by Thegreatmagnet on May 31, 2017

Writer: Daniel Kibblesmith
Artist: Derek Charm
Color Art: David Baron
Publisher: Valiant Comics/Comixology
Valiant High is a title that I’ve really been enjoying for what it is. Without any connection to the overall Valiant continuity, the stakes are fairly low, which allows me to focus on the positives. The linewide re-imaginings and re-designs of the company’s major characters are ambitious in their own right, and I think it invites some interesting reflection about the core essence of each character in mainstream Valiant continuity. On top of this framework, but they’ve built up a number of overarching storylines, some comic booky and mysterious and some more typical high school drama. The final issue does a commendable job tying up the numerous storylines woven throughout the mini-series.
As a longtime Valiant fan, my favorite part about this issue is the interaction between Kris and Charlene at the Homecoming dance. Charlene is a fan favorite, and she was one of the first major characters to die since the 2012 re-launch, so it was a treat to see her character in this series, even given her initial “mean girl” characterization. Seeing these characters on a date was extremely satisfying to me, since Kris admitted to being in love with Charlene in the mainstream continuity. In Valiant comics, dead is dead, so allowing these characters to share a moment again was excellent fan service. Kris’ subsequent interaction with Peter at the dance is also compelling. Her line to Peter “If you actually care what’s going on in a woman’s head? Ask.” should hold added weight to longtime Valiant readers, as Peter infamously controlled Kris’ mind in the beginning of Harbinger. These two pages were probably the highlight of the series for me as a fan, and they reveal how well Daniel Kibblesmith understands these characters.
This issue pays off the mystery teased in the previous issue about involving the football ghosts and the haunted Manowar mascot costume: the Immoral Enemy has come to settle a grudge with Harada. The Immortal Enemy (“IE”) is a hugely powerful character who once repelled a combined attack by every hero in the universe. He was previously introduced as an eternal antagonist to the immortal Gilad, but he’s been reframed here as a nemesis to Harada, the big boss in Valiant High. Admittedly, I wish that they had explained the backstory between these two characters more thoroughly. IE accuses Harada of basically enslaving the students for his own protection, and tries to turn the students against Harada, but it’s a pretty weak sauce argument, and they’re not really buying it. Ultimately, the final fight is a bit anti-climactic, with a bunch of character spotlight moments, culminating in Gilad stabbing IE in the head (which incidentally would not stop IE in the main Valiant universe). Major bonus points are due for including Livewire in a Gin-Gr transformer mech, although I wish she had actually delivered a blow during the “fight”. Admittedly, I understand that characters and humor are the focus of this series, and not action, and I’m OK with that.
I was a bit disappointed with the characterization of Aric in this issue. He’s been characterized as unstoppable on the football field when he’s in his armor (i.e. his football pads and helmet). I can get onboard with his failure during the Homecoming game, as it recalls his brashness in the early days of X-O Manowar. However, I was disappointed and confused that he nopes out of the climactic fight scene because he doesn’t have the armor. Couldn’t he have run and changed like Livewire, or took up arms without his armor (like he does in the new, excellent X-O series)? Speaking of Livewire, I wish that she had interacted with Aric after their discussion in the beginning of the issue. He forgives her for impulsively kissing him, but there is never any real payoff with the romantic tension they had been building between the characters. I will chalk it up to running out of space, given they fit a lot into four issues.
The art in this solid, albeit stylized. The colors by David Baron are dynamic and beautiful, featuring a lot of solid color backgrounds, and a palette full of purples, pinks and blues. Derek Charm’s art also looks great, especially in the larger shots of the Immortal Enemy and robot Gin-Gr. It’s much different from the majority of Valiant art, but it’s well-done and the characters are all recognizable. I assume that this art would go over well with fans of Archie Comics.
Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the conclusion of the series, as I have been with the previous three issues. My favorite parts were character moments heavily reliant on mainstream Valiant continuity, so I’m really not sure how the whole story translates to new readers. At the same time, there are a lot of scenes that I can imagine speaking very well to actual high-schoolers, even if they’re not familiar with the characters. I’d be very interested how effectively this series threaded the needle with longtime fans and new readers. Speaking for myself, I would happily buy this book every month if the series were to continue.

Our Score:


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