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Nostalgia November Day 20 — Secret Weapons #1

Each day in November, I will read and review/discuss/whatever one comic taken from a box of some of my childhood comics. Today, it’s Secret Weapons #1.

The Nostalgia November archive can be found here.

secretweapons01Secret Weapons #1 by Joe St. Pierre kicks off a three-part story that I’ll be rereading and discussing over the next three days. In my box is a small collection of Valiant comics and this story seemed like a good way to dive into the Valiant universe here since it is a crossover where characters from almost all of their books come together against a common threat. I wasn’t that big into Valiant’s output as a kid, but I did catch the occasional issue. My dad bought a few of the titles, so I flipped through them — at one point, I read the trades for Unity and that Barry Windsor-Smith Solar story, but I barely remember them now. Along with Image, Valiant was an early ’90s company, except while Image was artist-driven, Valiant was writer-driven by the likes of Jim Shooter, Bob Layton, and David Michelinie. As such, the comics weren’t as flashy, sometimes having an almost retro look, one that didn’t quite fit into the time period. But, there was some good stuff in there.

Secret Weapons #1 isn’t that great of a comic, only because it almost exclusively all set up with one rather cool scene in the middle. It begins with Fred Bender, a former villain of Solar’s who was left to die in Death Valley. He survives and goes to Master Darque, a Shadowman/Solar villain and occultist, to obtain powers again to kill Solar. Darque goes along with it since he wants Solar eliminated and Bender becomes Dr. Eclipse. He poses as Phil (Solar’s alter-ego) to try and sleep with his girlfriend, but she realises that it isn’t Phil quickly and calls for help, bringing Solar to the scene. The ensuing fight has Eclipse overpower Solar with ease, destroying him completely… except for his hand, which he then swallows whole while giving the oh-so-witty line of “Finger-lickin’ good.” The fight is done well and is a bit shocking since Solar is meant to have the power of god basically, so to have Eclipse dispatch him so easily sets the villain up as a major threat.

Meanwhile, Geoff is the Geomancer and he feels a disturbance/receives of a vision of the problem/I dunno, and begins to gather heroes to fight against Eclipse and Darque. So his scenes are mostly him going around and talking to various Valiant heroes — the ones that appear on the cover, basically. The only scene here that’s more than ‘serviceable’ is the one involving Aric, X-O Manowar… he wants to go hunting dinosaurs with Turok and doesn’t care if Solar can’t handle his business — until Geoff says that Gilad (Eternal Warrior) doesn’t think he could really be of any help, which, of course, gets Aric all fired up to help the cause. It’s so transparent, but that it works shows off Aric’s personality well.

All in all, it’s a good beginning to the story, particularly in setting up Eclipse as a major threat. Joe St. Pierre has always reminded me of Dan Jurgens for whatever reason. I don’t know why, honestly, since their art styles are as similar as they are dissimilar… maybe it’s the whole writer/artist thing on a company title like this. As a kid, I didn’t encounter too many people who both wrote and drew their own stories (where they didn’t own the character — although the Image guys mostly hired writers, so my exposure was less than you’d think), and Dan Jurgens was the main one over at DC on Superman and Justice League of America, so maybe seeing a single person write and draw a title like this made me think of him. I like St. Pierre’s art. It’s a very clean, classic style. As with most Valiant books, it’s not eye-catching the way Image’s stuff was, but, aside from his rendering of the two Harbingers, he doesn’t really make any mistakes. It’s solid and gets the job done.

Tomorrow, Solar #25, which expands on the Solar/Eclipse confrontation.


Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

November 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Sadly, Joe St. Pierre adopted one of those horrific Liefeld/McFarlane imitation styles a few years later at Marvel.

It’s weird that, as bad as Liefeld’s art is from a technical standpoint, somehow technically-solid artists trying to ape him or McFarlane are worse still on the merits.

Ah, Dr. Eclipse. At some point, I managed to work up a whole theory about how that character was the exact jumping-the-shark moment for the entire Valiant Universe. This was still a good issue (as was the following), but this series overall wasn’t so good. I still have a huge amount of affection for the first 2 years or so of Valiant comics. I loved that stuff, man.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

November 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Huh — I rather liked Doctor Eclipse as a concept, myself; essentially, wasn’t he a necromantic parody of Solar, substituting Darque power and mysticism for Solar’s pseudo-science? And unlike Soalr, who struggled to maintain touch with his humanity, Fred Bender gleefully throws his away and seems to revel in it.

It’s not the deepest conflict, but it works well as what it is. What makes it a shark jump, exactly?

” It’s weird that, as bad as Liefeld’s art is from a technical standpoint, somehow technically-solid artists trying to ape him or McFarlane are worse still on the merits. ”

It makes sense, because while McFarlane’s art is technically more solid than Liefeld’s, it’s also even more exaggerated in its horror-movie distortions– pretzel-contorted Spidey with messes of spaghetti strand webbing and huge eyes on the mask coming first to mind– than Liefeld’s art, which just favors bigger muscles and bigger guns. So trying to ape the style is an even bigger leap than just bulking up guns ( metaphorical muscles or actual )– and is most often met with failure.

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