People ask all the time, what are the best Valiant Comics?
While opinions vary, the following nine issues and story arcs are close to the list of the best of the best.
All of these stories were made in the first three years of Valiant, which were really the glory years for Valiant Comics. In these years, the books were produced that made Valiant what it was at the time, an up and coming rival to more established comic book publishers, including Marvel and DC.
If you had to choose only a few dozen Valiant comics to read, you will be reading the best made with this list.
Harbinger 1 – 7
The first three entries on this list could each be placed in the number one position. In fact, if this were a list of my favorite Valiant stories, the third entry in this list would be placed first. I think, though, that Harbinger 1 through 7 is the best of the best when it comes to Valiant comics.
Stories of super-powered teenagers is not new by any means, but Harbinger managed to do it best. Ultimately, the success of this is because it is not about super heroes that are teenagers, but about teenagers that happen to have powers and abilities. The first few issues include strange adventures (including a trip to outer space) riddled with emotional ups and downs. The story builds upon itself until it reaches the emotional climax in issue 6, and tells the fallout from this in issue 7.
I didn’t realize just how powerful this story is until I sat down and read the entire seven issue run in one sitting. If you like comics, you should read Harbinger. If you think comics are kids stuff and super heroes, you should read Harbinger.
Valiant Entertainment released issues 1 through 7 in a hardcover collection (also including the zero issue that came out after the first seven issues, and a new backup story) called Harbinger: The Beginning. Click here to check out Harbinger: The Beginning on Amazon.com
We discuss Harbinger, with a lot of focus on these first seven issues in episode 10 of Only The Valiant.
Magnus 1 – 4, “Steel Nation”
The first 4 issues of Magnus are the first comics published by Valiant in the Valiant Universe, and these first four issues tell a story called Steel Nation. Magnus was a super hero book published by Gold Key in the 1960’s, and the premise was that Magnus protected the people of the future from dangerous, rogue robots.
Valiant’s Magnus continues from the Gold Key comics, but adds to the mythos to make the world of the future a much more complex, thought provoking setting. Magnus isn’t just faced with the threat of an uprising of robots that have gained the ability to think for themselves, but presented with the moral dilemma of what it means to be alive. Should Magnus be protecting humans from the robots that mean to harm them, or the other way around?
Solar Alpha & Omega
If I was forced to pick my favorite story ever told in a comic, there is a very good chance that this would be my answer. Alpha & Omega is the origin story of Solar, Man of the Atom, and it was serialized as a backup story in the first 10 issues of that title.
While Magnus picks up where the Gold Key Magnus stories left off, Solar, Man of the Atom reboots the old Doctor Solar series. Phil Seleski journey in life strongly parallels that of Raymond Solar, the original Doctor Solar, who’s comic book stories Phil always loved as a kid. This origin story is drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, one of the most talented illustrators in comics, and is spectacular.
If you have ever wanted to read a story about a man who has a wish, gets it, becomes a man with the power of a god, and eventually loses everything, starting with what is most precious to him, read this.
The first three entries on this list were the bang that started out the Valiant Universe, and Rai #0 is the bible that foretold where it was going.
Rai 0 bridges the gap between the present day and the world of 4001, when Magnus and Rai take place. This series introduces characters, and tells about the eventual life (and death) of the characters in the Valiant Universe. The tragedy of this issue is that the Valiant crumbled, and the stories hinted at in this issue were never told. Valiant declined, but this issue is a mark of what could have been. It is also just downright awesome, and sports one of the iconic covers from the Valiant era.
We spent an entire episode talking in depth about this one issue, you can check it out here, episode 24.
Many of the series mentioned in this list were best at the very beginning, but Shadowman is a title that got better after it had a chance to pick up steam.
These issues show Jack Boniface and Shadowman at their best, kicking butt and fighting demons. These issues have the awesome “Blood Runner” storyline, and introduce Master Darque. Master Darque would go on to become one of, if not the, main antagonist of the Valiant Universe, and is one of the coolest, yet creepiest villains to come along in a while.
Shadowman continued to be good after this run, but it is in these issues that Shadowman Master Darque really come into their own as characters.
Eternal Warrior 4 – 7
“I had a dream, that I am falling through time. I am falling still”
The first two issues of Eternal Warrior were part of the Unity crossover, and issue three followed up from there a bit. It wasn’t until issue four that the series really got going on its own. In these issues we see Gilad, the title character, really act on what he is, the fist and the steel of the earth. Issues 4 and 5 introduce Bloodshot, who would eventually get his own title. Bloodshot and Gilad develop a friendship that continues throughout the publication of Valiant comics, even coming up in one of the last Valiant Comics made, Bloodshot: Last Stand.
Issues 6 and 7 have the Eternal Warrior pit off against Master Darque, when Darque tries to obtain the secrets of the earth from Buck McHenry, the former Geomancer, by any means necessary. Barry Windsor-Smith illustrates these two issues, with stunning results. The covers of these two issues are two of my favorite images from Valiant, portraying portraits of the Eternal Warrior, and Master Darque.
If you find these issues flipping through bins, pick them up. They are well worth it.
Archer & Armstrong 0 – 12
Archer & Armstrong are the complete opposite of Eternal Warrior, a rag tag duo, one determined to enforce justice to wrong doers, the other determined to drink himself silly. Their adventures range from whacky to incredible, as these two develop an odd, but loyal friendship.
The first 13 issues (including the zero issue) are illustrated and co-plotted by Barry Windsor-Smith (him again), and tell one long, weaving story. This comic is fun, funny, cool, and incredibly entertaining, and is remembered by many as their favorite title that Valiant made. The first issue, released as issue zero, is one of the best origin stories told, and ranks up there as one of the best single issues that Valiant ever produced.
Valiant Entertainment released the first 7 issues of this series in a hardcover collection called Archer & Armstrong: First Impressions. Click here to check it out on Amazon.com.
The Unity Crossover
Unity is the best crossover I have ever read.
All eight (at the time) Valiant titles crossed over for two months to tell the Unity storyline. The roots of the story go back a year before the story began, to Solar, Man of the Atom #1, the fifth comic Valiant produced in the Valiant Universe. Each character’s story weaves into the greater story seamlessly. Unity manages to combine huge, world ending action with incredibly personal moments. It is huge, and it is great.
This is the story that really put Valiant on the map, and a couple months after this story came out, Valiant was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Crisis? Secret Wars? Amateur. I have never read a company wide crossover that was as well conceived and executed as Unity. This is the biggest story Valiant ever created, and in my mind, the crowning jewel of Valiant’s achievement.
If you like big, sweeping stories, you owe it to yourself to read Unity. In quite possibly one of our best comic book discussions ever, we discuss Unity in Only The Valiant Episode 16. If you haven’t read this story, get it and read it.
Solar, Man of the Atom 31
Ok, I admit. The last entry on this list is not one of the best, but it is one of my favorites. What are the real world ramifications of being a man with god-like powers? Well, catching super villains, and not knowing what to do with them when you defeat them. So you bring them home with you. Then your girlfriend gets angry because you have a super villain tied up in the living room and you are late to the holiday party. Your girlfriend is not happy.
This issue is not a huge, amazing, spectacular story, but is fun and quirky. It is really about the more human side of super heroics, and how even when you can save the world from blowing up, you can’t always keep your girlfriend from getting mad.
This is hands down one of the most fun Valiant comics produced. It was one of Valiant’s holiday books, and you can hear us discuss it, and all the other Valiant holiday books, in Only The Valiant episode 20.