Monday, 3 March 2014

Unity, Volume 1: To Kill a King Review (Matt Kindt, Doug Braithwaite)

Aric has annexed part of Romania for his people and called it New Dacia. With the Vine spaceship he and his Visigoth brethren arrived in and Aric’s Manowar armour, the governments of the world are worried this is the precursor to an alien invasion. As the Russian army approaches, Toyo Harada - the world’s most powerful psiot and head of the Harbinger Foundation - assembles a team of heroes to defeat Aric once and for all: Gilad Anni-Padda the Eternal Warrior, Amanda McKee aka Livewire, and Ninjak. This is the Valiant Universe’s Event series, Unity! 

Unlike the bigger superhero comics publishers Marvel and DC, Valiant’s big superhero event story is actually quite readable - that might be because they have a far more limited cast of characters than either of the Big 2 whose Events inevitably become oversaturated with superhero action. But Unity’s still got plenty of epic action scenes. 

Harada sends a team of HARD Corps-esque soldiers to go up against Aric, there’s shenanigans in space and then under the sea, lots of superhero fighting among the characters, and a decent twist at the end. It’s suitably big and actiony, but it’s just not that involving for the reader. 

Part of the reason why is that I don’t really know who I’m supposed to root for - most of them are heroes/good guys. I get that Aric shouldn’t take land by force, but I don’t really see him as the bad guy - maybe that’s the point, I’m supposed to want Aric to win? He’s just a man trying to do right by his people and is taking back land that was his peoples’ a couple thousand years ago. And, besides, Harada, I don’t get why Eternal Warrior, Livewire, and Ninjak are involved. Ninjak because of money, sure, but the others? I’m not really rooting for them to beat Aric either, plus Harada is just a psycho. The real enemy seemed to be the Russian army who were way too trigger-happy with their nukes - they should’ve all teamed up to take them out! 

The dialogue is serviceable but not great - I’ve never been convinced that Matt Kindt’s a brilliant writer. He’s competent and can plot fine, but his writing has never stood out as anything special. If you’re not sure who Livewire is - and, seeing as she’s the only one without her own series, you might not be - Kindt has her tell the reader her powers. In every scene she appears in. Seriously, every time we see Livewire she immediately has to say “If it runs on electricity, I can talk to it, I can hear it, I can control it”. I get it. Stop telling me every single time! 

Then there’s the food critic turned war reporter/blogger, Renee Rousseaux, who happens to be in Romania when things kick off. One minute she’s reviewing food, the next she’s the only person in the world reporting on this madness. Really, there are no professional war correspondents reporting on this? It’s got to be some random food blogger who happened to be there? It’s kind of a massive story, you’d think more reporters would be in on it! 

Unity Vol 1 isn’t a bad book but it’s not great either. As an Event, it tells a large, sprawling story with some decent set pieces and some good moments but, as none of the main characters do anything besides fight one another and tell the reader their powers/motivations every chance they get, it’s difficult to get swept up in the story or care about any of the cast. It’s a moderately entertaining superhero book that’s at least better than any DC/Marvel Event of the last few years simply by virtue of telling its story straightforwardly and restraining its issue count/tie-ins to a minimum.

Unity Volume 1: To Kill A King

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