Valiant Comics deserves a great deal more respect that I feel it sometimes gets. If you know anything about their history, you know that this is the little indie publisher that refuses to quit. Each time it looks like they’re finished they fight their way back, and the whole time they do so by producing top quality books, written by top tier authors, and drawn by some of the best artists in the business.
Valiant also understand the market well enough to know that they don’t need to flood the shelves with 100 different variants each week, or bi-monthly event comics with a million crossovers and tie in and all of that other garbage that more often than not leaves shops drowning in back issues they can’t give away, and drives more and more readers away from their titles.
Each week Valiant puts out one, maybe two titles maximum, with a handful of interesting variant covers, and as a reader with a pretty limited budget I appreciate it a great deal. Even the most dedicated Marvel and DC fans would struggle to buy every title every week, but Valiant respect their audience and their wallets. They focus on quality, not quantity, and it shows.
And this is not a new trend. Even in the long, long ago time of the ‘90s Valiant was very careful about flooding the market with books, and kept their print runs reasonable and tight. The result of this is that even today there are people who will swear by Valiant as one of, if not the best indie publisher of the era.
I would not call myself a die hard Valiant fan. I don’t read every title they put out, but what I have read I have really enjoyed. The relaunch of XO was what got me into writing reviews in the first place. Doctor Mirage, Shadowman, Punk Mambo, Doctor Tomorrow, all have been well written, beautifully illustrated, and great entry points for new readers.
So when I was offered the chance to review this latest Valiant title from author Cullen Bunn, I leapt at the opportunity.
That’s right, this week we’ll be looking at Book of Shadows from Valiant Comics and Cullen Bunn. Does it maintain the tradition of quality that Valiant is known for? Let’s find out!
Here’s the blurb: Shadowman. Eternal Warrior. Punk Mambo. Doctor Mirage. The supernatural protectors of the Valiant Universe unite for the very first time to stand against a terrifying ancient threat: Exarch Fane. No one is safe as the fearsome foe has his cold hands on the Book of Shadows.
Master of horror Cullen Bunn and bone-chilling artist Vicente Cifuentes present BOOK OF SHADOWS, a supernatural event that forms a brand-new team in the Valiant Universe… but will they be enough to stop Fane’s wrath?
It had been a long time since I picked up a book from Marvel Comics, so prior to his runs on Punk Mambo and Shadowman I had heard of Bunn, but wasn’t super familiar with his work. The people I spoke to, though, really praised what he was doing. So I wasn’t that surprised when I picked up those titles from Valiant and got some top quality storytelling from a growing master of horror.
Bunn’s writing on those series, and on Book of Shadows does two things really well; it introduces enough about the characters that we understand who they are and how they interact with each other, and it moves the story along at a pace that doesn’t make the reader feel like they had to take a huge detour just to catch up.
I read Doctor Mirage, Shadowman, and Punk Mambo, all of whom appear in this book, but there are elements and characters here that I am not familiar with, and yet I never felt lost at any point while reading the book, and the characters I didn’t recognize interested me enough that I went out and ordered some trades to play catch up on what a missed.
Basically, this is what a superhero team-up should be. An exciting adventure that captures the reader’s attention while providing enough background to not lose them, but at the same time providing enough interest to get the reader looking into the larger universe.
In short, Book of Shadows is a darn near perfect team-up book.
A big part of that appeal also comes from Vicente Cifuentes’s art. The monsters are brutal, the violence is graphic, and the characters are expressive.
Now, a little side note on this. I recently had someone ask me why I always compliment artist for their ability to properly express emotion on the faces of their characters, and I get it. A lot of comic readers are more interested in big action scenes or characters who flash big, sexy muscles in too tight clothing (and I’m not saying that those things are not important. I mean, big muscles and sexy outfits were like 95% of the X-Men‘s appeal in the ‘90s) but when you have a book with stakes like this book does, it’s nice to have characters that are expressive enough that as a reader you actually understand that something bad is happening, and if these characters are worried, you should be as well.
So yeah, Cifuentes does a fantastic job with the art in Book of Shadows, and I really can’t wait to see where it goes.
If you’ve never picked up a Valiant book before, or if it’s been a while, grab a copy of Book of Shadows this week and see what you think. If you like it, check out some of the series that came before and see what you think! If you like quality storytelling from a great publisher, Book of Shadows is right for you.
And no, Valiant did not pay me a dime to write this, although I would happily accept a t-shirt if offered 🙂
Until next time, stay safe!