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by Thegreatmagnet on July 20, 2017

Writer: Eric Heisserer
Artists: Raúl Allén and Particia Martín
Letterer: Patricia Martín
Publisher: Valiant Comics
The first issue of Secret Weapons was a stunning achievement, a perfect partnership of writer and artists all working at the very top of their craft. It was heavy on heart and character, full of rich, complex themes that elevate it above conventional superhero comics. Issue 2 delivers all the promises of the first resulting in a beautiful, touching and thought-provoking work of art.
Seriously, enough cannot be said about the incredible abilities of Eric Heisserer, who is somewhat of a newcomer to the medium. It’s clear that his background as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter has translated seamlessly into the comic medium, and he’s able to deliver an amazing amount of information naturalistically and efficiently. He’s also accomplished the impressive feat of delivering brand new characters that are fully formed and compelling, immediately provoking the interest and sympathy of the readers. The end of this issue includes a brief essay by Heisserer that is truly revelatory, discussing both his approach to character and his collaboration with the art team. He reveals that his preparation involved writing numerous scenes between these characters that will never be published, serving only as an exercise to discover the characters and make them more real. It’s no wonder that the readers can develop instant emotional connections to these characters with so much developmental groundwork – they feel like real people. This kind of characterization is rare in a superhero comic.
In my opinion, one of the central themes of this title seems to be the importance and nature of family. These young adults lived together in a facility that named after a repository for unwanted, abandoned children. Even upon their release, Nicole and Owen really seem to have no family, and they’re living in dire straits in Oklahoma City. Not only are their biological families apparently a non-factor, but their would-be adopted father (Toyo Harada) disowned them for being embarrassments. Meanwhile, Livewire grew up as an orphan (before her adoption by Harada), and she has fully embraced her role as parent and protector to these vulnerable psiots. Perhaps she’s acting in response to her own betrayal by Harada, and trying to atone for his mistakes. Avi, the final psiot introduced in this issue mentions that he has a “real family”, although it’s unclear where they are, whether they could help him against such a threat, or even whether they really care. Avi was attacked by a murderous robot/alien, and he still walks away from the group because of his perceived obligation to “real” family. Add to this mix, the acute external threat of the psiot hunter Rex-O, and the family unit reflexively tightens for defense. The family dynamics at the heart of this series are complex (like any real family), and they are doing the heavy lifting in the feels department.
This issue also delivers well in the action department, featuring a lengthy fight between three Secret Weapons kids and Rex-O. The three kids hold their own very well, and they begin to offer hints of how they will learn to apply their “useless” powers to surprising effect. Nikki’s rapport with birds has already proven handy in a fight, and this issue confirms an additional secret up her sleeve (I had my suspicions, but I didn’t voice them publicly). Owen once again proves his resourcefulness with the strange objects that he conjures. At the very least, he’s a Jackie Chan type, who can improvise fights with household objects, but I think there may be something even more interesting at play: My crazy theory is that Owen’s psiot power is sending key objects back in time to himself from the future at specific times, but we shall see how this plays out. Avi’s immediate application in a fight seems to be functioning as a shield, sometimes moved physically by his comrades. I can’t wait to see how Martin, the fourth Secret Weapons kid, will fit into the outfit, and what kind of novel application we’ll see for his power. The kids’ growth in their powers is a key theme of the book, effectively proving the dignity and value of everyone, in spite of Harada’s cruel dismissiveness.
Once again, the art in this issue is jaw-dropping. Heisserer’s essay at the end of the book really underlines what we already know: the art team are full and equal collaborators in the partnership. If Heisserer is the brilliant screenwriter, Martín and Allén are the visionary directors that are translating it to film. Their incredible talents as visual storytellers afford Heisserer the comfort to pull back as a writer and present a rich yet naturalistic experience. I especially loved the scenes in this issue where we see Livewire use her powers to enter the cyber realm (for lack of a better description). I’ve long wanted Valiant to have their own Matrix-type property, and Livewire’s scenes definitely seem like the first step in that direction. Livewire is Neo, you guys! I also loved the juxtaposition of the Secret Weapons kids eating together and their flashback to the Willows cafeteria. I could go on and on about the art, because every page is a masterpiece.
Secret Weapons is quite simply the real deal. I think it has something to offer to everybody, and it’s my new go-to if I want to recommend Valiant to a non-fan. I think it may be the very best that Valiant has to offer, and that it lofty praise for a company that consistently hits home runs. I would stack this up with the best output of Joshua Dysart in the original Harbinger series, and I do not take that statement lightly. Reading this comic feels like kicking back in a leather recliner with a fine scotch and a cigar. It's a sensual, engrossing experience. Talk to any Valiant fan, and you will quickly learn that they are absolutely rabid for a Valiant movie. Dear Valiant Fans: this comic right here is the first Valiant movie, and it kicks ass.

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