A Valiant Read #8: Unity: To Kill A King

A Valiant Read” is a regular column in which we highlight some of the best jumping-on points for the Valiant Universe. Find out more.

It’s time for another edition of A Valiant Read! This time we’re taking a look at Unity Volume 1: To Kill A King. Written by Matt Kindt and art by Doug Braithwaite, this trade paperback collects the first four issues of Valiant’s top team book.

Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with any of the characters. A Valiant Read will get you up to speed with them. Along the way, we’ll also take a look at what to read next as well as other Valiant reading recommendations if you dig Unity.

Who are the major players?

Who the hell is Unity? In a way, they’re Valiant’s answer to Avengers or Justice League, bringing characters from other comics together. Read on to find out who makes up Unity in this debut arc.

Unity art by Doug Braithwaite. X-O Manowar.
Unity art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.

X-O Manowar

While he would be considered a hero in his solo title, X-O Manowar is the antagonist in the opening arc of Unity. If you have caught read the first or seventh edition of A Valiant Read, here’s a quick summary of who he is and what he’s all about.

Aric of Dacia was originally a 5th century Visigoth warrior, who was kidnapped by aliens and made to be their slave. In the process of escaping, he came into the possession of their sacred sentient battle armour and was displaced in into the 21st century.

After getting his revenge on the aliens the captured him, this barbarian in the highly advanced technology has returned to Earth and claimed land in what is now modern-day Romania.

Unity art by Doug Braithwaite. Eternal Warrior.
Unity art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.

The Eternal Warrior

As the name implies, The Eternal Warrior, aka Gilad, is an immortal being who has lived for more than ten thousand years. Throughout that time, he has travelled the globe and lived with many different societies such as the Visigoths. Due to this, he has trained and fought alongside Aric many times.

Unity art by Doug Braithwaite. Ninjak.
Unity art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.

Ninjak

Colin King is a high-tech ninja for hire. While he primarily works for MI-6, he also takes on jobs in which he charges millions of dollars for completion.

We’ll talk more about him when we cover his solo series at a later date.

Unity art by Doug Braithwaite. Toyo Harada.
Unity art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.

Toyo Harada

One of the most powerful psiots (people with genetically gifted superpowers which are variations on psychic abilities) in the world, Toyo Harada is the big-bad of the Harbinger franchise. To most, he’s a tech billionaire who uses his money to better the world. In reality, he uses questionable practices and his psiot army to influence the world in his favour.

Unity art by Doug Braithwaite. Livewire.
Unity art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.

Livewire

Finally, we have Livewire – a fellow psiot and former student of Toyo Harada and his Harbinger Institute. While she was once incredibly loyal to him, agreeing with his goals for a better world, she begins to question it when she starts to disagree with his methods.

She can control and communicate with technology, which makes for some interesting ideas in the hands of the right creators.

Unity Volume 1: To Kill A King cover by Doug Braithwaite.
Unity Volume 1: To Kill A King cover by Doug Braithwaite.

Review

Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Doug Braithwaite. Colours by Brian Reber. Letters by Dave Sharpe.

All-star teams are a staple of the shared superhero universe. Once you have enough established characters, it’s only natural to bring them together to form a team to take on threats that are larger than any individual can handle. Valiant’s answer to this is Unity.

Unity is formed to prevent an international catastrophe and piggy-backs off the events of X-O Manowar: Homecoming. Aric of Dacia has returned from his alien oppressor’s home-world and has claimed a part of modern-day Romania as his own. His presence has spooked the entire world, including Russia – who are willing to tackle the threat with a nuclear option.

With the stakes so high, Unity does a great job at crafting a cinematic feel that matches its scale. The starts action straightway and the tension remains throughout the story. While it is fast-paced, the story never feels rushed by playing into the urgency of the situation. It helps that the arc is only four issues long, which is a good middle ground between it feeling rushed and stretching on too long.

Braithwaite layouts operate on a cadence that sees varying numbers of panels on each page. The story’s pressure builds in pages that have anywhere between four and six panels. There isn’t a formal grid structure to these, with rectangular panels often accompanied by asymmetrical ones. Big moments give the tension building payoff and often presented by splash pages. This rollercoaster effect pushes the narrative forward at a nice pace while also keeping readers engaged.

Unity #1 page 1 art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.
Unity #1 page 1 art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.

Unity explores how people react differently in a crisis. The theme is introduced almost immediately when readers meet a food blogger caught up in the conflict. The situation changes her and she shifts to covering the events. A lot of that is to help get readers up to speed with what’s going on, but it also gives ordinary people a rare perspective in superhero conflicts.

The other notable character is Livewire, who reacts to the situation by coming out of her shell. Due to her loyalty to Toyo Harada, she is portrayed as a passive character in the pages of Harbinger. In reacting to this crisis, it has forced her to take agency. It’s a solid piece of character development that makes her one of the more compelling characters on the team.

This series also excels at exploring the team dynamic. Unity has enough variation to make it engaging, with each character’s skillset allowing for different approaches to the threat. Even better, everyone has their moment and the reader never questions why someone is in the group.

Overall, Unity: To Kill A King is a fantastic introduction to this superpowered team. If you like stories that are fast-paced and high-stakes – that also have enough room for character moments – then this is the comic for you.

Further Reading

Do you want to read more Unity? If so, these are the additional trade paperbacks you’ll want to track down.

Unity Volume 2: Trapped By Webnet
Written by Matt Kindt and Robert Vendetti. Art by CAFU and Lee Garbett.
Collects: Unity #5-7 and X-O Manowar #5.

Unity Volume 3: Armor Hunters
Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Stephen Segovia.
Collects: Unity #8-11.

Unity Volume 4: The United
Written by Matt Kindt and Joshua Dysart. Art by CAFU, Cary Nord, and Robert Gill.
Collects: Unity #12-14 and Unity #0.

Unity Volume 5: Homefront
Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Pere Perez.
Collects: Unity #15-18.

Unity Volume 6: The War-Monger
Written by Matt Kindt. Art by Jose Luis with Jefte Palo.
Collects: Unity #19-22.

Unity Volume 7: Revenge of the Armor Hunters
Written by Matt Kindt, James Asmus, Donny Cates & Eliott Rahal, Justin Jordan, Eliot Kalan, Daniel Kibblesmith, Michael Kupperman, and Tom Scharpling. Art by Diego Bernard, Karl Moline, Kano, Michael Kupperman, Pere Perez, Rafer Roberts, Dan Schkade, and Bart Sears.
Collects: Unity #23-25.

If You Like Unity…

If you like Unity, then I can recommend these Valiant releases:

X-O Manowar Volume 1: By The Sword
Written by Robert Venditti. Art by Cary Nord.

This explains X-O Manowar’s origin, and begins to set up events which will eventually introduce Unity.

Harbinger Volume 1: Omega Rising
Written by Joshua Dysart. Art by Khari Evans.

Harbinger introduces Toyo Harada and Livewire. Check out this volume if you want to learn more about their relationship.

Next Time…

Join us again where we will take a look at the world’s worst heroes in the first volume of Quantum and Woody.

Have Your Say!

Will you be checking out Unity? Sound off in the comments below or via Facebook or Twitter.

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