I went through this all before, back in the 1990's. I was rather enamored with Valiant's more... naturalistic take on superheroes and the shared universe. The characters in Valiant were new, fresh and somehow more relevant than what DC, Marvel, Image, Malibu and Dark Horse were putting together at the time. Characters seemed to be the center focus, no art, not story, not gimmicks (though Valiant revolutionized the gimmick cover in the industry, they made their name with their characters). It was exciting to have a universe where characters could learn and grow and age and die and it wouldn't matter as much to the trademark holders and it would only matter to the fans insomuch as they love the characters and their journey.
After a while, though, after countless gimmick covers and new titles and crossovers and Wizard-headline-grabbing shocking moments, my interest in the characters began to dwindle. I don't know if it was the market bust that did it or if quality dipped, or if I really only got caught up in the hype and never cared to begin with. I just stopped reading. When video game maker Acclaim bought Valiant in an effort to develop new video game properties out of established comic book characters, there seemed to be a lack of understanding about what the market needed, or wanted, or could handle, given its then battered image and depressed sense of self worth.
A decade and a half later, I've got that same feeling. Valiant is back creating a small stable of solid, character-driven series that once again feel vastly different than any other superhero universe on the market. Creators have come in with fresh takes on these characters, given space to develop them and the flexibility to let them shine uniquely. This stuff is good, surprisingly good. I couldn't care less about Shadowman and now this freebie issue from Comixology has me wanting more. A poke around X-O last year put me on the trade-wait list, and I'm a monthly subscriber to Archer and Armstrong, and I don't even want to go poking around Harbinger (my pull list can't take it).
Shadowman shouldn't be this interesting, but damn if that wasn't one of the best opening sequences in a superhero first-issue of the past 3 years (and you know there have been a LOT of super-hero first issues over those three years). I'm also a sucker for "legacy" comics, so this has me wanting to buy in. But seriously, it's Shadowman, I'm trying so hard not to care, like I not cared so much up until 25 minutes ago before I read the damn thing.
I'll give it time. Maybe it will pass.
But, Valiant, if I wasn't already, I'm certainly impressed now.