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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the early 1990s and explore a part of the shared universe of Valiant Comics through the Armorines monthly series.
Before I start, I should state that the superhero concept of an armored human protagonist who could do many incredible things made possible by high technology made an impact on comic book storytelling for decades. Look at Marvel’s Iron Man and the Ultraverse’s Prototype for examples.
While Valiant Comics already had its own armored superhero with X-O Manowar (note: his armor is symbiotic, not technological), they decided to move forward with the concept of armored figures in the form of a military team.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Armorines #1, published in 1994 by Valiant Comics with a story written by Jorge Gonzalez and drawn by Jim Calafiore.
The story begins five hundred kilometers off the southern coast of Australia. Four people dive very deeply to explore nuclear-powered submarine U.S.S. Benchley which has been dormant for some time already. While exploring the interiors of the submarine, the divers got attacked by something in the dark.
At Camp Pendleton in California, an armored U.S. marine goes through an intense training session fighting machines not knowing that there could be traps waiting to get triggered. As Gunny (the armored marine in the session) falls into a trap, his teammates, General Kendall and the scientist Zahn watch the proceedings behind the scenes as another teammate (operating with virtual reality on her high-tech station) continues to communicate with him.
As time passes by, the situation gets even worse for Gunny physically…
In terms of storytelling, the creative team focused mainly on the build-up of not just the plot but also the importance and the ways of the Armorines themselves. As weapons of the government, Armorines are an expensive team to run due to the use of very advanced technologies for operations. The Armorines have members who go out on the field wearing high-tech suits of armor that provide enhanced protection while also carrying high-tech weapons for offense. The team also has members who stay behind closed doors to use individual stations with virtual reality and enhanced communication with their brothers on the field.
When it comes to the characters, the smoking Gunnery is noticeably the one who got the most exposure and the most development. The other Armorine members got token exposure for the readers.
More on the plot itself, there is a mission that requires the Armorines to go deep underwater to solve a mystery and do something dangerous secretly. The mission was essentially all about protecting America’s top-secret weapons from falling into the wrong hands. To be clear, the mission itself happens in the 2nd half of this comic book which ultimately serves as a pay-off to the build-up the happened earlier. In fairness to the creative team, there was a good amount of suspense presented when the mission really started moving. There definitely something worth seeing during the mission.
To be very clear, Armorines #1 (1994) is not exactly the high-powered, action-packed story people could expect from seeing the armored marines looking capable of fighting terrorists and other enemies of America in militaristic fashion. This comic book’s story is indeed surprising to me and the creative team was not hesitant to push hard with the concept they came up with here. As this comic book was clearly executed with build-up, introductions and emphasizing concepts in mind, it is not surprising that the pay-off in the 2nd half led to moments of intrigue and suspense with momentum going into the next issue. Lastly, I should state that this comic book is free from political influence and its focus on the team has been very consistent.
Overall, Armorines #1 (1994) is recommended.
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