(Re-)Reading Acclaim

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(Re-)Reading Acclaim

Post by SwiftMann »

Fabian takes over and restarts the universe. Sort of. It’s an admirable attempt and (mostly) far better than history and critics lead me to believe. I had only read Q&W and the 1999 stuff when it came out. Pretty much everything else was new to me. The titles are listed in the order in which they were released.

X-O Manowar – I did not see the quick change in #1 & 2 coming. Nicely done. Early on, the rest just felt like Tony Stark’s Armorines though. Far better Armorines, but Armorines. The book found a bit more of a voice when McDuffie came on, but throughout the characters were a bit too one-note. Despite that, this was an enjoyable, light ride. The history of the suit, including Operation: Stormbringer, was a nice approach.

Ninjak – This was a big miss. Busiek can be like reading homework even when he’s at his best (Avengers, Astro City). This was not his best. It’s just kind of dumb and cliché. I like both Vokes and Oeming separately, so it’s weird that they don’t work together very well.

Shadowman – The Ennis/Wood issues just didn’t work for me. Four issues just to get a hazy explanation of the set-up was too long and just devolved into obscenity for the sake of obscenity. And while I like Wood’s art later in his career, this is too rough around the edges with unclear layouts and too little detail. The Delano/Adlard follow-up was no better. Seemingly ignoring or outright undoing what was set up and setting up a new status over four MORE issues. The premise shouldn’t have taken 8 issues to get to. And then it’s seven more issues of nonsense before Clermont and Crain actually start making a real story. But then it’s over.

Troublemakers – I struggled with this series at the beginning as Nicieza stumbled a bit by being too vague in his writing. But it really picked up after the first few months and became a favorite. Even the “after school special” style issues, which I vaguely remember being mocked back in the day, were surprisingly good. This series ended up being the emotional spine of the entire VH2 universe.

Turok – Empty Souls provided a good basis for the new iteration. It was a bit cliché but not bad. Likely a huge turnoff for fans of either previous version. The quarterly publishing schedule of this is a headscratcher considering they had a hit video game on their hands. Even power reading these, there needed to be more Turok and Turok legacy deep dives in the VH2 universe.

Magnus Robot Fighter – The first issue was a bit confusing regarding timelines and it seems like they tried to correct that by retelling the whole first issue in the first few pages of the second. After that it was mostly just a big ol’ pile of fine. The individual issues were engaging enough, but there was limited growth in character until far too late in the run. The Albanian storyline definitely made the book more interesting, but, again, too little too late.

Solar – I loved MotA. Granted, it’s Warren Ellis during his creative peak, but the explanation of the VH2 universe and its connection to VH1 is absolutely awesome. It was diminishing returns after that. Revelations was good for sure, but the mini fell a notch or two. Overly convoluted with a need for tighter focus on what was attempting to be told.

Eternal Warriors – This just didn’t click for me at all. The characters were poorly designed and the entire hierarchy of the Forever Family just felt off. I never once cared what happened to these characters since they all came off as d-bags.

Quantum & Woody – I was nervous that maybe after 20+ years this book wouldn’t really hold up. So glad it does. This is a near perfect read from start to finish. Even the fill-in artists nail it. These are VERY human, VERY damaged, but very skilled and funny (in their own ways) individuals that you always want to dive deeper into. And of course, the awesomeness of Vincent.

Bloodshot – I read a couple issues of this a long time ago. Didn’t like it. Still don’t. It’s more of an approach problem* than an actual story problem. Although the story doesn’t seem terribly different than the original and (despite appearances by X-O and Shadowman) feels like it’s happening in its own universe.

*Babbling narrative boxes of random words attempting to sound literate – from #12: ”What’s left mewls flops jabbers in a swamp of tears agony excrement until the Triad’s offer. Let us help. Remake rebuild faster stronger better: the sins of Steve Austin.” WTF?!?

Trinity Angels – I was genuinely surprised that I liked this as much as I did. For most of the run, Maguire skillful handled an ever growing cast. While I know it was canceled early, I still wish the final issue had been a little more inventive in wrapping everything up. And in showing us all the wonderful baddies we had met over the run. Not a one of the known 99 actually makes an appearance.

Doctor Tomorrow – I really dug the entire approach to this series. The first couple issues of set-up did drag, but once we meet Mushroom Cloud and Tomorrow’s life completely spins out of control for decades, it becomes a fun, dark read. The issue by issue homage to artists didn’t always work out, but it was a great idea.

Master Darque & Darque Passages – I loved the one-shot. Thought it set a great new status quo for Darque. The mini-series lost me along the way with convoluted writing and too many “side missions” that distracted from the plot. Leonardo Manco’s art has always and will forever be a favorite though.

Harbinger – This was a really weird one. I get that they were trying to set up something that they didn’t get to before publishing ceased, but this version of the team wasn’t any better than the original. And the redesign on Faith was a particularly poor choice.

Concrete Jungle – I didn’t remember this being connected to the Q&W but I’m glad it was just barely. A really interesting read and set-up to something I wish we had gotten more than one issue of before the line died.

Other than Bloodshot, EWs, and Ninjak, I found myself surprisingly enjoying the VH2 universe. The connective tissue between this and the original universe was well done and all of the new IPs introduced here were actually good. I found myself really looking forward to the terribly named “Final Solution” event with Harada that never happened.

