27th Jun2019

‘Psi-Lords #1′ Review (Valiant)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Fred Van Lente | Art by Renato Guedes | Published by Valiant Entertainment

psi-lords-1-cover

Easy to forget now, but back when Valiant Comics originally launched its first book in 1991, it was something of a game changer. Everyone now always remembers Image, with its high profile creators, but that came a year later. Valiant, with Jim Shooter as its creative ‘show runner’, at least at first, showed that it was possible to take on the Big Two, Marvel and DC, at their own game. Where Valiant were different was that from the start they designed the Valiant Universe, so they would have a growing stable of books that interconnected and shared common ground. Up to then most independent companies put out good comics, but usually unrelated and often creator owned. Valiant as a publisher should get a lot more respect than they seem to. But I digress.

Psi-Lords as characters first appeared way back in 1994 in a couple of cameos, before being spun off into their own book. I still have Issue 1 of that in my collection. It was…ok. The title lasted a mere 10 issues, and being honest one of the lesser titles. Psi-Lords were essentially super beings in the future, who traced their lineage all the way back to the H.A.R.D Corps characters in Valiant’s present. I picked up this book mainly to see how much of that original material, if any, would survive in this relaunch, and to see if the characters were indeed worthy of a relaunch in the first place. Fred Van Lente seems a decent shout for the launch writer, although I don’t know much about artist Renato Guedes. Let’s take a look.

We start in some sort of prison, where individuals are being held for some unknown reason. Tank is apparently a soldier, Beacon a scholar, Artisan a scientist, Hazard a mystery for now. All four aren’t aware of each other, only they are all hearing the same voice at the same time. The voice calls itself Scion, claims it can help them escape, in return for a favour from them. The jailbreak begins, and they all experience their powers for the first time, the powers all reflecting to a degree their names. They find their way to Scion, an older man who reveals they have all been marked by the sigil of the Psi-Lords, and are being held prisoner by the Starwatchers. Just as Scion is about to reveal how they got there and who they are, he is, in the best tradition of action fiction, shot and killed.

While fighting their way through their captors, and the others noticing Hazard is far more bloodthirsty than necessary, they learn new details. Tank is Russian, for example, Hazard American, the strange barcodes on their arms are identifiers. and the prison they are in is not on Earth. It is, in fact, facing a giant dying Sun. Oh, and those guards? Not human. So, lacking memory of how they got there, of how they got their powers, just where ‘here’ is, or who Scion was, or who these aliens are, how can they escape? Where to? by what method? That is the poser Van Lente leaves us with at the end of this first issue.

A first issue that had both its good points and bad points. On the good side, I think Van Lente tried to pull out the elements he liked from the original book, and rework them for this new tale. I like that, but I also felt (here comes the bad) that with such a large blank canvas to play with, Van Lente played it very conservative and even a little clich├ęd. We’ve essentially been here before many times. Renato Guedes art, taken on its own merit, is very good. He has a painted style that is visually interesting, but (here comes the bad) for me, he’s probably on the wrong book. The style of art, good in its own right, is not really suitable for an action book, and renders most panels as static when they should be full of movement. The action in Van Lente’s script is often undercut by the static art, which is a shame.

A solid middle of the road book for me. Decent enough, but promised more. Perhaps an issue or two under the belt will smooth out some issues, though I hold judgement on this being a good writer/artist team for this particular book. Worth a look though.

*** 3/5

Psi-Lords #1 is out now from Valiant.

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