2013 is the year that the newly-resurrected Valiant Entertainment goes to war. With events stretching across "Harbingers" and "Bloodshot" ("April's "Harbinger Wars") and the "Planet Death" arc spinning up in "X-O Manowar," it seems like this young universe might be a dangerous place to be for its espers, former government-trained killers, and Visogoths sporting alien suits of armor. Oh, and we can exclusively reveal that its newest addition, "Shadowman," is getting its first #0 issue as well, as we learn more about the strange legacy of hero Jack Boniface's alter ego.
Valiant Vice President and Executive Editor Warren Simons and I spoke recently about some of the big changes coming to the line in its second year.
When I asked what he felt worked best for Valiant in 2012 heading into this year, he immediately jumped to the creative teams which he called the fuel which keeps Valiant running. He singled out the efforts of the freelancers and the core creative teams in bringing back the characters, saying that "None of these guys treated it like it was the least important thing on their plate... Everyone came into this and understood that we're trying to launch a company and we're trying to take something that was once beloved by a whole bunch of people and really put [our] backs into it."
During our call, Simons was able to quickly rattle off the core concepts at the heart of 2013's events. Of course, new Valiant is still, well, new, and hasn't had a chance to build up a sprawling line like those of the Big Two, meaning there are fewer plates to juggle. Still, it's a surprise how on point he is about the fates of the characters in line's first wave of books which are blazing on over 20 years after the original line's debut.
The big news is his announcement that we can expect to see "Shadowman" #0 making its debut in May with art by Trevor Hairsine ("Cla$$war," "Judge Dredd") back on art and Justin Jordan writing the script along with regular series writer Patrick Zircher. Simons was quiet about what we could expect in the book, but we should be learning more about the hows and whys of the Shadowman identity and hero Jack Boniface.
Then starting in April, Valiant will have its first family crossover with "Harbinger Wars," as part of a four-issue series that will touch on both "Harbinger" and "Bloodshot." The event will brings back the name but not quite the purpose of Project Rising Spirit, which in the original Valiant universe was responsible for the nanite-infused blood which created Bloodshot. Here, Simons says "They're sort of a black ops version of superpowers," calling the the group the Seal Team Six to the Valiant universe's Al Qaeda.
"What happens is Bloodshot breaks into Project Rising Spirit, searching for his identity, and instead he stumbles across these kids, and realizes there are all of these superpowered kids," but saving some of them unleashes a group of potentially dangerous young people--Simons calls them "walking bombs"--into the wild.
He makes the pitch for writer Robert Venditti's "Planet Death" arc, down to the particulars of hero Aric of Dacia's motivations and a lingering grudge against the ancient Romans--and after years of being tortured by the aliens of the Vine, this warrior who's lost his home, his family, and even his place in time, decides if he can't take it out on the Romans, he'll get revenge on the latest crop of invaders.
During the "Planet Death" prologue, "[The Vine] do something that break the camel's back," Simons says, leading Aric to take a page out of ancient history and sack the Vine home world, with a prolonged conflict spreading throughout this six-issue event.
That creates a three-way conflict between businessman/Harbinger Toyo Harada who wants to control the kids, renegade psychic Peter Stancheck who wants to keep them away from Harada, and Bloodshot who wants to protect them.
"I think one of the strengths of the Valiant universe is that it's a shared universe, and that's great because it allows us to leverage the characters off of each other." Again, theirs is still a new universe and Valiant editorial has a lot of room to link the line of books like this, but it'll be interesting to revisit Valiant in 2014 or 2015 to see how tightly-connected it is. Given the staggered releases of the first series, each book has been allowed to exist more or less on its own, unlike the close-knit, almost obsessively connected titles from the original run.
Simons says for now, their focus is on effective storytelling and exploiting the links between books when they make sense. He cites the very first page of "Bloodshot" #1 as an organic link between that series and "Harbinger Wars," for example, and we've seen Ninjak--certainly a candidate for his own series at some point--pop up in "X-O," while the Eternal Warrior has made appearances in "Archer & Armstrong."
Simons teases the possibility of classic Valiant characters potentially returning in 2013 (but of course, he won't say which). He calls out the Eternal Warrior and Ninjak examples, indicating that any returning characters will likely be making appearances in existing books rather than getting full-on new titles (he couldn't be pinned down on the "Quantum and Woody" relaunch we're all clamoring for). While he wouldn't say any of these were characters definitely making their way into the books this year, the editorial and creative teams were thinking about futuristic samurai Rai, while offering that both Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior might deserve more of a spotlight.
Looking forward, Simons' goal isn't wildly ambitious or surprising: he wants the line to keep telling stories that readers are excited about while maintaining a consistent shipping schedule. "If we can take care of that, the rest of it will take care of itself."
You can check out some preview pages from "Archer & Armstrong" #7 as well as "X-O Manowar" #10 below.