By Fred Van Lente, Stephen Segovia, Elmer Santos with Andrew Dalhouse
One of the breakout stars of Valiant’s 4001 A.D. event last summer was the iconic heroine, War Mother. Fans have been clamoring for more since her debut. At long last, the new War Mother mini-series has arrived, and it does not disappoint. A strong central character, inventive world-building, and compelling action keep readers enthralled.
Ana, a.k.a. War Mother, is her community’s protector and resource gatherer, braving the dangerous wilds of the “Jade” to bring back supplies that her village needs to survive. In 4001, the Earth has changed greatly, ravaged by wars and mankind’s disregard. Civilization is both advanced and primitive in comparison to our own. Resources are scarce, but danger is abundant, and there is much competition among the various tribes. The “Jade” jungle is teeming with life, but the organisms that live there are unlike anything we know of, as are the other inhabitants. Mutations, hybrids, and symbiotic organic technology are the norm. The depiction of earth and its inhabitants is one of the features of the book that make it memorable and should appeal to science fiction fans.
War Mother #1 (of 4) picks up the story soon after the events of 4001. During the 4001 event, we learn that Ana was one of the few ever allowed outside her tribe’s enclave. The reasoning for this was to “protect” the community from the risk of disease, but this proved to be a method employed by the grove’s leader, Sylvan, to control his people. Ana was sent out to investigate the crash of New Japan, and in the process, rescued a child from the wreckage. Sylvan was going to execute Ana for her unwillingness to abandon the child to the jungle. Ana’s symbiotic weapon, Flaco, killed Sylvan instead. This history is important to the current setting. Sylvan was a greenling, a plant-based humanoid who had a telepathic connection to the grove itself. This ensured the healthiness of the crops. Though it was never explicitly stated, there seemed to be a social strata that put the greenlings above humans, metaphorically and literally, as Sylvan and his consorts lived in the treetops above the ground dwellers.
Fast-forward a bit, and with the loss of Sylvan, the grove has gained freedom. The fallout from this is a shortage of food. Ana has assumed a leadership role for her community, but the grove is failing. Fearing for the future and safety of her family, Ana is compelled to investigate a potential new home for the community. There are some notable differences in the grove that aren’t specifically addressed. Readers can infer possibilities, but whether these changes will be acknowledged in the storyline is unknown.
Writer Fred Van Lente continues with his world building of the Jade and adds more dimension to an already terrific character. Though he uses a brief story introduction to define the role of the War Mother, he shows us Ana’s personality and nature through the story’s narrative. This allows readers to make their own judgements about War Mother and invests us in her character. Seeing is believing, and her actions and motivations illuminate her heroism and complexity. Ana is more than a provider; she enjoys risk and is a daring adventurer, craves and feels the pull of family, and knows the weight of leadership and its delicate balance of egos. That she is not without struggle and failure is part of her appeal.
In addition to the main plot (which we won’t reveal for spoiler reasons), there’s some excellent nuggets of information. Van Lente explores the relationship between Ana and Flaco, her weapon. They are symbiotic, meaning they are bonded, like mother and son; as such, we see how she fulfills the mother role in unexpected ways, teaching him now that his memory is not being wiped.
Standout artist Stephen Segovia crafts a lush world full of beauty and the grotesque. His depictions are excellent, especially those of Ana. Science fiction fans should appreciate the creativity and uniqueness that he gives the inhabitants of this future earth. His panel layout makes for a good flow and easy reading. Segovia illustrates physicality well, creating a palpable sense of excitement in the action scenes. Also outstanding is his work depicting some slightly racy scenes, showcasing his ability to capture the beauty of the human form. Colorist Elmer Santos, along with Andrew Dalhouse, drench the scenes in color that give off a richness. Santos makes great use of golden light, and the characters feel warm and lifelike in those situations. This is a good-looking book and a pleasure to read.
War Mother #1 scratches an itch for fans seeking more Ana and stories in the 4001 realm. This isn’t just fan service, though. Van Lente and team have expanded on Ana’s world, creating a plausible plot that compels her into action. While much of this 4001 world seems alien and foreign, the wants and needs of man has not changed. This grounds the story in something relatable to readers. War Mother #1 is a strong book with a compelling lead character and beautiful depictions. Pick this gem up, even if you haven’t read the 4001 A.D. storyline. It’s well worth your time.