Unity #3 Spoiler-free Review
Matt Kindt, Doug Braithwaite,
“To kill a king… it’s going to take an army.”
In some ways, that is the mission statement of Unity. The team – Harbinger villain Toyo Harada, his exiled assistant Livewire, X-O Manowar antihero Ninjak, and Eternal Warrior lead Gilad – was brought together by the actions of Aric of Dacia, the hero of X-O Manowar. When Aric reclaims his ancestral homeland by force and declares himself king, these four people are united by a common desire: To overthrow Aric and restore balance to the world’s political scene. It’s presented as a huge, challenging issue, but a necessary one to avert World War III. It was a good idea, but one that didn’t have, I thought, much meat to it. The first arc of Geoff Johns’ Justice League reboot that kicked off the New 52 had a similar premise, after all – disparate heroes unite to face down a tyrant threatening the world – and that could barely maintain a snail’s pace over three issues, let alone the staggeringly dull SIX the arc actually ran for.
Because, well, it’s borderline impossible to maintain an action-heavy story for six issues. You need ebb and flow, you need contrast. And that’s what Matt Kindt brings to Unity. Unity #2 appeared to wrap up the bulk of the first arc, but Kindt follows through on the basic premise of the series to expand outwards: If Aric of Dacia could not be trusted with the Manowar armor, who can? And if they can’t contain the armor, how can they expect to maintain peace? They have basically killed their king, but his power lives on – and whoever has it can start the cycle right back up again. The tropes at play in Unity are basic, almost fundamental to the genre, but Kindt is hitting them fast enough and hard enough and in just the right order to keep you guessing.
Perhaps most important, however, is the thing that this issue emphasizes first and foremost: Empathy. Justice League had no empathy – it assumed you’d like the heroes because they were cool, and hate the villains because they were mean (but also cool). Most superhero books don’t have much empathy, really. Villains are villains because they’re villains. They’re broken and they can’t help it. But while Unity does have a clear hero – Unity #3 positions Livewire as the voice of moral reason – it doesn’t have a clear villain. Harada may not be a good person, but he is acting to avert nuclear war; Aric may not be a bad person, but his actions are extremely dangerous.
If you’re only reading one Valiant book, Unity might be the one. A team-up book is a tough sell for new readers, in some ways, but Unity is, thus far, a tightly plotted, wonderfully paced adventure that will keep you guessing – and keep you intrigued, regardless of what other books you’re reading. Add in Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber contributing rock solid art (and putting forth a strong argument that Unity is Valiant’s best-looking book), and you have a winner. I don’t know if Kindt can maintain the strong combination of whiplash-inducing pace and evenhanded action, but as long as he keeps it up, Unity will be one of the best superhero books on the shelves.
My Rating: 4.5 / 5