Unfortunately, they stumbled with the books they chose to lead things off with. Of the first three titles (X-O, Ninjak, Shadowman), only X-O was remotely good. Even then it was probably too much of a stretch to go from barbarian to smartest man in the world and one of the coolest armors ever drawn to an Iron Man cartoon knockoff. Then Troublemakers, Turok, and Magnus weren’t the strongest of starts either. Troublemakers and Turok turned into something really fun, but it was probably already too late.

If they were to get a redo on it, I would think coming out the gate with MotA (or something similar) to show the connection to VH1 and that this was a connected, but divergent, timeline would have gone a long way. Teasing the catastrophe of summer 1998 would have also been good from the start. Assuming either of these ideas were there from the get-go. And publishing Turok as a monthly was definitely needed.

Random observations: Early on across titles, there’s at least four references to peeing ones pants and one pooping ones pants. Just a weird coincidence or early editorial mandate that there’s at least one per month? Speaking of editorial, they did a pretty terrible job after the first couple months. Across the entire lines there were issues with words dropped out of dialogue, names spelled differently. Multiple times. In the same issue. And an absurd number of errors in chapter titles of Bloodshot (which were just Two, Three, Four, etc). And these editorial oversights still exist in the relaunch a year and a half later. Speaking of which.

VH-2.5? 3?

N.I.O. #1-3 – I didn’t know this title existed until I printed out a valiantfans checklist/price guide at work sometime between 2001 and 2003. The second issue’s “Next Issue” box explains this series best, “hyper-kinetic robo-action.” It was fine, just didn’t have anything to do with anything other than originally being a potential Rai reboot.

Turok/Shadowman – So much time spent with the radio broadcast that Priest seems to have forgotten to explain the actual plot here until we are waist-deep. It’s nicely tied into everything from Turok, but now I know why it made me scratch my head 20 years ago when I hadn’t read any VH2 Turok and bought it because 1) it was a Priest penned issue and 2) Shadowman lead in.

Shadowman #1-6 – If this was the tone and style from the first Acclaim version instead of Ennis & Delano, it’s possible they would have had a hit on their hands. This isn’t perfect, Ryan Benjamin’s art pales in comparison to Mat Broome’s and they shouldn’t be sharing issues, but it’s really quite fun.

Quantum & Woody #18-21, 32 – I loved that they shipped #32 like the series hadn’t disappeared for 15 months. Ballsy move. Really though, nothing more to say here than it’s still great stuff. But, man, do I wish they had gotten to fill in the blanks of #22-31.

Armorines #1-3 – This was better than I remember it, but not having read the original Armorines run or any of the VH2 stuff there was a lot I missed that first time. Pretty much everyone in this book is some known character. A pretty decent story that does boarder on the generic at times.

Unity 2000 #1-2 – This is just not good. The new take on Alex and Sandria (both characters and design) is off putting from the start. While the gathering of heroes was fun, stuff like a computer virus as a spell was awful. The second issue was far worse than the first with even more babbling exposition and strange artistic choices.

Turok: Evolution – Even for a video game tie-in comic, this one was bad. Rough art. Light story. Children’s board book style font. Just a hot mess of no one caring.

I loved reading the publisher’s page in the back of these. Each month pumping up Acclaim. Going so far as to “assure [us] here and now that the rug will no longer be pulled from beneath you again” in the August issues and less than six months later, it absolutely was. Or after #6 ships 7 months late, we are told Shadowman is a 12 issue series and doing great in Europe and that the linewide publishing delays were “stumbles and hiccups” that were behind them. And then those titles disappear forever. Outstanding level of b.s.

Still Missing:

N.I.O. #4

Deadside #1 & 3 – Like N.I.O., I didn’t even know this existed until a few years after it came out.

Unity 2000 #3 – Was in my pull box, but knew it was cancelled, the first two issues stunk, and money was tight then so put it back on the shelf. Monetary regrets.

Armorines #4 – My shop never got this issue.

Turok, Turok 2, Turok 3
"If you think any of these [older comics/shows/movies] do not carry a political content and is not using the medium of science fiction to explore real-world ideas, than you have not been paying attention." - Dan Abnett, VCR #246

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Re: (Re-)Reading Acclaim

Post by IMJ »

Thanks for your thoughts on these. They were nostalgia enough for me to be entertaining while also enough to keep me from having to re-read the Acclaim stuff which I basically never want to do again in my life. :lol:

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Re: (Re-)Reading Acclaim

Post by Sunlight on Snow »

Quantum and Woody and Doctor Tomorrow (incl. Operation Stormbreaker) are the best, obviously because they're original stories.

Shadowman is cool. For me it's still Acclaim's best "Valiant" series. Then Eternal Warriors & Bloodshot.

Solar is okay.

The rest is meh.

And Ninjak sucks!


Maybe you just forgot to mention them but there's also Bad Eggs, Heavy Metal, and the 3 Adventure Zone digests, plus a lot more non-Valiant related stuff.

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Re: (Re-)Reading Acclaim

Post by geocarr »

I think my ranking order would be:

Quantum & Woody
Shadowman Volume 3
Concrete Jungle
Shadowman Volume 2

I need to read Troublemakers and Doctor Tomorrow but I've heard they were decent or better.
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