By Fred Van Lente, Stephen Segovia, Roberto De La Torre, Andrew Dalhouse
War Mother #3 (of 4) brings the pain with action, sci-fiction, and a liberal dose of drama.
War Mother was a new character introduced during Valiant’s 4001 event and quickly became a fan favorite. Set on earth in the Valiant Universe of the future, the world is both futuristic and primitive. “War Mother” Ana is her tribe’s protector and gatherer, serving as their link to the world outside their bio-protected enclave. The original 4001 event concluded with Ana assuming the mantle of leadership for her tribe. This mini-series continues that storyline, with Ana being forced to find a new safe haven for her tribe.
There’s a lot going on in this mini-series. This isn’t a straight-up action adventure story. The driving force behind the story is survival and War Mother’s need to find habitable and safe environs for her people. The bulk of the story is dedicated to this theme with the action springing from this impetus. The circumstances Ana finds herself in are intriguing on their own, offering science fiction elements of advanced technology and evolution along with the action, but the ancillary story enriches this main plot with human drama and provides most of the emotional impact.
On the surface, this book is a survival adventure featuring a classic altruistic hero and her followers. Writer Van Lente peels that surface back to reveal deceptions and simmering resentments, grounding the piece with relatable humanity. Secrets are revealed, both about the nature of War Mother and the actions of those in her tribe. Prior to this book, readers didn’t know much about the backstory of War Mother other than she had been biometrically modified for her role. Those modifications allow her to perform her role and keep her enclave safe from accidental exposure, but they also dramatically affect her personal life. It’s already been revealed that War Mother cannot actually bear children, and that the previous ruler of the tribe had “given” a family to War Mother. This book discloses how that came to be and hints at the problems arising from it. Notably, there’s a reveal about the War Mother that readers may have suspected but did not have confirmed until now. Given the emotional drama of the rest of the book, the significance of this one line may be overlooked. It does raise further questions about what Ana is. It also means that she is likely the last of her kind.
Van Lente balances the two plot lines well. On one side we have the thrilling action of Ana fighting her way through enemies, trying to gain her freedom while deciphering their reasoning and purpose. She’s at a disadvantage due to her sentient weapon’s adolescent attitude as it struggles with burgeoning human-like emotions. We now know the nature of the building’s guardians and their purpose, but the unique aspect of the War Mother and her bond to the A.I. are causing aberrant behavior. Ultimately, it’s a race against time as Ana tries to break free in order to help her tribe who are traveling through the jungle attempting to reach this new “safe” homeland.
The tribe’s inner workings are the second side of the story. Naïve about the dangers of the world around them, they are all venturing into the wild for the first time, and discovering the true nature of “nature”. It’s a wake-up call for those who took War Mother’s work for granted. It’s also showing the cracks in the foundation. The tribe is made up of humans from the original Greenling/human settlement where humans were under the rule of the Greenlings. Finally free from oppressive “safety”, they behave as humans often do – complaining and wanting. They are also freer to express discontent about the ramifications for the Greenlings’ decisions. This is where we discover some interesting details about War Mother and her family. Reasons behind the earlier books’ indications of ego struggles become more apparent. Some damaging bombshells are dropped that make this more than a survival story. The aspect of the manipulative child from New Japan, with his knowledge of a more sophisticated life and its teachings, adds a more frightening danger than that of the jungle wilds. The story may take place thousands of years in the future, but people are driven by the same base needs and wants of today, capable of great acts and betrayal. Even with the strange hybrids of jungle life and killer technology, the humans are the greatest threat.
The two storylines are about to intertwine. Brace yourself for the impact and look forward to discovering who will still be standing, and who they are standing by.
War Mother continues to be a striking book. Artists Stephen Segovia and Roberto De La Torre and colorist Andrew Dalhouse bring the story to life. Ana is beautiful and fierce, and her inner strength and convictions are on full display in her visage. There’s never any doubt as to what she is emotionally experiencing in any given panel, which allows readers to feel as if they “know” this character. Segovia’s work is clean and detailed, making for attractive characters and scenery. His action scenes have energy and never feel flat. Even his depictions of Flaco, who is limited to a flat screen, feel alive with greater depth than a 2D experience. De La Torre illustrates the “jade” jungle scenes involving the traveling villagers. His line work adds weight and a sense of foreboding to this dangerous story line. His scenes involve many negative emotions, and his work reflects this heaviness. He adds much to the emotional impact, granting true ominous to the disturbing undercurrents. Colorist Dalhouse ties the book together, giving the Montana scenes a neutral grounded look that works with rather than against the jungle scenes’ rich fertile greens.
Protector, provider, “drama mama”? War Mother #3 is rich in turmoil: physical, emotional, and psychological. This turmoil absolutely drives the compelling story. Don’t miss out on one of Valiant’s best mini-series.