UNITY 1 REVIEW – Everything old is new again!

unitylogo1UNITY #1

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Publisher: Valiant
Reviewers: Ambush Bug & Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche -Ain’t It Cool News)
OPTIMOUS DOUCHE (OD): With no Rai or Solar–basically anything future-focused in the new Valiant–I truly wondered how they would satiate the nostalgia this title invokes from the old while updating for a new age. The short answer is, simply, “fuck nostalgia.” Where UNITY once meant a conjoining and intermingling of time periods that spanned 19 titles and 7,000 years of history, this new UNITY (at least based on the first issue) is solidarity in the here and now. A more teaming-up title than an esoteric exploration of time and continuity course corrections.

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I love it how Valiant keeps on flipping expectation on its ear and how they’re keeping their big events tight and well plotted. The fact that this basically is a crossover between Harada, Eternal Warrior, and Ninjak squaring off against what I think is Valiant’s most iconic character in X-O Manowar makes me remember why I used to love crossovers so much and why I hate the bloated sales machines of the crossovers from the Big Two so much.

OD: Valiant definitely moves with a story versus sales purpose, but they couldn’t work any other way. Even back during UNITY 1, though it was 19 titles they all served a purpose. Like a puzzle of the Mona Lisa, as opposed to the big two where two thirds of the puzzle is sky. I did love this story; I think having the name UNITY, though, was a mistake. Many need to leverage nostalgia to make sales. Valiant doesn’t need that. The name, dare I say, might be a distraction for some. Or they could blow out to the whole time stream in issue 2; after all, Harada was nuzzling up to the Eternal Warrior, which was a shock.

BUG: Well, this is just the beginning of this crossover. It may tear open the timestream yet. But personally, I like that it is uniting a lot of forces, much like “The Harbinger Wars” crossover, and reminding us that there is a whole universe of characters out there. Even though the Valiant Universe is relatively small compared to the Big Two in characters, I’m looking forward to seeing what new iconic characters they can create and not just rehash some of the older ones. I’m digging the rehashes, but the crucial part now is when they’ve run out of characters to resurrect and they have to start making up new ones. But back to this issue–I think it was a solid jumping-on point for new readers. Everything you need to know is on that first interior page.

OD: Yeah, I’ve always loved them taking the infographic approach instead of straight text for the catch up. Those things can be wicked hard to create and require true collaboration with the writer – it’s just another extra mile thing Valiant does for readers.

I still want some time shenanigans though, especially with the way they introduced the Lost Land over in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG during the last arc. This needs to be more than a team-up title if they are going to pull from the same well of gravitas that was the last UNITY.

BUG: Agreed, but at this point, I don’t think the Valiant Universe is cohesive enough to do some kind of all-encompassing crossover. I’m sure it’s coming, but these tight crossovers are my favorites and always the most successful, which goes back to the point that UNITY might not be the right title for this event. Maybe UNIFICATION or UNITE or something to tease us to something bigger.

Did you have a favorite part in this issue?

OD: Actually it was more than a favorite part, it was redemption. When Harada’s elite decided to call themselves Unity complete with battle-cry I almost chucked the book. This is it? This is the big dick fucking Unity we’ve heard so much about? Then Aric kills them all like three seconds later in ways specific to their powers. Beautiful. How about you? I can’t guess since there was no Bleeding Monk.

BUG: No Bleeding Monk…yet. But I think the ass-whuppin Ninjak gets was pretty awesome. As much as I like the character, seeing X-O open up a can of whup-ninja was pretty sweet, especially after the lead-up to the encounter which made Ninjak look so cool. That’s the thing about this issue–it really does highlight how cool a lot of these characters are.

OD: Ninjak has the potential to be Valiant’s Fantomex, except he can do all the cool things Fantomex can’t because he’s not in 17,000 freaking titles. I applaud Valiant for using restraint on this character. They rushed him into his own title back in the 90s and the title never had the same zing and cohesion as the others.

BUG: Agreed, but I’m sure he’ll be getting his own title soon. In the meantime, I like it that he had his ass handed to him so easily here. It makes the character more interesting that he’s got a couple of losses. I brought this up in the podcast, but Harada’s weaknesses as highlighted in the recent issue of HARBINGER I think are coming into play here as well, as he is making some shit poor decisions as far as attacking X-0 in this issue.

OD: What was truly interesting were Harada’s government ties. I always thought he was a rogue entity merely out for himself, especially after we learned the PRS connection to Uncle Sam during the HARBINGER WARS. These little intricacies are what make Valiant great: the fact that we can have these conversations without a renew or reNOW mucking up the works is what gives this universe true skin in the game of comics.

BUG: What’s funny is that in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG they reference the fourth Harbinger War, so maybe our complaints about this being a little too small-scale are going to be trumped as these HARBINGER WAR and UNITY crossovers intensify with each one. If that happens, I’m on board. That’s the most exciting thing about these books: the potential and so far the payoff has been completely satisfying.

What’d you think of the art?

OD: Most people know by now I’m art-tarded, so subtle analysis escapes me. The art was more than serviceable, and was outright fantastic during the scenes where the short-lived team Unity was given their comeuppance. Personally, I would like to see them go off the reservation a bit–get their version of Barry Windsor Smith.

BUG: Braithwaite is good. I especially like the scene where X-0 blows one of the guy’s heads off and through the other guy’s chest behind him. Improbable? Yes. Cool? HELLZ YES!

That said, for some reason, he draws Eternal Warrior too sketchily. Maybe he’s trying to convey his age, but I think a good inker would have done this issue some justice. As is, it’s Braithwaite’s pencils and then the colors and everything seems too ghost-like.

OD: Sure, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Here’s the thing I hate about reviewing (outside of my editor): we have all these questions, and we now have to read other issues that take place before these events, plus we have to wait longer to get the goods on follow-up issues. Hopefully we’ll get some clues in the lead-up issues, especially in ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, that will give hints of a wider scope beyond what we saw in UNITY #1. It’s a great crossover; I still want a wider lens, though.

BUG: Agreed, but as far as this issue goes, it’s a great start. I have a feeling this isn’t going to be small scale for long.

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