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by Thegreatmagnet on September 21, 2017

Writer: Eric Heisserer
Artists: Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín
Letterer: Patricia Martín
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Secret Weapons is a book that I have been pretty evangelical about. As a hardcore Valiant fan, this is the title that I can recommend to brand new readers as well as demanding longtime fans, both because of its approachability but also its fine craftsmanship, rich subtlety, and emotional resonance. This issue is a very satisfying conclusion to the first chapter in what many hope will be a lengthy journey and it further cements the role of the Secret Weapons in the lead-up to the Harbinger Wars 2 event.
From time to time, I feel compelled to discuss the art first in a review, so that it doesn’t get buried, or feel like an afterthought. The truth is, it’s inherently a lot easier to analyze writing than art. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s almost certainly too many words for a comic book review. There’s no way that what I write can truly do justice to the art in this issue. The colors are electrifying, a cavalcade of rich tropical Skittle teals, purple and pinks, and they’re greatly emphasized by the preeminence of empty solid-color backgrounds throughout the issue. The line art also continues to be phenomenal, but whereas past issues may have excelled in quiet character moments, this issue is busting at the seems with cinematic action scenes: crashing through walls and exploding pianos. Even the lettering is refreshing and expressive, especially in sound effects and in laughter. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, this artistic team is so integrated and collaborative that they largely eschew individual credits, and in addition, they are a full partner to Heisserer in the storytelling. The results clearly speak for themselves.
This series has always had a strong emotional component. It’s a story about the excluded: outcasts, rejects and orphans. Already in desperate straits and without support system, they find themselves the targets of multiple violent factions. Livewire emerges as a parental figure and protector to these misfits, and this issue cements their status as a loving family and eventually a team. It even advances the romantic sub-plot between Owen and Nikki, which is pretty sweet, even if it complicates the adopted family analogy. But perhaps most importantly, this issue declares forcefully that these kids are not rejects: they have clear potential that Livewire will help them cultivate and fully realize, and their teamwork is an indispensible asset that has been tested in fire. This issue delivers strong on all the important emotional beats.
This issue also does a nice job of tying up plot threads and plugging this story into the larger continuity. It seems that Scavenger is somewhat of a rogue operator, who is doing what he imagines Harada would want in his absence (perhaps this suggests that Harada is slightly less of a scumbag in this specific instance). However, it’s noteworthy that his motivations are tied to the events in other series, specifically to combat the H.A.R.D. Corps, who have emerged as a clear threat in Harbinger Renegade. In addition, it was revealed that the attack on the Willows that introduced the series was perpetrated by OMEN, who feature prominently in both Harbinger Renegade and Bloodshot Salvation. Admist the escalation of OMEN and the Renegades, Livewire and the Secret Weapons seem to be emerging as an additional faction, one whose alliances are unclear in the pluralistic conflict that is unfolding.  
I have to admit that I am still intrigued by the role of Rex-O in this series. Obviously his narrative symbolism is obvious: he represents a way to optimize “useless” powers by combining them in a single operator. However, I feel that there were other ideas introduced behind Rex-O. Most significantly, I am very curious why Livewire was unable to interface with Rex-O in the beginning of the series, since we’ve seen her interface with alien technology in other series. Rex-O’s code was a significant element of the early marketing for this series, and I know that Eric Heisserrer is thematically interested in linguistics (or the relationship between language and thought), so I’m curious if this code will ultimately have a larger narrative significance. I’m also curious about the larger implications of Rex-O’s ability to absorb dead psiots. He mentioned in issue one that he was Nikki’s dead friend Sonya, whose powers he had absorbed via a blood bath. Is it possible that Rex-O retains some of the identities of those he absorbs, or was this just a cruel taunt in the heat of battle? In addition, I’m curious whether Rex-O might have a role in the Universe going forward. If Livewire is able to reprogram him for the service of good, it would seem sensible to donate the blood of any dead psiot to be absorbed by Rex-O for use against OMEN and H.A.R.D. Corps. And this idea is even more compelling should it turn out that the consciousness of the dead actually persist within Rex-O in some fashion. Rex-O could represent the ultimate ability to salvage something in the face of senseless death, which is an interesting concept in a “dead is dead” universe. There’s a lot more story potential to Rex-O if they don’t toss him unceremoniously into the continuity scrap heap.
This series has been transcendent from the start and this issue was a very satisfying conclusion to the first arc. The creators deliver the goods in terms of emotional impact, gripping action, and plot. This series accomplishes the impressive feat of appealing equally to longtime fans and new readers alike. I think at least a few people on my X-mas list might end up getting Secret Weapons trade paperbacks this December, because it represents the very best of what Valiant Comics represents. Have you heard the Good News about Secret Weapons?

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