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Friday, October 09, 2015 

IO9's superficial take on Marvel/DC's baggage

The IO9 website spoke about why they think the revived Valiant is a better alternative to the Big Two, and predictably, there's only so much they remain oblivious about. For starters:
In fact, Valiant relaunched with just four series and a blank slate of continuity, then slowly built up its universe piece by piece, introducing characters from Valiant’s history one by one. This means that Valiant’s universe is far less intimidating for newcomers, in comparison to the vast worlds of DC and Marvel, and the backstory is much less convoluted.
But what if one day, their rebooted universe winds up as convoluted and inaccessible as their competition's? On which note, they recently did a crossover using the same name as one used in the original run called Unity. As if that was really needed to bind their new universe together. Instead of letting it all come naturally and incrementally, they may be making some of the same mistakes as their neighbors, when letting the writers keep it all stand-alone would be a far better way to go. That's what makes it easier for newcomers to enter without feeling uneasy.
There’s a reason that both Marvel and DC are continuously shaking up their legacy heroes and doing continuity reboots: They have a lot of baggage, and a lot of complex worldbuilding to keep track of. Valiant, meanwhile, currently has a sweet spot: its characters have cool histories that make them interesting to read and explore, but you equally don’t have to go reading thousand-word Wikipedia entries, before you pick up a single book.
They also have a lot of bad storytelling that turned up in the 1990s, something the writer of this article clearly did not even consider. Reboots and shakeups aren't what they need so much as they do need to disavow anything that's truly a bad storytelling idea. I can't see why anybody would want to keep track of a terrible storyline like Emerald Twilight, Age of Apocalypse and the Clone Saga. Yet these have been some of the tales modern writers are curiously obsessed with revisiting. Or, they want to harken back to some of the darkest tales with an emphasis on death and nihilism. How those stories are thought the best is beyond my comprehension. If there's anything that would be better off discarded, it would be those over-the-top event monstrosities, and it's not like continuity would have to be discarded wholesale to pull it off. Besides, as I've argued before, the readers should be allowed to decide what stories are best or worst, and if Marvel/DC were to keep their storytelling self-contained without resorting to crossovers at least 2-3 times a year, then it'd be a lot more accessible.

And on that note, another "event" recently came out from Valiant:
This leads to some weird, and uniquely fun things—for example, this year’s Book of Death event for Valiant was sandwiched between the cataclysmic retrospective summer blockbusters of DC’s Convergence and Marvel’s Secret Wars. While Marvel and DC were looking back at their own complex histories, Valiant’s event instead flung itself into the company’s future, imagining the final ends of its biggest heroes and watching their current incarnations wrestle with that knowledge. [...]
In all due honesty, I think even that's pretty tacky, and if it was done as a company wide crossover, then that's not being fair to the reader's wallet. It may not be helpful to keep dredging up history only for "nostalgia", but neither is there any need to take looks at the would-be future of the protagonists. In fact, wasn't that what DC's Armageddon crossover was about? I vaguely remember reading a Justice League annual from 1991 that featured what were supposed to be visions of the future as seen by Waverider. But the whole purpose of the crossover, to "expose" a hero as a trojan horse villain (which would end up being Hank Hall), definitely ruined it. Besides, if they had to look at the heroes' "futures", it would be better to do it stand-alone, which Valiant's event isn't exactly doing. If they intend to follow Marvel/DC's lead with crossovers, then they're not trying to be very different at all. Instead, they're drawing from an idea that only ruined superhero comics and could end up becoming Valiant's undoing to boot.

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I don't think it helped that Armageddon 2001 forcibly changed the villain from Captain Atom to Hawk because the twist reveal was more important than the story once Monarch's identity leaked out.

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