Welcome to Unifying VALIANT, our celebration of the 25-year anniversary of VALIANT’s companywide crossover ‘Unity.’ A precursor to the now omnipresent annual comic event, ‘Unity’ and VALIANT changed the face of the comic industry in the early ‘90’s. In each entry we’ll be focusing on one of the company’s storylines until culminating at ‘Unity.’ Follow along as we dig deep and rediscover what made VALIANT the innovative and revolutionary company it was.
Finally! After 18 long installments we’ve reached the end of our VALIANT retrospective. That means we’ve reached the final installment of ‘Unity.’ What will the finale of this massive crossover mean for VALIANT and its core of characters? Who will live, who will die and who will wish they were dead? Follow along as we hit the crescendo of VALIANT’s company-wide crossover event, ‘Unity.’
It’s Place within VALIANT:
VALIANT, as a company, made it this far within the comic medium by focusing on numerous things. First and foremost was a comprehensive, intertwined storyline that skirted the edges of what was allowed at the time. There is no denying that the aggressive, envelope-pushing style brought with it a vast multitude of fans, and the finale of ‘Unity’ lives up to this as events are pushed even further. Ultimately, the lasting memory of this period of VALIANT has as much to do with the comics as with the creators. Considering the hurricane surrounding the company, their achievement is that more impressive.
As we come up to the final five chapters of Unity, VALIANT stayed with their primary creators. Leveraging the story written and plotted by Jim Shooter. These last issues feature many of the individuals who would be remembered from this stint. Highlighted by David Lapham, Don Perlin and Barry Windsor-Smith, the quality of these issues is outstanding. Furthermore, during this period VALIANT would print “Premium Format” books for a few quarters more. The quality of the paper in these truly makes the work that more vibrant.
While the cover for “Unity” #1 would be drawn by Windsor-Smith, the remaining chapters were provided by Walt Simonson. Bringing together all the covers from the second month of the ‘Unity’ crossover, you’d get a majestic mosaic battle scene that encapsulates the final issues.
These final issues saw the same strong push as the other issues this month. With most of them selling between 140,000 and 145,000 issues. While “Unity” #1 would produce about 110,000 issues. These numbers, while significant increases over the prior months, would pale in comparison to the ones VALIANT would see just a few months later, as production runs would rise over 500,000 units in some cases.
‘Unity’ Chapter #14-18
Publication dates: September 1992
Written by Jim Shooter (Shadowman #5, Solar #13 & Unity #1), David Michelinie (Rai #7) and David Lapham (Harbinger #9)
Penciled by David Lapham (Shadowman #5 & Harbinger #9), Joe St. Pierre (Rai #7), Don Perlin (Solar #13) and Barry Windsor-Smith (Unity #1)
Inked by Paul Autio (Shadowman #5), Kathryn Bolinger (Rai #7), Gonzalo Mayo (Harbinger #9), Stan Drake (Solar #13) and Barry Windsor-Smith (Unity #1)
Colored by Mike Cavallaro (Shadowman #5 & Solar #13), Mark Csaszar (Rai #7), Maurice Fontenot (Harbinger #9) and Jorge González (Unity #1)
Lettered by George Roberts and Jade Moede
Inside the citadel, Shadowman floats. His body, ravaged by burns, bobs in a healing tube. He has endured much pain and suffering in the Lost Land, but as his skin regrows, Elya, one of Erica Pierce’s guard’s looks on in admiration. That admiring look quickly turns into a relationship once Shadowman is released and begins his recuperation. Having inadvertently saved Erica from Solar, Shadowman is a welcomed guest. He realizes though that his hosts are not what they seem, especially Prince Albert. Following him to a sub-level bar where he drinks and picks up prostitutes, Shadowman witnesses Albert hire a girl, dress her like Pierce, and proceed to kill her. Capturing Albert, Shadowman fights his way out of the bar and is on his way to see Erica when he runs into Archer & Armstrong. Still on the wrong side of the battle, Shadowman is attacked by them, causing him to lose his prisoner as the girdle structure from a building collapses on top of him.Continued below
Having reorganized, the resistance learns that Erica is close to launching her Unity device. They decide on a last-ditch full attack on the citadel. Easily infiltrating the perimeter through a secret entrance, they make their way towards Erica and learn that Solar is alive. He is being kept in a containment field within the citadel. Once inside the group finds themselves caught in a crossfire, deciding that saving Solar is their only recourse, they split up, leaving Rai to battle off the hordes of robots. Seeing the mass that has come to attack her, Erica herself joins the fray. Having always feared Rai’s power she attacks him first, and while he strikes a significant blow, he is no match. Erica incinerates Rai’s body, leaving the charred dead husk on the ground as Albert looks on. As Erica moves on to find the remainder of the group, Albert picks up Rai’s sword, vowing to kill Erica himself.
While Rai makes his last stand, the rest of the group makes their way into the room where Solar is being kept. There, Sting breaks into the containment field, which has trapped Solar in a place outside the universe. Bringing him back through the portal, Solar tries to quickly regain his strength as the group escapes the citadel. Once outside they can see that the Unity machine is up and running. They race towards it to try and stop Erica’s universe ending device. Reaching the tower, Solar makes his way into the control room. There, Erica stands ready to be triumphant. A second before Solar attacks though, Albert comes out of the shadows and stabs Erica in the back with Rai’s blade. Not enough to kill her, it stuns her long enough to allow Solar to shut down the process so that it will no longer end time. Infuriated by the betrayal and defeat, Erica battles Solar, tearing the tower apart. With Erica injured, Solar is able to defeat her. Trapping her inside a pocket dimension where she is endlessly tortured by the childhood trauma that initiated her vengeance in the first place.
