every person who enters this world finds something different to love. Sure, many of us love the same publishers, characters, and creators, but you’ll never find two comic fans whose interests are perfectly identical. They may both love Batman, but they’ll both have a different answer if you asked who drew him best, or which Batman story is the most definitive. Two fans may list the same creator as their favorite, but only one of them genuinely enjoyed that weird indie book he or she put out fifteen years ago. Two given fans may refuse to read anything that isn’t Marvel or DC, but they’ll fight endlessly over which character is that publisher’s finest.

The fact is, which comics are “best” is completely subjective, which is why I tend to avoid anything that argues otherwise. If you genuinely think you can pick one title and deem it “best,” all you’ve really done is show me you don’t understand the beauty of this medium.

However, those of us in this business do have an obligation. It’s not to determine what’s “best” and force that opinion on others, it’s to make sure the truly great titles get noticed by as many people as possible. We aren’t here to determine your favorites; we’re here to make sure you don’t miss something that could be your new favorite.

With all that being said, let me introduce you to The Valiant, my favorite comic series of all time. What makes The Valiant so great, you ask? Let me explain, in the most internet-friendly way possible… a list, of course! Without further ado, I present to you…

Why The Valiant is my Favorite Comic of All Time

 

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The Valiant Feels Like a Summer Blockbuster and an Indie Film at the Same Time

I’ve read lots of comics with “holy crap” moments that legitimately made me yell, well, “holy crap.” I’ve also read lots of comics with emotional moments that legitimately made me feel, well, emotional. But it wasn’t until I read The Valiant that I could say I’d seen both of these concepts take center stage in one story. Sure, there have been plenty of stories that brought the punches along with the feels, but every one of those stories had a clear emphasis on one or the other, as if the one that wasn’t the focus was simply a side effect of the other.

The Valiant is the first book I’ve ever read where I felt like neither the action nor the emotion took a back seat to the other. This isn’t a book dominated by action that ends by being tied off with an emotional bow. This also isn’t a book that pulls at your heartstrings while surprising you with a few moments of suspense. This is a book that perfectly weaves the two together, so perfectly in fact that, when reading it in print, you’ll often find one page breaking your heart while the one next to it pumps your adrenaline. It’s an experience that I’ve never had in over 20 years of comic reading, and I suspect many others would say the same.

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Seeing these two pages side-by-side is the best argument I’ve ever seen for why print comics should never die.

It’s Accessible to New Readers, yet Rewarding to Long-time Fans

Let’s face it; comics aren’t an easy hobby to pick up. With decades of stories, thousands of characters, dozens of publishers, and more coming every single Wednesday, being on the outside and looking in can be an overwhelming experience. Even the most excited prospective fan can be easily discouraged by the mountains of information and stories that await them. Comic publishers understand this, but are left between a rock and a hard place when it comes to how to address the issue. If you start from scratch, you’ll catch hell from the established fans. If you include too many references only old fans will pick up, new fans will feel left out and won’t come back.

The comic industry has struggled with this for decades, but The Valiant is the first title to solve the problem, and as it turns out, the solution was an obvious one. That solution? Tell a story so riveting and significant that it rewards old fans while instilling a need in new fans to know more. If you ask me “what’s Valiant all about” and I direct you to a mountain of Wikipedia articles, you’ll say “nevermind” and not ask again. But if you ask me the same question and I hand you a compelling story you can read in one sitting, you’re certain to find something you want to go research on Wikipedia, and suddenly what appeared to be a chore is your new favorite thing. The Valiant is that story. I’m just as excited to talk about it with Valiant fans as I am to show it to someone who’s never read a comic in their life, and that’s the ultimate definition of an accessible title.

It’s a Serious Title that Didn’t Forget to be Funny

There’s a ton of humor to be found in comics of all kinds. Some are designed to make you laugh from cover to cover, some feature a side story or two designed to lighten the mood, or a side character who manages to be the constant punchline. I’ve even seen Batman crack a joke from time to time. However, when the “important” books come along, humor almost always goes out the window. I’ve always said you can tell when Marvel wants you to know a book “matters” because Spider-Man is in it and he’s not telling jokes, and the fact that I can use that as a barometer for importance is exactly the problem.

I shouldn’t know your story is important because everyone in it got serious; I should know because the story itself won’t let me think otherwise. The Valiant does exactly that, and I know it does it well because, well… it’s pretty damn funny! Sure, the whole thing is essentially the worst doom and gloom the Valiant Universe has ever seen, but mixed throughout the story are moments that genuinely make you laugh. Comic publishers take note: that didn’t diminish from my experience. In fact, it enhanced it. Those moments of humor are actually moments of humanity. We all like to think that, if faced with the ultimate threat, we could maintain our sense of humor. The Valiant taught me that I don’t just expect that of myself; I also expect that of my comics.

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It fills me with joy that Bloodshot and I would have a mutual hatred of Etrigan.

It Proves a Consistent World Matters

If there’s one thing that’s consistent about comics, it’s that nothing is consistent about comics. The logistics of ensuring that every story in every comic doesn’t contradict each other is a daunting task, made even more impossible by delays, creator departures, and the needs of doing business. Smart comic fans understand that this is a necessary evil, but that doesn’t change the fact that it still sucks.

When Valiant relaunched in 2012, they promised their brand would put consistency over anything else, and we all said “sounds great” and immediately assumed otherwise… and we were wrong to doubt. Having read every single Valiant title since then, I can tell you unequivocally that there’s never been a time where that consistency has wavered, and The Valiant is twice as effective a story because of it. I want to be immersed in major comic stories, but when someone shows up in “Major Event Book #1” that I just saw die in “That Guy’s Solo Book #500” that came out last week, I’m immediately checked out. I understand why it happens, but it doesn’t make it any better when you see it. When everyone who’s anyone shows up in The Valiant, I’m not left scratching my head as to how, I’m simply enjoying the epic showdown. Enjoyment is all I want from my comics, and as always, Valiant delivers in spades.

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There isn’t a single man, woman, robot or goat here whose presence doesn’t make sense, and oh man do I appreciate that.

I love a lot of comics, and I don’t ever want to have to part with any of them. But let me tell you, the next time I’m faced with the old “you can only bring one comic series with you to a deserted island” conundrum, The Valiant has made my answer an easy one. There truly isn’t such a thing as a “perfect comic,” but there is absolutely a “perfect comic for me,” and The Valiant is it. It’s beautiful to look at, yet terrible to behold. It’s funny, yet heartbreaking. It’s exciting, yet devastating. Most importantly, it’s a masterpiece. Thank you to Paolo and Joe Rivera, Matt Kindt, Jeff Lemire, Dave Lanphear, Kyle Andrukiewicz, Warren Simons, and everyone at Valiant who had a part in making this book a reality. You’ve made comic magic, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

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