Reading Valiant In Order, Month 4 – X-O #4, Harbinger #3, Bloodshot #2, Archer & Armstrong #1

I was hoping, reading all these Valiant books together, in the order they were published, in close proximity to each other, that I might see themes, connections, between the books that I may have missed when reading them intermittently, and with the four month I think I'm there with one at least.

The idea of Power, who owns it, how it is distributed and how it deals with threats.


First, Politics. X-O Manowar #4 by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord plays an interesting trick. We are shown a returning Aric, centuries away from his home, dealing with modern day Rome, including killing a number of its police and armed forces. The audience knows where and when he is, we are in a superior position of knowledge, we even feel smug, we know how the world works and Aric does not.


And then the rug is pulled away as we discover that the alien race that took Aric – won, Conquered the Earth like the Romans conquered Europe, but no one noticed. They are the secret power masters and the much hunted, much desired Manowar costume is amongst them… rather than the warring race we might have assumed from previous issue, they are far more insidious than that, the Vine getting its roots in to the political masters of the world. Just as the slaves tended the garden in the colony ship, the Vine here tend the Earth, staying in control. And the X-O Manowar, is what could threaten them – or give them access to even more power.


Harbinger #3 by Joshua Dysart, Khari Edwards and Lewis Larosa looks at another place of power, that of money, the corporation, in this case, Harada Global Conglomerates, being sold to Peter as a benevolent dictator, holding itself to strict moral guideline without ever asking if it should be in that position at all. But the means justify the ends of giving their psychics space and luxury in which to be. There is hostility here, and Peter reacts like a firework, set off in a locked box. His threat to them all as a naturally triggered psychic is noted, measured and then suppressed. For now.


Last month we noted he was a psychic rapist. Now we discover he almost committed patricide too. It's not getting better…


Whereas with Bloodshot by Duane Swierzcynski, Manual Garcia and Arturo Lozzi, it's the military power base, constantly controlling their soldiers, manipulating them, presenting a fake reality to motivate them – so why not do that to that to the public as well? That does seem to be the natural takeout from this comic so far. Of course they create their own monster while doing so which can turn against them, as there is dissension in the ranks. But that's okay, they have a second monster waiting in a cupboard to take out the first, if it goes rogue. What could possibly go wrong.


And whichever way he goes, Bloodshot is being manipulated. even when he escapes, he is still following pre-set ideas of what "home" is. Reminds me of We3, rather….

Also, angry, bloody, messy version of Alan Davis from Garcia, what Bryan Hitch used to do…


While the title that launched this month, Archer & Armstrong #1 by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry, looked to religion as a source of power. Both a religious fervour that kills millions in ancient days, mirrored by the parents who brainwashed Archer, as part of an extreme evangelical church/theme park, yet see him betrayed by them, when he realises that they are devil worshipping Wall Street  willing to sacrifice him. And, as well as te religion, it's Money as power… but it doesn't really differentiate the two.

Because this title is far more bout the satire, it is a change in tone from the other titles, wearing the points it is making far more on its sleeve, even more than the far darker Bloodshot. And the odd couple of Archer & Armstrong is played for out-and-out laughs right from the beginning.


Oh and the baddies want to blow up Greece to stabilise the Euro. Three years later, it's still topical. That's a sad reflection on the world more than it is a compliment for writer Van Lente. But he should probably still take it….

Previous Columns

Month One
Month Two
Month Three

Featuring comics available in these volumes

X-O Manowar Vol 1
Harbinger Vol 1
Bloodshot Vol 1
Archer & Armstrong Vol 1

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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