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by Thegreatmagnet on August 30, 2017

Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Barry Kitson, Diego Bernard with Juan Castro
Colors: Ulises Arreola
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Back in 1992, the original incarnation of Valiant made huge waves with their first line-wide crossover event, Unity. The event served the role of introducing all of their brand new heroes to an unfamiliar public, and the genius of the writing made Valiant the hottest publisher on the market. This series has been teased to feature nearly every Valiant hero to date, and it’s headlined by Faith, arguably Valiant’s most crossover character. Thus far, the plot bears vague similarities to the Unity storyline, although it also incorporates some novel time-travel influences, such as Doctor Who and Edge of Tomorrow. This issue reveals a bit about the nature of the antagonist, although arguably the narrative progress is minimal, and there are still some basic questions about the premise.
The narrative arc of the original Unity event revolved around a rather disturbed character named Erica Peirce (or Mothergod), who was attempting to merge the entirety of Time into one timeline called the Lost Land. Her justification was that the nature of time/history was too chaotic, and she wanted to create order in one unified time. In this series, the motivations of the villain (Do-Bot) are not yet entirely clear.  In this issue, he mainly quotes passages from Plato that discuss the fleeting/artificial nature of the natural universe, as opposed to the eternal, ideal nature of the Forms. Do-Bot is absorbing people and key events from history, perhaps in an effort to create his own permanent digital version of the Form. He refers to individuals in terms of their “data” value, often with the supers having more significance than regular humans, most likely because he acquired the powers of those that he absorbs. However, at this point, the true nature of his motivation and methods are unclear. My wild guess would be that in some way, Do-Bot is still storing everything that he’s absorbed and that they will eventually be restored the way they originally were (perhaps with few having lasting knowledge of the key events).
One important element that has yet to be addressed in this series is, how exactly is Do-Bot changing history? Valiant Comics took a bold step in the Ivar, Timewalker series, wherein they established a fairly restrictive set of rules for time travel in the Valiant Universe. In a nutshell, they stated that history (or at least the significant elements thereof) cannot be changed because the universe protects itself in a process called chronological protection. Neela states in the current series that changing history should not be possible, but they don’t really address it any further, nor does Do-Bot discuss how he can achieve it. I understand that time travel is make believe, but I think it’s important to address that aspect of the premise, otherwise it’s quite a McGuffin. Similarly, I’m not sure what to make of the jargony equations that Neela tends to spit out before traveling back in time to warn her past self (thus restarting the cycle of events). I don’t recall Ivar spitting out verbal equations too often, but I could be wrong. To be fair, I was intrigued by the idea that the first issue does not portray the first time through the cycle of events, and I hope that this idea is also addressed in the story. The most important thing is that this is a time travel story, and its success will depend on delivering a coherent (and hopefully thought provoking) narrative, especially in a larger continuity that contradicts the fundamental premise.
Another fundamental question is what is the significance of Faith in this story? We know that she is going to be of key importance, because she is the headlining character. However, so far in this story she has not contributed much, aside from recruiting other Valiant heroes for the mission. Her power-set does not suggest that she could defeat the enemy, who has already defeated her at least once. This story has been dominated by Neela (the Time Walker), and it’s mostly been a cycle of Faith asking how time travel stuff works, and Neela refusing to explain. Meanwhile, they seem to achieve very little with each time through the cycle, aside from recruiting more heroes (who will likely only be absorbed by the enemy). I have to hope/assume that in the next issue or two, Neela actually lets Faith have some input and possibly share a leadership role in the mission. Faith (who is arguably an avatar for Houser) is a Doctor Who freak, and she’s constantly being told that time travel doesn’t work like Doctor Who. Perhaps in the face of repeated failure, Neela will be driven to ask Faith how the Doctor would handle the situation, and give the fangirl(s) a chance to show her stuff. There is a reason that Faith is the headliner of this series, and I have to imagine it’s more than her rolodex.
If I’m going to be real, I’m not totally feeling the art. This series has an interesting construction, in that each time through the cycle is drawn by a different lead artist, to make each cycle visually distinct. I wasn’t a huge fan of the line work in the first half of the issue, perhaps because it’s pretty different from the majority of valiant titles, but I did enjoy the line work in the second half. I’m not sure how I feel about the colors. They are visually unique, with a somewhat watercolory quality, but I found some of the lighting choices to be a bit dramatic, especially on characters’ faces. It’s almost like there are lens flares throughout the issue.  However, that being said, any panels with time arcs and time distortion have trippy and amazing colors. Hell, there are subtle, intricate and beautiful colors all over this issue. Can we maybe just tone down some of the shine and shadows a bit?
It’s a bit tough to know what to think at this stage of the story, and relatively little progress seems to occur within each of the first two issues. Hopefully there will be some dramatic revelations in the next two issues that pay off all of the time travel concepts and Doctor Who references. Ultimately this was a fun read, and it’s perhaps my favorite depiction of the Renegade characters since Josh Dysart’s original Harbinger run in 2012. The characters seem to be showing up, and hopefully the plot will reveal itself in all its glory. For now, I’ll have to give this the benefit of the doubt.

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