(Fred Van Lente / Pere Perez / David Baron / Tom B. Long; Valiant)
I'm assuming that there is a mandate at Valiant Publishing that no reader is ever allowed to feel lost while reading a Valiant title. I've been jumping in and out of various of their books – sampling with a smile, as it were – and I've always found each one easy to get cozy in. There are very few series one can say that about, let alone an entire publisher's line. So bravo, Valiant, you know how to throw a party and make everyone feel at home.
Then you go ahead and do something like let Fred Van Lente wrap up an arc on Archer and Armstrong and let him release a Zero Issue to explain some minor point about the background of one of its main characters. No overall plot is advanced in this issue. Hell, the entire thing is basically a flashback and what happens in the past is not really all that compelling in the current sequential narrative.
But it is. It is compelling – or at least Van Lente makes it so. Obadiah Archer's origin story in this issue only steps back slightly further from ground already covered earlier in this series, but by doing so the larger storyline edges forward and ties this series into the grander conflicts occurring in the vaster Valiant Universe. It's the beginning of a cross-over event that actually has a story telling rather than a financial motivation, or at least MORE narrative than financial. These are hard times, after all, and I don't begrudge anyone trying to make an extra buck. I respect Valiant, though, for handling this thing with class.
Valiant is planning on releasing three more zero issues – standalones to bring readers in and tie titles together. It's both impressive and exciting. It's also nice to have a publishing house that seems genuinely interested in the comics it is releasing and is infusing their talent with a sense of ownership and open creativity, without actual … you know … ownership and within ... you know … certain editorial guidelines.
Still, the World building that all the Valiant titles are working on is pretty impressive. Connections are being made between titles to further flesh out characters, narratives, and motivations. Archer and Armstrong #0 builds to include Project Rising Spirit in order to enlist the talents of Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps and it sets up something that only the most cynical of us left out there couldn't get interested in (I'm pointing a finger at you, Obama).
Van Lente and Perez make the most of this opportunity. It's great to see creators having fun on corporate properties, and its great to see a corporation allow their creators to have so much fun.