With the machine disabled, the built up energy is still enough to rip the Lost Land into a black hole. Solar and Geoff work to transport the remaining heroes back into their own times, while the rest of the people within the Lost Land are left to their own escape. Albert, finally free of Erica, returns to the bar and his women, intent on seeing the end in ecstasy. The girls though, knowing that Erica is dead, take the chance and beat Albert to death. Extracting vengeance on all the pain he had caused them. Shadowman returns to his time through the same portal he had used to arrive there, but now with his love Elya. Since this is not her true home though, she is transported by Solar back to 4001 as Shadowman is left searching for his love after she vanishes.
As the remaining heroes return to their own time, Solar is able to divert the energy of the black hole, neutralizing its effect. As all the remaining individuals are sent back safely to their own time. The only one sent to a different timeline is Kris’ baby. The baby, held onto by Geoff the Geomancer, is transported instead to 3975, where he is rescued by the Solar and taken to train with his robot stepfather and fulfill his destiny of becoming Magnus.
It’s difficult to review these final five chapters of ‘Unity’ without falling into a review of the entire crossover in general. That being said, in reviewing the final five chapters, there are truly no surprises in regards to the quality of the work, the pacing or the major plot points of the writing.
The pencils remain constant, with David Lapham being responsible for two issues, Joe St. Pierre penciling “Rai,” Don Perlin penciling “Solar” and Barry Windsor-Smith handling the final issue of “Unity.” Lapham’s work remains fairly pleasing with some stunning panels and the occasional sloppy page. With so much of the finishing work within these VALIANT issues being done on an ad-hoc basis, particularly the inking and coloring, I can’t help but wonder if this is detracting from certain pages that feature Lapham’s work. There’s an awkwardness to the occasional page that feels out of place with his work in general. Either way, the growth that Lapham has shown throughout these two years is a testament to his talent. Additionally, Pierre’s and Perlin’s work on their respective titles come as no surprise, as each panel is professional and wonderfully detailed.Continued below
Barry Windsor-Smith’s work on “Unity” #1 is on par with any work he’s done in the past. While the quality of his pencils are exquisite and the range that his characters are able to emote is always impressive, I would have hoped there would have been some signature panel that would have encapsulated the entirety of the crossover within this final issue. Additionally, the short page count on “Unity” #1 seems like a lost opportunity to enrich the ending and definitely raises some eyebrows considering the upcoming storm that will hit VALIANT management. In the end, I feel his work on the original ‘Alpha & Omega’ storyline in “Solar” left a more lasting impression of his work at VALIANT.
So what do I think of the entire ‘Unity’ storyline now that we’ve read it in its entirety?
Much like all the storylines in these first two years of VALIANT comics, they have a great beginning. The strongpoints to these comics are in their concept and initial introduction. Unfortunately, the middle ground tends to lose some of this spark and become muddled. It doesn’t take away from the enjoyment that you as a reader can get from the story. It does however, displace some of the initial momentum, taking away from the comic’s quality in general.
That initial spark of uniqueness that drew so many to VALIANT can be attributed directly to Jim Shooter’s knowledge of the comic medium. While all his stories are never perfect, and his dialogue can feel extremely dated given modern sensibilities, one cannot deny that the man has a perfect sense of what makes a great comic. Truthfully, I feel it is unfortunate that he wasn’t around after the ‘Unity’ crossover, as so many of the characters involved would be starting over. I’m sure he would have had intriguing story ideas revolving around the survivors and how they dealt with the fallout of ‘Unity.’
All that being said, were these first two years of VALIANT comics and the ‘Unity’ crossover worth reading. Definitely. Taking away the 90’s specific vibe to certain things, there is no doubting that these comics were wonderful reads. They pushed the envelope for the time on what could be told in a comic, bringing to the forefront very adult oriented and divisive themes. Additionally. The intellectual properties that sprang from VALIANT cover the gamut in regards to archetypes and styles, from the teen-centric “Harbinger” to the rampaging glee that “X-O” brings to the page. The comic medium is better off because of VALIANT and its lasting legacy.
Coming up Next:
No wait, there’s always more. If you enjoyed this particular period in VALIANT’s history, there are still hundreds of additional issues featuring these core characters. As well as several crossovers. If you’d like to read something more up-to-date but maintaining the spirit that was VALIANT, pick up the new Valiant Entertainment issues. They feature solid writing and breathtaking artwork. Truly some of the best offerings available from the independent marketplace. Maybe you’d like to follow a specific creator? I’d suggest you read some of David Lapham’s work, as he grew to be a wonderful storyteller.
If you’d like to learn more about the culture and the general rollercoaster that was VALIANT I suggest you check out Jim Shooter’s blog at jimshooter.com It’s definitely not impartial, but it’s the most interesting source I’ve found detailing the goings and comings from these early VALIANT years.
There you have it. Thanks so much for reading along and I hope you enjoyed the uniqueness of this experience. It was brought about by a love of what is still one of the most dynamic periods in comic’s history that should never be forgotten.