Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Psi-Lords’, out June 19 from Valiant.

Psi-Lords #1: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘Psi-Lords’ #1. Art: Rod Reis/Valiant

THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘PSI-LORDS’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

by Clyde Hall.  Here’s to those daring comics companies defying convention by using existing characters rather than minting new ones. It’s a bad habit, ignoring viable characters to fill the ranks of superhero or super villain teams with more cardboard Bricks, another forgettable Energy Blaster. Especially when the new and amazing Pyro Avenger possesses the same basic powers as that bush league hero Commando Combustible fielded twenty years prior. Blessed are writers and artists who dust off the discards to expand unrealized potential. In our disposable culture, though, shiny’s always better. The New Character lure is cast by companies for fleeting excitement. Or to placate a mad young creative talent with his or her ‘signature’ pantheon.

It’s buzzier, it’s flashier, it’s easier. Making the Commando Cs tenable again requires work. Chops. Skill. Care and nurturing. Thus, too often we wind up with fourteen forgettable fire-themed characters introduced, forgotten, and cast into the refuse pile. (X-people, I’m looking at you. Some Titans and League folks, as well.) Too seldom do we see preexisting repurposing. (Bork and Catman, Awesome Android and Agents of Atlas, I’m looking at you.)

Then there’s Valiant. They’ve lately been reprocessing characters major and minor from their established aggregation. This included Punk Mambo which I reviewed previously, a peripheral character decades ago now headlining her own appealing mini-series.

Psi-Lords were also support characters who grew into a 10-issue run a quarter century ago before disappearing into the Valiant vaults. Now they’re returning in a series that combines interstellar mystery with a space-borne prison escape. That’s a departure from the original concept, an established off-shoot of H.A.R.D. Corps set in the 41st Century.

Writer Fred Van Lente doesn’t specify just when his story takes place vis-à-vis the Valiant Universe. What he does is adroitly establish four main characters using an entity called Scion. Telepathic communication between Scion and the book’s starring quartet verifies that they are all detainees. That the four are humans abducted from Earth, subjected to surgical procedure without consent, and now held captive. He also shares that they’ve been elevated to god-like levels of power and held at a facility called Palisade.

Van Lente allows little air in the telepathic conversation, flitting ‘round between Scion and each of the protagonists with fluidity. We’re introduced to Tank, Beacon, Artisan and Hazard as Scion awakens them from stasis. He explains their new powered status so that they may combine forces, free him and themselves, and then escape.

It’s good exposition, a fast track getting into the heads and personalities of the four protagonists. There are doses of humor, debate, disbelief, and eventually confirmation. The tetrad does possess withering levels of power. They accomplish part of Scion’s goals before the issue’s end, but not all. They’re left (as is the reader) with many unanswered questions.

The original Valiant Psi-Lords were potent metas, much like their new iterations. They were additionally immortal, centuries removed from their once-fleshly coils. Normal humans displayed distrust of these evolved. Maybe something to do with the Lords referring to anyone with finite lifespans as ‘Temps’.

Though it’s certainly a comic of its day, the original ten-issue run introduced next-level concepts regarding shadowy leadership and meta morality. When a race of carnivorous aliens threatened human colonies, they were defeated by the previous Psi-Lords who then set about changing their physiology from carnivore to omnivore. They had the power, the task of preserving mankind… and the consent of their subdued adversaries at having their natural forms rewired was not solicited. The implications of such power corrupting, conflict within the Psi-Lord ranks over tempering its use, and their immortal perspective packed narrative promise.  

The new series could allow for similar ethical exploration, but the first issue concerns our four discovering who’s behind their enhancement and why. They’re only a faltering step beyond their human origins. Van Lente’s economical approach getting the mysteries established and the characters introduced is overall impressive. There’s one regrettable moment of, “The answer is—ZAP!—Aaarrrghhhh***!” impeding an overall swimming narrative. Otherwise, boffo stuff.

Boffoness is also delivered in the coloring and art from Renato Guedes. The Wolverine, Constantine, and Superman vet creates an advanced, clinical lockup facility gritty as it is daunting. It’s the moodiest setting this side of Arkham, and it makes Kyln an Extraterrestrial Daycare by comparison. In a few instances, it’s difficult to determine which character’s which. Shadowy surroundings are partly to blame, as is the shared baldness of the liberated test subjects.

Reworking existing characters into their new universe looks good on Valiant. Their resurrections speak of top talent entrusted and unleashed, allowed to change or preserve the preceding concepts as fits their own stories. Other companies, take note. This is how to maintain a property stable well, not layering redundant variations on skeletal remains never properly fleshed to start with.

Valiant / $3.99

Written by Fred Van Lente.

Illustrated by Renato Guedes.

Letters by Dave Sharpe.

7.5 out of 10

‘Psi-Lords’ #1 hits stores June 19. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: APR192032)

Check out this 5-page/5-cover preview of ‘Psi-Lords’ #1, courtesy of Valiant!

Cover A by Rod Reis.
Cover B by Jonboy Meyers.
Cover C by Alan Quah.
Cosmic Cover by Marco Rudy.
Pre-Order Edition Cover by Paulina Ganucheau.

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