With the upcoming release of the Bloodshot movie it’s nice to see Valiant Entertainment getting more of the attention and recognition that it deserves. Valiant is a publisher that has built a solid reputation through great storytelling and a tightly controlled, interconnected superhero universe that is a refreshing change of pace from the usual Marvel and DC fare.
They’re a publisher that has a small—yet incredibly loyal—fanbase and as Valiant makes a push towards the mainstream it will be interesting to see if they can build on their core success while maintaining the high level of quality that their hardcore fans have come to expect.
If “Roku” #1 is anything to go on, it’s definite proof that Valiant is capable of building and expanding their universe…but unfortunately it seems they’ve lost something along the way.
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Ramon F. Bachs
Colored by Stephanie Paitreau
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
How many lives must the lethal assassin Roku take in her first series?
Killing her way around the globe, the deadly weapon called Roku will face a challenge she can’t simply execute.
Being bad has never been so fun.
Roku has been a long-time adversary of Ninjak: Valiant’s booze swilling, fast living, high tech martial arts secret agent. It’s a part of the world that plays out almost exactly like a James Bond story, but if James Bond was a ninja as well as a walking drunken harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. If Ninjak is James Bond, than Roku is a modern Bond villainess who always gives the hero the fight of his life. The twist that Roku isn’t just an incredibly capable assassin, she has mind control powers and psychokinetic hair that is capable of cutting through human flesh and bursting into flame.
Roku has been a hallmark of the Valiant Universe for a long time, and “Roku” #1 is Valiant’s push to give its most capable female assassin a backstory and develop her as a character. The comic keeps her as a high tech globe-trotting thief and assassin, but it turns out that things aren’t as they seem, and that there are forces at work that know more about Roku than they might be letting on.
The script for “Roku” #1 comes courtesy of long time comic book scribe Cullen Bunn, who is an interesting choice for the title. While Bunn has been writing long enough to be no stranger to superhero stories, he’s built his reputation and gained most of his accolades by writing fantastic and imaginative horror comics such as ‘The Sixth Gun’, ‘Harrow County’. While a traditional super hero type story is a nice change of pace for Bunn, it’s disappointing to say that the writing isn’t very good.
That’s not to say that “Roku” #1 is a bad comic—it’s well paced, has some good action beats, and builds a decent mystery—it’s just that with all the talent involved it feels like it could have been better and more imaginative. The internal thought process of Roku and some of the dialogue feels a bit too simple and it feels like the comic is trying to be a poor imitation of every single secret agent with a shady past story out there. Maybe it’s Bunn trying to reign in the creepiness factor in order to make the book more kid friendly, or maybe it’s some editorial mandate that is trying to make Roku more accessible and commercially friendly as Valiant becomes more mainstream. Either way, “Roku” #1 feels like a comic that is holding itself back, and considering the talent they have writing this book, it could have been so much better.
The artwork of “Roku” #1 comes courtesy of artist Ramon F. Bachs and colorist Stephane Paitreau and it shares some of the problems with the writing. There are some definite high points—Paitreau’s colors make each high class location feel luxurious and decadent and Bachs does a great job of making Roku’s hair feel alive as it cuts through a small army of disposable henchmen in appropriately bloody fashion—it’s just that there are few parts in the comic that feel a bit off and make the book feel like it’s not as good as it could have been. For starters, some of the action feels stiff, with Roku committing to a weird high kick that a lot of female comic book heroes seem to like and it feels like it would be impractical and awkward. On top of that, while the locations feel decadent, the costumes, clothing, and tech on display all feel generic and cliché. We’ve seen the henchmen in black suits and ties, we’ve seen the lady secret agents dressed in skin tight body suits, and we’ve seen enough dramatic dialogue being spoken between two characters who are fighting to the death. It’s not bad, but it could have been better, which makes it just a little bit more disappointing.
“Roku” #1 is not a bad comic, it presents an interesting mystery and gives some much needed backstory and development to a character that deserves more attention. Unfortunately, it’s filled with a whole bunch of stuff that we’ve already seen before, and it doesn’t feel like it’s captured the magic that made the Valiant Universe so engaging and fun to read. It’s just sad to see such a great publisher and creative team produce something so mediocre.
Final Verdict: 5.9-An okay mystery with some good action and long awaited development for a great character. The reason why the score for this book is so low is because everyone involved with this book is capable of doing better.