Armorclads #1 is written by J.J. O’Connor and Brian Buccellato, penciled by Manuel Garcia, inked by Raul Fernandez, colored by Rex Lokus, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. It’s published by Valiant Entertainment. In a far-away solar system, planets utilize armored mechsuits called Armorclads to fight wars and serve as peacekeepers. However, on the planet Xeru, genetically engineered workers don smaller mechsuits known as Ironclads to mine the mineral known as Pure so that they can find refuge on neighboring planet Alpharon. However, when one of their own suffers a brutal death, the Ironclads decide to rise up against their masters and take their freedom into their own hands.
This is the first original series in a long while from Valiant. Most of their fare, including The Harbinger and Shadowman, served to retool their existing characters. And while most of their characters are superheroes, O’Connor and Buccellato lean more toward a hard science fiction vibe reminiscent of Aliens or Mass Effect. Buccellato even specializes in this particular genre, having written the Flash—a superhero whose alter ego is a scientist—and Johnny Yong Bosch’s directorial debut Ark Exitus. His work helps punch up O’Connor’s concept and sets the groundwork for a classic sci-fi rebellion story.
I say “sets” because most of the story is dedicated to the Ironclads’ life mining for Pure on Xeru and doesn’t really pick up until the end when one of them dies. Additionally, most of the story features the Ironclads being verbally abused by their Armorclad overseers; they’re referred to as “Grubs,” and their friends’ deaths are viewed as collateral damage. Personally, the comic could have showcased more of the intergalactic war described in the prologue to set the stakes or addressed said stakes earlier in the issue.
That being said, Garcia and Fernandez bring this world to life with their artwork. There’s a clear difference in how the Ironclads and Armorclads are depicted; the Armorclads wear bulky gray armor and carry massive rifles, while the Ironclads’ armor is bright yellow and equipped with construction equipment, including net cannons and wrist-mounted drills. Those turn out to come in handy when fighting Xeru’s native predators, who look like an unholy combination of the Xenomorphs from Alien and the Bugs from Starship Troopers. Under Lokus’ color, their jet-black skin and shining white fangs provide a contrast to the Ironclads’ bright armor.
And topping it all off is Sharpe’s lettering. When the predators approach the Ironclads, their skittering legs make a “tik-tik-tik” sound, and the Ironclads’ drills start “whirring” right before they sink into the creatures’ abdomens. Overall, this is a great-looking book.
Armorclads #1 may be a bit slow as it lays the foundation for a new corner of the Valiant Universe, but its premise alone should be enough to hook longtime Valiant fans. The preview for the second issue looks to escalate the series’ central conflict, which I’m looking forward to it. And if you’re a fan of science fiction or mecha, this series will be right up your alley.
Armorclads #1 will be available wherever comics are sold on March 23, 2022.
Armorclads #1 may be a bit slow as it lays the foundation for a new corner of the Valiant Universe, but its premise alone should be enough to hook longtime Valiant fans…And if you’re a fan of science fiction or mecha, this series will be right up your alley.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.