The 10 Best Stories of the Modern Valiant Comics Era

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The 10 Best Stories of the Modern Valiant Comics Era

Since its publishing revival in 2012, Valiant Entertainment—once considered a casualty of the ‘90s comic industry boom and bust—has built one of the most consistent and entertaining shared universes this side of the Big Two, Marvel and DC. By cultivating a growing base of creative talents and maintaining a small but steady line of action/sci-fi titles—and the odd irascible superhero humor book—Valiant has garnered a new generation of devoted fans.

With the release of Divinity II #1 by Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine this week—the follow-up to the publisher’s widely acclaimed original mini-series Divinity—Paste compiled a countdown of the ten best stories of the modern Valiant era. Whether you’re a member of the Valiant vanguard or merely Valiant-curious, this list will ensure you don’t miss out on the best this still-growing publisher has to offer.

10. Faith

Writer: Jody Hauser
Artist: Francis Portela

Writer Joshua Dysart's work on launch title Harbinger has long served as a backbone for Valiant, providing the shared universe with Psiots (its own version of mutants). But none has proved as popular as Faith, the bubbly, buoyant hero who made headlines as one of the first plus-sized superheroines to headline her own series—a series that Valiant quickly upgraded from limited to ongoing thanks to a groundswell of reader support. In a few short issues, writer Jody Hauser and artist Francis Portela have proven themselves capable of capturing and expanding on what made Faith the high-flying breakout character of Harbinger. While the book is young, it has already reached a wider audience than many other Valiant titles, and with any luck, they'll continue to do so for many issues to come.

9. Armor Hunters

Writers: Robert Vendetti, Joshua Dysart, Matt Kindt
Artists: Stephen Segovia, Doug Braithwaite, Diego Bernard, others

Armor Hunters wasn't the first crossover from the relatively self-contained Valiant Universe, but it was the biggest, utterly exploding the walls between franchises with the introduction of the relentless titular alien strike team in pursuit of the X-O Manowar armor. Such a large-scale event wasn't without its growing pains—actually reading the series in chronological order was a bit of a challenge—but Armor Hunters proved Valiant could do large-scale events just like the big boys…and that their line is still manageable enough that these events actually impact the books for more than a month afterwards.

8. Harbinger Vol. 5: Death of a Renegade

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artists: Khari Evans & Clayton Henry

Joshua Dysart's Harbinger saga is on par with Robert Vendetti's XO Manowar when it comes to driving the larger course of the Valiant Universe (hello, Toyo Harada). It was his endearing and evolving characterization of Peter Stancheck and the rest of the Renegades, though, that propelled the book's momentum straight to this funereal finale. The death of a Renegade was telegraphed well in advance, but it didn't make saying goodbye any easier—especially in a smaller shared universe where death is not as much of a revolving door as it is at the Big Two. Valiant isn't shy about ending and restarting books, but this final Harbinger volume is one of the most affecting closing chapters the company has published to date.

7. Archer & Armstrong Vol. 4: Sect Civil War

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artists: Khari Evans & ChrisCross

Archer & Armstrong felt like a guilty pleasure when it first launched: a comedic pairing between a man-child demigod and a preternaturally gifted teenager, written by Fred Van Lente? It's like Hercules never got cancelled! Over the course of 25+ issues, it became clear that A&A was much more than Van Lente's second shot at the Lion of Olympus, peaking with Sect Civil War. The story arc saw all of the shady organizations plaguing the pair pitched into heated combat—with Archer and Armstrong seemingly on opposing sides. Khari Evans and ChrisCross do exemplary work with the warrior nuns and gold-animal-headed Wall Street tycoons that populate this bonkers book, and the unusual bond between the title characters runs deeper than any conspiracy theory.

