“Everyone loves something new, as long as it reminds them about something old…”
―Unknown, most likely me.
Early in 2017, Valiant Entertainment announced the upcoming title Secret Weapons #1, written by Eric Heisserer (writer and producer of the 2016 film, Arrival, which received eight nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and winning for Best Sound Editing. It was also awarded the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 2017) with artwork by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior). The four issue mini-series (and two subsequent origin issues for Owen and Nikki) was met with much acclaim, with a critic rating average of 4.3 out of 5.0 stars and a reader rating average of 4.3 out of 5.0 stars. The premise was that of a group of discarded and/or marginalized young pisots (see also: super-powered beings) who are subsequently found, protected, and mentored by Amanda McKee (aka Livewire) who essentially becomes the Valiant Universe’s female version of a Professor Charles Xavier or Magneto (aka Erik Lehnsherr and/or Max Eisenhardt) depending on your ethical standpoint). Secret Weapons tied directly into Harbinger Wars 2: Prelude #1 in the spring of 2018, also written by Heisserer and featuring artwork by Allen and Martin, and again receiving critic rating average of 4.4 out of 5.0 stars and a reader rating average of 4.3 out of 5.0 stars.
Early in 2018, the China-Oriented IP Firm, DMG Entertainment (in a move led by DMG CEO Dan Mintz who owned approx. 57% of Valiant Entertainment), in a nutshell, bought out the company and forced out former Valiant CEO Dinesh Shamdasani (contractually forced resignation). Once Dinesh was out, so was Heisserer. Based on discussions and rumor, Heisserer had a number of future concepts and plans for Secret Weapons and Valiant (such as the character Avi turning to stone for 2,000 years and becoming an part of the 4002 A.D. timeline, among other ideas) that have not (and sadly, will not) come to pass.
Harbinger Wars 2 was an abysmal and convoluted event filled with plot holes that confused, frustrated, and alienated long time readers and fans. It was poorly conceived, and horrifically executed without any discernable grounding in reality that might allow a suspension of disbelief that is required to create believable fiction. Many podcasts and forum posts cited Harbinger Wars 2 as clear a signal that DMG Entertainment had completely fumbled with the vast Valiant Entertainment intellectual property the were now in possession of, and that moving forward, this questionable level of quality and low standard was what might become the norm moving forward (NOTE: Shadowman and Ninja-K have both been stellar titles).
The announcement of Livewire #1 brought about a mix of emotions and concerns. On one had, the character of Livewire is easily among the most compelling, influential, and very best since the 2012 re-launch of the Valiant Universe. She deserved her own title, which many fans believed was long overdue. On the other hand, Harbinger Wars 2 had potentially irreversibly damaged the, who had acted completely outside of her long established character development and personality with no real logical thought process. It was 100% clear that the new creative team at Valiant Entertainment needed to execute serious damage control for Livewire #1, or all the glass cover 1:250 incentive variants in the world would fail to save the title from the hoards of angry and vocal Valiant Fans chanting their hate and discontent in unison while brandishing pitchforks and torches.
In October of 2018, up and coming (and Livewire) writer Vita Ayala was interviewed on The Comic Source Podcast (Episode 532) about the consequences of Livewire’s actions in Harbinger Wars II, and how (if) those consequences and actions would be addressed in Livewire #1 and beyond. Ayala indicated as much; however, it remained to be seen if her words would prove credible, or if she was simply providing standard, publisher-approved, damage control talking points to glaze over (ignore) the Harbinger Wars II debacle.
With the release of Livewire #1, all doubts can be put to rest.
A significant portion of Livewire #1 addresses the consequences of Livewire’s actions in Harbinger Wars II. Rather than marginalize or downplay the fallout and cascading events that Livewire, in no small way, bears responsibility for, Ayala addresses these points head on. This is clearly a smart move, as the Watergate scandal saying from the early 1970s goes “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” so Ayala has chosen to make the story “own itself” and act responsibly to a degree. Character dialog and interactions reflect the gravity and consequences of previous actions that cannot (and should not) be ignored, and do so with plot elements that are grounded enough in reality as to all for a suspension of disbelief . While it does not correct Harbinger Wars II, it does make significant and positive strides moving forward. Livewire #1 reads and feels much like the next chapter of Heisserer’s Secret Weapons, which is exactly what critics and readers are looking for right now, while further developing Livewire as a character as she continues to take center stage within the Valiant Universe.
Artist Raul Allen partners once more with colorist Patricia Martin to re-create the look and feel that made Secret Weapons so iconic and memorable. Allen employs classic, simple elements to a magnificent effect, without ever once over doing it. From cover to cover, each and every panel has a purpose; depicting an amazing level of emotion, movement, and setting. Allen manages to literally capture the concept of “time” and “location” with absolute perfection. Viewing each panel, the movement and action are depicted so well that it almost appears animated, as if events are actually unfolding on the page in front of your very eyes. Martin is (as always) a perfect match for Allen’s art. She provides a contrast and separation of elements that pull the reader’s vision exactly where they need to be from start to finish.
Livewire #1 is a captivating experience and an outstanding visual example of what comic books are supposed to be. It is a transitional point for the Valiant Universe that serves as a perfect starting point for new readers to experience the magic of Valiant Entertainment. If this level of quality can be maintained moving forward, the future looks promising.