Monday, November 16, 2020

Valor #8

Valor #8 (June 1993)
title: "Red Alert!"
writer: Robert Loren Fleming
penciller: Jeffrey Moore
inker: Ron Boyd
letterer: Bob Pinaha
colorist: Eric Kachelhofer
associate editor: Eddie Berganza
editor: KC Carlson
cover: Adam Hughes

reviewers: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage and Jason "Anachronistic Kid" Knol

The Blasters, Green Lantern old-timer, Willa Farr

The Unimaginable; bad writing, bad drawing, bad editing

Valor and the old-timer Green Lantern fly off Starlag II as the system's sun prepares to go super-nova due to the Unimaginable's attack on it. 

Still on Starlag II, the Blasters are battling the guards while attempting to escape, too. As most of them continue the fight, Snapper teleports to their ship's bridge with the Dominator and the Cat-Lady. Amos breaks free of the guards and rushes into the ship across two consecutive, barely-comprehensible panels that are split by a turned page.

After two or three pages of badly drawn and badly choreographed fighting, the Blasters are ready to depart. They pull a guard out of Looking Glass (again, very badly drawn) and we learn that the commandant of Starlag II has already initiated Red Alert. Snapper ignores little Moshe so that he can solve the problem of how to get past a garage door (if you guessed that he shot it with a laser, you're smarter than the Cat-Lady). Finally, Moshe is able to blurt out that his mother is not on-board! 

With that, we say good-bye to the Blasters to rejoin Valor, seven pages after last seeing him. He and computer personality Babbage watch as Starlag II converts itself into a space-ship and warps away, taking the Blasters away with it. As far as we know (or care) they never appeared again. 

Valor then runs a scan for complex life-forms in the galaxy that is about to go kaboom in an attempt to save anyone before the sun goes supernova. Yes, the Unimaginable is still going to destroy the system's sun and no, our hero isn't going to attempt to stop it. Valor finds two life readings on a small moon named Lorimar B, so he pilots the ship there to help rescue them. He finds a last-of-its-kind creature called a salt cretin as well as a woman hunting it named Willa Farr.

After seven pages of whack-a-mole and argument, where his powers continue to bounce back and forth between being on and off, Valor finally catches the pesky rabbit-like creature, and Willa Farr blasts off with it. Lar's ship warps out of the area just as the sun explodes. 

J's comments:
Wow... I wish the review was joking when it said seven pages of whack-a-mole, but nope. For the record, my head-canon is that Willa Farr is somehow related to Doom Patrol's Elasti-Girl, Rita Farr. And that was the most excited I was while reading this issue. There's zero consistency in tone throughout the series, let alone the issue, so when a wacky cartoon-inspired creature started playing hide-and-seek I could only shrug my shoulders and go with it.

So what happened in issue #8, if I had to very briefly summarize? We met a new character who warped out of the story and we rid ourselves of the setting and supporting cast of the previous three issues. That's it.

Robert Loren Fleming acted like a new writer taking on the floundering series who wanted nothing more than to have a fresh start. He dedicated an entire issue to discarding his own crappy story arc by having the titular hero warp out and leave an entire star system to die.

What??? Yes, the hero of the book left a star system to explode because the villain was too powerful. But don't worry, because a third of the issue was spent meeting and "rescuing" the only two higher lifeforms in the entire system. Seriously. This is what happened in this issue.

Let me put aside my growing frustration with the writer of this folly and try to mention something, anything positive about this issue. What a difference an inker makes! The last four issues have had four different inkers, all attached to Jeffrey Moore's pencils, and everyone previous to this issue has given the art a dirty, scruffy feel chock-full of superfluous shadows and awful line weights. Bear with me for some comparisons here as I praise Ron Boyd, a name I didn't recognize before this issue because inkers are woefully under-appreciated. His skill is on display here.

Above: Ron Boyd's Snapper Carr. Note the deepening of clean shadows to accentuate the ascending panel sizes provided by Moore. A beautiful lesson in conveying emotional effect in comics.
Below: Brad Vancata's Snapper Carr (issue 5). Compare these awkwardly-weighed, multi-stroke shadow lines to the smooth, solid lines above. 

Above: Boyd's use of line weights give the ship depth and mass within the space of the panel.

Below: Ray Kryssing's dead-weight lines throughout the ship, which is to be in the foreground, give it the same (lack of) definition to the action and setting around it.

Above: Churljenkins has never looked so lovely as Boyd casts her in shadows in the right panel's close-up. In the panel on the left you can see his clean lines provide definition for the characters. Their emotions are clearer, and the colorist is given more room to work.

Below: On the left, Trevor Scott's Churljenkins, Gunther and Snapper would be nearly indistinguishable without color. The lines are so thin and ill-defined that the characters look miniaturized against the black background. On the right, the lack of inked shadow provides no cues for the colorist, and there's a general lack of definition around her features. Look at the detail in her beautiful cat eye in Boyd's, above, as opposed to her hardly-discernible eyes below.

The clean, thoughtful line work of Boyd made this issue the most artistically-gratifying issue of the series. There were definite sections where the action was difficult to follow, but I blame that on layouts and coloring. The irony is that there were several parts of this issue where a scene's layout was quite interesting and impacted the storytelling in a positive way! I suppose that with a script like this one may as well take all the chances one can.

Russell's comments: 
I have nothing to add except this rhetorical question: this series does get better before it's eventually cancelled, doesn't it? 

This series has never been reprinted.

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