6. Rai Vol. 1: Welcome to New Japan

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Clayton Crain

Valiant is all about men out of time—Ivar, Armstrong, Aric—but nothing on the publisher's list is quite like Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain's far-future folk-hero epic Rai. Set in the year 4001 AD (also the setting for the company's current major crossover), Rai follows the titular cybernetic enforcer on the orbiting island of New Japan, where crime is virtually nonexistent—until the first murder in a thousand years jeopardizes the seemingly benevolent reign of "Father." Kindt goes full-blown imagineer in crafting his far-flung future, but Crain is the breakout star of the book. Valiant has a knack for polishing creators who fly just under the radar at the Big Two, and Crain, whose Marvel work occasionally looked rushed and muddy, is in top form realizing this gleaming techno-future.

5. Bloodshot Reborn Vol. 1: Colorado

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mico Suayan

Bloodshot was among the first characters relaunched by Valiant, but the unkillable soldier didn't hit his stride until multitalented creator Jeff Lemire took over scripting duties, throwing this '90s-named antihero headlong into an exploration of PTSD and personal identity. With dramatic visual accompaniment from Mico Suayan, Lemire forced the nanite-powered Wolverine/Punisher rip-off to stare headlong at his past deeds and reckon with his inconsistencies, performing both in-story and meta-story rehabilitation on the character. Reborn indeed.

4. Quantum and Woody Vol. 1: The World's Worst Superhero Team

Writer: James Asmus
Artist: Tom Fowler

James Asmus and Tom Fowler's Quantum & Woody launch was fraught with controversy: who could possibly do justice to the offbeat superhero duo so associated with original creators Christopher Priest and M.D. Bright—and was it even Valiant's moral right to continue the license? Luckily, the wit and heart of Asmus and Fowler's initial arc quickly convinced naysayers that the odd couple (and their goat) were in good hands. Comedy is notoriously hard to pull off in comics, but Asmus nails the balance of gags and narrative advancement, while Fowler's fluid figures convey action and physical comedy with equal ease. Long before Marvel fully embraced funny, Valiant was pulling it off on a consistent basis. But mostly: that goat.

3. X-O Manowar Vol. 1: By The Sword

Writer: Robert Vendetti
Artist: Cary Nord

Before he took stewardship of Green Lantern from none other than Geoff Johns, a little-known writer named Robert Vendetti teamed up with popular Conan artist Cary Nord to reintroduce readers to Valiant's flagship character, a time-displaced barbarian in possession of a hotly contested alien Iron Man suit. Aric of Dasia's struggles against the Vine have driven many of the overarching plots in the Valiant universe, but it's this brutal first arc that showed readers what to expect from the reborn publisher and set the pace for everything that's followed.

2. Divinity

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Trevor Hairsine

Divinity was a leap of faith (not that Faith) for the young publisher when it dropped in 2015 as the first modern Valiant mini-series that didn't build on existing IP from the company's long start-and-stop history. Without the extra nostalgia push that enticed fans to books like Ninjak, Divinity had to rely on its stellar high concept: during the Cold War, the Soviet Union launched a desperate mission into deep space. In the modern day, a survivor has returned with deity-like powers and an unknown agenda. Writer Matt Kindt and artist Trevor Hairsine tapped into the same exploration of omni-powered heroes that gave us Miracleman and A god Somewhere—and gave Valiant one of its strongest stories to date in the process.

1. The Valiant

Writers: Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt
Artist: Paolo Rivera

Paolo Rivera. What more needs to be said to justify The Valiant's place on this list? Full interiors from the masterful artist are few and far between, which makes this mini-series, co-written by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt (who, it must be noted, have done some of their best work at Valiant), an enormous treat on visuals alone. The Valiant also unites the publisher's most popular characters for a centuries-spanning adventure that is entirely self-contained, providing the publisher with an evergreen introduction to why its nascent universe matters and what it has to offer comic readers flush with other options. A tightly plotted, gorgeously illustrated, surprisingly personal epic that more than earns the top spot on this list—and its shared name with one of today's most consistent publishers.