Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unity #2, #3, and #4 (New Valiant)

A man out of time, Visigoth Aric of Dacia wants to take back the ancient land of his people-Romania-and with the XO armour, he has the power to do so. Unfortunately, this causes a huge international incident, with Russia being especially furious, ready to send a nuke at Aric after he obliterates a small army of theirs. Entrepreneur and founder of the Harbinger Foundation Toyo Harada assembles a crack team of experts and superpowered individuals (Gilad, the immortal Eternal Warrior, Livewire, who can control machines, and Ninjak, a crack British secret agent [with a stupid name]) to defuse the situation before full blown nuclear war breaks out...

Along with the first issue (which I'm not including here as I've already reviewed it), #2, #3, and #4 of Unity make up the series' first story arc, and it's quite good, even if it did get off to a bit of a shaky start.

The plot is not without problems, but it's still well-written. The scope is good, and you can really feel the urgency of the situation. Its biggest mistake is having this one story be told over four issues (four months), but that's just the way the industry is now. Practically gone are the days where one issue tells a complete self-contained story.

The biggest problem I have with this first arc of Unity is that Aric is barely in it, and when he is, he's only there for fight scenes. His role in this story is expanded in the tie-ins in XO Man-O-War, but I haven't read them, nor should they need to be required reading to get into this series.

Livewire is the only character here who gets any development. The faux-hero Harada makes for a decent villain to end the arc on, while Gilad is just a tough guy who helps the team out. The same goes for Ninjak.

Speaking of, there's a retcon in-between issues with him! In this particular scene in the first issue, Aric impales Ninjak with his sword, but in #2, it shows that Aric punches Ninjak, who blocks the blows fatal force with his own sword, before the punch's remaining power knocks him out cold.

The character of Rene Rousseaux (a blogger advocate for Aric) is annoying! Not only does she not know a goddamn thing about the Unity team, denigrating them as 'arrogant mystery men, bent on controlling our lives' who are unjustifiably mistreating the great Aric of Dacia, but her total hero-worship of the amazing MAN Aric, leading her to completely throw away her old life is borderline sexist! And said hero-worship doesn't even make sense, as  Aric has brutally killed countless people, and completely evaporated an entire Russian army! Hell, Rene, it was a soldier fighting against your 'hero' who saved you from his disintigrator blast!

And the fact that Rene hasn't appeared since #1, and the fact that she's only narrated thus far, and hasn't actually interacted with anyone makes her character even weaker. Hopefully she has a bigger role soon, and the judgmental bitch can actually realize that Unity aren't bad guys.

At the start of #4, we get some story with a guard and his relation to his teammates-the first Unity team, now deceased. It's a short scene, but it works well, adds a bit of depth to this guard (who could have just been a random mook), and allows a little more depth to spring from the first Unity team, rather than having them appear in #1 for a handful of panels before being abruptly killed and never spoken of again.

One minor issue with the plot is that #3 opens with Livewire narrating about how she was controlled by Aric once she put the XO armour on, and attacked her teammates. I guess that happened in a tie-in comic, which is a bit of an annoyance, but understandable. Speaking of #3, the ending is pretty great! Some great mirrored dialogue.

The ending, I think, is slightly spoilt by the same reason I mentioned above. After what he's done in his bid to take over Romania, Aric is so not worthy for the armour like the comic seems to think! If he'd only disabled the weapons of the Russian army in #1, then it'd make sense, but as it stands, he's killed a whole hell of a lot of people, which doesn't exactly endear him in my eyes. He'd still be seen as an immemsely powerful threat, and that, along with the millions of dollars damage that would cause would more than be enough for the Russians to still want Aric's head. And as it stands, if Aric's killed an entire army, I doubt that the Russians would ever stop until he's a thousand feet under. They wouldn't be happy that he's just in lockup somewhere.

One last thing, I kinda wish that they'd had a few issues of XO with Aric living without the armour, while Livewire would be XO in Unity. For one, no matter what this comic makes her say, she has earnt it, and two, that could potentially make for a very interesting story aric for Arc*. Not that the lack of that is a complaint, but that would have been nice.

The artwork is gritty and liney, but still good. Though there's one moment where the art is pretty bad, when the alien ship is taking off. The blurriness does evoke a sense of 'HOOOOLLLYY SHHIIIIIIITTT!' as the ship is flying off at like a billion G force, but unfortunately it's also just plain hard to look at, hurting your eyes if you look at it for more than a split second. And one moment in #3, it makes Aric look pudgy, which he obviously isn't meant to be.

#4's uses of sound effects are so frequent, that it really feels like the artist was having a ball, like a kid on a sugar high-'And then he goes WOOOM, and then a BOOM, and then she hits him with a KRAK-KAADDOOOOOMMM!'!

The covers to #2 and #3 are very good, but #4's is very blank, and the speech bubble doesn't need to be there. Plus, what happens on the cover is a bit of a non-sequiter.

Overall, this is a very good opening arc to Unity, and I definitely recommend it.

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