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Advance Review: “Secret Weapons” #1

By | May 8th, 2017
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

With Harada’s data on psiots out in the world, it has become more of a scary place. Now Harada’s former apprentice, Amanda McKee, takes center stage as she tries to help those that didn’t make the cut for the Harbinger Foundation. How does the beginning go? Check out our spoiler-free review.

Written by Eric Heisserer
Illustrated by Raul Allen
Colored, Lettered, and Finished by Patricia Martin

Eric Heisserer – the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of ARRIVAL and Valiant’s upcoming HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT feature films – joins Harvey Award-nominated visionary Raúl Allén (Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) for an all-new Valiant Prestige-format adventure…launching Livewire and an extraordinary new team of heroes into the fight of their lives! The government has dispatched Amanda McKee – the technopath codenamed Livewire – to investigate the ruins of a secret facility formerly run by Toyo Harada, the most powerful telepath on Earth and her former mentor. In his quest for world betterment at any cost, Harada sought out and activated many potential psiots like himself. Those who survived, but whose powers he deemed to have no value to his cause, were hidden away at this installation. But Livewire, having studied Harada’s greatest strengths and learned his deepest weaknesses, senses opportunity where he once saw failure. A young girl who can talk to birds… A boy who can make inanimate objects gently glow… To others, these are expensive disappointments. But, to Livewire, they are secret weapons…in need of a leader. Now, as a mechanized killer called Rex-O seeks to draw them out, Livewire and her new team of cadets will be forced to put their powers into action…in ways they never could have imagined…

Well. This one has been a long time coming.

I have been saying for quite a while that Amanda McKee -Livewire- has not been getting her dues in the Valiant Universe. A technopath of the highest caliber, the former apprentice of Toyo Harada and a founding member of Unity, she’s a fascinating and complicated character that always felt like she could do more. And now she is headlining a mini-series from the writer of one of the best movies of last year (Arrival) and from the art team behind other great Valiant work such as “Wrath of the Eternal Warrior”? Sign me up? Does it live up to the pedigree that such names bring?

Well, let’s talk about the other players that this story is bringing in. After Toyo Harada was revealed to the world as an incredibly powerful psiot and all the information the Harbinger Foundation gathered has been leaked out into the world for anyone with know how to use. One such asset was the residents of the Crossroads Resident Center a.k.a. “The Willows”. Harada a veritable army of activated psiots with a variety of powers such as the aforementioned Livewire’s technopathy or someone like Darpan with his ability to induce hallucinations. The residents of The Willows though… they were the ones that Harada found useless. They have that are a bit offbeat but really aren’t that applicable on the surface. Such abilities as Nikki’s ability to talk to birds or Martin’s ability to make things glow. And it’s not like The Willows is a safe refuge anymore, they’re out there in the winds and in danger, and Livewire is going to make sure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

This book utilizes similar sci-fi concepts that were honed in Josh Dysart’s “Harbinger”, the variety of superpowers on display along with the near future tech such as Livewire’s blaster (which she can configure and reconfigure by using her powers). But underneath that, this issue was about empathy. None of the Willows psiots are in particular good places. Nikki is essentially homeless, Owen’s inability to control his conjuring power makes it hard for him to hold a job. But it’s their ability to find camaraderie in one another, along with a very special moment where Livewire consoles Nikki and Owen is done with such a deft and heartfelt touch.

On top of being a story of empathy, “Secret Weapons” #1 is a tightly compact beginning. Dense but never feeling overcrowded. Eric Heisserer manages to introduce several new characters, a concept, reintroduce Livewire, explain the whole deal with Harada and bring some emotional pathos without feeling bloated. Exposition is kept brief and curt (which is a great cleanser after some books like “The Flash” which seemed to be 90% blunt exposition) and the story itself gets to show you everything you need to know.

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A big contribution to this deft complexity is the art. I am a huge mark for Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. Over the last couple of years they have swiftly climbed the ladder of artists I have to watch out for. Allen’s panel compositions are such a delight, keeping a variety in pages, but also an expertly crafted pace, whether it is a page of two characters sleeping throughout the night, or Livewire going toe-to-toe (or blaster-to-face) with a baddie. This mastery of panel pacing does open a potentially depressing book to some good humor, usually having to do with Owen and his wonderful ability to deadpan at the best moments.

Colorist Patricia Martin keeps, what I’ve come to call, a stark color palette for this book. There’s more of an emphasis on cooler colors like blues and aquas that it contrasts quite nicely whenever there is a more brighter greens and magentas are involved. I sometimes see people deride more “muted” color schemes in books, but this shows that, when used properly, it works fantastically. A page that stands out was the aforementioned page of Nikki and Owen laying down on a roof at night, trying to get some rest. Seeing the change from muted, hopeless night to bright, optimistic day worked so well with Allen’s design for the page.

I’ll be honest. Lately, I’ve been keeping a little distance with Valiant. While I think they are leagues better than Marvel/DC, lately they had not been wowing me in the same ways. Nothing bad, but nothing great. “Secret Weapons #1” really gave me a good kick though. It’s another added property to this growing universe that is capable of being its own thing. Heisserer has a great introduction to the company with a tightly wound, fascinating and emotional script and the team of Allen and Martin continue to grow into being top tier artists in the medium.

Final Verdict: 8.7- A fascinating and emotional start to a hopefully fantastic mini-series.

”Secret Weapons #1” will be on sale in comic shops and digitally on June 28, 2017

Ken Godberson III

When he's not at his day job, Ken Godberson III is a guy that will not apologize for being born Post-Crisis. More of his word stuffs can be found on Twitter or Tumblr. Warning: He'll talk your ear off about why Impulse is the greatest superhero ever.