Friday, January 30, 2015

Harbinger #34, Armorines #5, XO Man-O-War #33, and The H.A.R.D. Corps #23 (Classic Valiant)

Up in space, a fleet of Spider Aliens are gathering for a purpose, and many factions on Earth, from the governments Armorines, to the paramilitary HARD Corps, supervillain businessman Toyo Harada, and alien armour wielding XO Man-O-War, plan on destroying the aliens before they can go further with their plans. Meanwhile, down on Earth, a mysterious electromagnetic force field covers the entire Earth...

For the better part of a year's worth of issues, XO Man-O-War has been building up the event The Gathering, which is a grand plan by the Spider Aliens. What is this Gathering, you ask?...It's just a few alien ships meeting with each-other, and Earth's forces arrive and effortlessly kill them all. That's it. No big story, just four issues that waste our time with a nothing story that amounts to nothing! There's no epic scope, no grand villains, nor climactic moments! It's a single fight scene that goes on until it just stops! The End! We don't even know what The Gathering is! It's possible it was explained in a previous issue of XO Man-O-War, and I've just forgotten, but even so, the story where said event takes place in should at some point explain what it even is! As it stands, this four-parter has zero plot at all!

Despite being one of only two four-parters to the company-wide Chaos Effect event, this story's involvement with the Effect is negligible at best! The Chaos Effect has no bearings on the story, most of which doesn't even take place on Earth, and only serves to mildly inconvenience the HARD Corps, as they're not able to decimate the aliens quite as fast without the ability to select their powers. In fact, the lack of their powers makes their role in this story entirely pointless! 'But,' you ask, 'perhaps this story could work by showing them more vulnerable than they're used to?' Not so, as we've already had three stories over five previous issues of HARD Corps where they had to fight without the use of their powers.

Now let's get to the individual issues to this story. Issue #24 of Harbinger is the only part to this event that takes place mostly on Earth, although it's very rushed, moving from scene to scene too quickly for us to settle, and a lot of the Chaos Effect = is told to us rather than shown by actually happening.

one really confusing scene involving upcoming antagonist The Harbinger. This scene is only a page long, both starts and ends abruptly, and has absolutely zero explanation to it! The Harbinger doesn't even appear again for another six issues! When he does appear again, this scene is never brought up, so you won't even know it has anything to do with the character unless you're a Valiant expert like me.

The Armorines part doesn't bother continuing immediately on from the previous issue, with the characters once again meeting up with The HARD Corps, who they previously met under a lot more hostile circumstances. There's no character or dramatic tension from their previous encounter at all aside from one single panel, which is instantly resolved! And what would an issue of Armorines be without the lead hero Gunny insulting Major Lane for being a woman! This fucking guy!...

The XO part is more of the same, but from Aric Dacia's viewpoint. The only real addition is when we finally see the story's main villains, who are unceremoniously killed off just as abruptly as they appear. We also get a subplot this issue concerning Randy and her Department W buddies being marked for death, but it only makes up one scene, and is a pretty pointless addition to this issues.

There's one really stupid scene in this where Aric demands that a Spider Alien tell him Aristedes' whereabouts. This is stupid for two reasons. 1, Aric asks this question as he blasts the alien's torso into a fine powder, killing it instantly, and 2, because he asks this question after he's broken though the ship's hull, which should negate any and all sound!

The HARD Corps part, the finale, has nothing to it, and is the absolute worst of the bunch! Perhaps this is due to the fact that at this point, we're just reading more of the same, and because this is meant to be the big conclusion, yet does nothing with it.

That's it for the 'plot.' The characters in this story are numerous, but have nothing at all to them, and some are pretty unlikeable, and sometimes stupid, but not in a way the story intended. Harada is a high-and-mighty dick who belittles the HARD Corps and Armorines for 'wasting time and energy' on attacking the alien soldiers outside instead of taking the fight to the ships themselves. The problem with this arrogant thought is that the teams are fighting the ships! The rest of them are holding off the aliens as a stalling technique! Harada also doesn't stop whining about how the HARD Corps 'hitmen' tried to murder him, which isn't true! They made a conscious choice to not be Omen Enterprises hitmen, and spared Harada's life, as they refused to execute a defenseless man! You'd think the universe's greatest telepath would know this!

The art in these issues is ok, even though it does fluctuate between styles between the issues. The covers are pretty bland though. None are particularly appealing, and the Chaos Effect cover motif only allows them to show off things in the small strip near the middle of the page.

This four-parter is wretched! It does nothing but waste time with dull action and no story. It's also the final nail in the coffin for Spider Aliens in the Valiant Universe, partially because this story clinches how little of a threat they pose, and because their only appearances past this point are just bit-parts...

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