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by Thegreatmagnet on June 28, 2017

Writer: Eric Heisserer
Artists: Raúl Allén and Particia Martín
Letterer: Patricia Martín
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Secret Weapons is a big deal for Valiant for a number of different reasons. It’s being written by Eric Heisserer, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter who incidentally also recently wrote the screenplays for Valiant’s first two film projects, Harbinger and Bloodshot. It’s also being promoted as a showcase for Livewire, a fan favorite and one of the most important characters in the universe, who has somehow never had her own solo title. Although it’s only a mini-series, Valiant’s recent MO is to introduce its major new properties via a series of 4-issue mini-series. On top of that, Heisserer is also the co-author of next year’s major event, Harbinger Wars 2, and it’s probably safe to assume that this series will feed into the lead-up to that event, with the characters likely to play a significant role. Valiant has put together a killer creative team on this title and they deliver a strong issue.
For once, I think it’s worth starting with the art. Quite simply, the art in this book is breathtaking. I think it’s telling and appropriate that Allén (line art) and Martín (color art) are co-billed as artists in the credits. The two artists are frequent collaborators and the way they work together is a thing of beauty. Allén’s style is striking: it’s minimalist yet detailed, flat yet three-dimensional. I can’t think of anyone else who is drawing comics like this. Martín’s colors are no less striking and, full of otherworldly pastelles and flourescents. A distinctive element of Allén’s style involves a fair number of panels featuring characters against an empty background, and Martín’s background fills radiate off of the page. The art is definitely enough to sell this book, and I think it would be very well-suited for an indie comics audience.
The story is no slouch either. In the Valiant Universe, some individuals are born with latent psychic-based powers that can only be activated through great pain and expense (both in terms of money and lives lost). Toyo Harada, whom is often likened to "Professor X meets Magneto", has spent vast fortunes activating these individuals (“psiots”) to serve in his organization in pursuit of world peace…through any means necessary. In this issue, we learn that Harada only mobilized the activated psiots that he deemed useful, while hiding the rest like a shameful secret in a secret facility in Oklahoma City. It was certainly a surprising revelation that Harada chauvinistically judged and minimized his own kind in this way, although I guess we’ve previously seen that he only values people as much as he’s able to use them. Meanwhile, Harada’s rejects are being hunted by a killer….cyborg/alien(TBD) that is collecting their powers by bathing in their blood, and he’s clearly using those powers to lethal effect. And shockingly, the rejects in this issue (Owen and Nicole) use their own useless powers to foil their hunter. Livewire, who unlike Harada respects the dignity of individuals, seems poised to empower and train these misfits, and I assume she will teach them to use their powers in resourceful ways, with an emphasis on teamwork.
For myself, one of the most striking things is how destitute these new characters are, even before we meet them. They’ve been cut loose in a strange city, essentially homeless and jobless. Harada promised them the world and then left them with nothing. They don’t even have phones for crying out loud! On top of that, now dangerous people are after them. The only thing they have is each other, and they need to regroup after having drifted apart. There’s serious feels in this issue, complete with group hug. This book was largely promoted as a Livewire book but the emotional focal point of the series is really these kids, who are brand new characters. It’s not easy to engender real emotional connection to characters in a single issue, so I’ll tip my hat to Heisserer on this one.
I’ll also mention in passing, that there are additional secrets hidden in this book that will eventually reveal themselves, probably to individuals smarter than myself. The villain, Rex-O, often speaks in a coded language of dots and lines, which some resourceful fans have already decoded. In addition, Valiant has revealed that they are releasing secret variants of the book with subtle differences in some interior panels that point to hidden meanings or hints. I think these subtle storytelling elements are amazingly enticing for dedicated readers, and they’ll certainly drive the re-readability of this series.
Straight up, this is a very strong issue and a very promising start to the series. The art is next level, the stakes are real, and the characters are very engaging and sympathetic. This book feels different than everything else that Valiant is putting out, and I think it could be accessible to a wider indie audience who might like an unconventional, grounded take on the superhero genre. And ultimately, I think that this title will have major ramifications to the overall universe, especially with Harbinger Wars 2 on the horizon. There’s a lot here for everyone to enjoy.

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