Review by Frank Plowright
Someone’s been messing with time, and instead of the familiar Valiant order of things the entire world is now an expanded version of the Soviet Union under communist control. Valiant characters exist, but in loyal Soviet variants unaware of their change in circumstances. The primary story occurs in Divinity III, and this gathers four one-shots issued to coincide with its serialisation.
The book opens with a tale of Kommandar Bloodshot by Jeff Lemire and Clayton Crain (sample art) that works because it’s restricted to a small scale. Bloodshot’s on a mission to wipe out what’s considered a terrorist cell in the wilds of Colorado, and encounters unexpected opposition. Lemire achieves the difficult trick of presenting a human story about a part mechanical killing machine, and Crain’s art is spectacular in places, and very good throughout. The only unfortunate aspect is that this story sets a standard unmatched throughout the remainder of the book.
Joe Harris picks up on Aric, possessor of the X-O armour arriving in 21st century Rome as he did in his original series, but here it’s already under Soviet control. Only the final page of Harris’ story really has any great relevance to the situation. Much of the opening sequence is Rome appears padding, while also showcasing Cafu’s excellent action art. The remainder could have been the content of any X-O comic, although it’s dull compared with the work of then writer Fred Van Lente.
In the presented timeline, the USA held out far longer against Soviet invasion than the remainder of the world, and a more effective resistance exists, but Shadowman isn’t part of it. He’s suppressing his alter-ego, concerned that if he reveals himself and falls under Soviet control millions could die. It’s a rather odd logical extrapolation on the part of writer Scott Bryan Wilson, and his plot further fails the logic test when Shadowman is coaxed into confrontation rather than fading into the shadows to fight another day. Robert Gill’s layouts are fine, but his figurework lets him down at times.
Eliot Rahal’s tale of the Eternal Warrior actually features Armstrong from Archer & Armstrong, and is the second best contribution due to excellent art from Francis Portela, an ethical conflict at the heart of the tale, and a surprise or two. It’s set in a Soviet gulag, a forced labour camp in a remote location, and concerns a test of faith. The drawback is that due to the necessity of it being a one-shot compression rather weakens the emotional impact by rushing events.
Four Soviet heroes previously unknown to the Valiant universe feature in Divinity III, and their origins are presented in short strips by Matt Kindt with some decorative art from Juan Jose Ryp. Baba Yaga, Kostiy the Deathless, the Pioneer and the Red Legend. These are pithy and entertaining pieces, based on Eastern European legends in some cases, and almost all with the whiff of tragedy about them. Yet Kindt adds enough depth so as to set up possibilities beyond short term use in this alternative universe.
While the good outweighs the lesser, it’s a close call, so Heroes of the Glorious Starlinverse is one to pick up when discounted rather than at full price. Some stories are more equal than others, comrade.