by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Paolo Rivera & Joe Rivera
Issue #4 brings to a conclusion arguably the largest scale story that the revived publisher has told yet. For the first time pretty much every player in the Valiant Universe was united to face a common foe: The Eternal Enemy. The Eternal Enemy is a malignant power that has haunted Gilad Anni-Padda, the Eternal Warrior for millennia. Each time human civilization reaches a new height of development, the Enemy strikes, targeting the current Geomancer (humanity’s connection to the Earth). Each of the Enemy’s victories ushers in a darker age. This time is different though, as Gilad has gathered together a super-powered force to repulse the monster.
Despite this large cast of characters, Lemire and Kindt never lose track of their focus. Beneath all the epic trappings, The Valiant has been a very personal tale of two warriors: Gilad and Bloodshot. Gilad’s primary task as the Defender of the Earth is to keep safe the Geomancer. Yet, he loses every battle he wages against the Enemy. It is a failure that runs deep, haunting him. His determination to defeat the Enemy becomes more than a responsibility; it is an obsession. Indeed his single-minded fixation nearly costs him dearly. Gilad is one of the most fondly remembered Valiant characters from the 90s, yet the relaunch stumbled a bit in getting him right. Lemire and Kindt have remedied this oversight by giving readers the most compelling Gilad to date. (On his own, Kindt also recently turned in a strong Gilad solo story for Unity #16).
The other star of The Valiant has been Bloodshot. Kindt and Lemire have stated that The Valiant was originally conceived as a small-scale Bloodshot story, which grew in the planning. When the series’ first debuted that comment seemed a little odd, as the central player was Gilad. Issue #3 altered that dynamic however, shining the spotlight clearly on Bloodshot as he becomes the last defense between Kay (the current Geomancer) and the Eternal Enemy. At first, these two made an unlikely pair, however, over the last two issues readers discover how much they have in common. Neither of them ever asked for the responsibilities that weigh so heavily on them. It has been two years since Kay first became the Geomancer and she is still unsure in her role. She feels lost in a way not dissimilar to Bloodshot’s own blank memories. In a fashion, they are each tools, sharpened in the name of some larger cause for which they never volunteered. The bond they form in what limited time they have is the heart of the series.
In the process, Kindt demonstrates again his fine understanding of Bloodshot. As in his Bloodshot #0, Kindt brings out the character’s humanity as do few others. Naturally, co-credit for The Valiant, belongs to Lemire who will be scripting Bloodshot Reborn when it lunches next month. Based on events depicted in The Valiant, I am very intrigued to see where Lemire takes the character next. Valiant claimed that The Valiant would redefine Bloodshot, and while we will need to wait for April for all the details, this week’s issue seems to confirm that prediction. Regardless, for the first time ever, I find myself excited for a Bloodshot series.
Gilad’s final gambit leads to a couple twists and turns, none of which I shall spoil here. This issue is a thrilling, emotionally resonant final chapter. At the same time, Lemire and Kindt give the reader something to ponder. Lemire and Kindt deny readers a celebratory victory, leaving them with something much more ambiguous. How much Gilad has triumphed, if at all, is an open question. Will civilization continue to flourish or is a collapse right around the corner? Only time will tell . . .
As he has throughout the series, Paola Rivera (assisted this month by Joe Rivera) turns in some remarkable pages. The action sequences are tense and dynamic, while the character moments are poignant. Lemire and Kindt’s story has several emotional beats, all of which Rivera nails.
All in all, The Valiant comes to a satisfying conclusion this week, continuing the publisher’s recent string of successes.
The Valiant #4 will be released in print and digital formats this Wednesday, March 25th.