Arriving on the scene amidst a blaze of fire and fury comes “War Mother,” the highly anticipated and highly demanded (if the solicits can be believed) spin-off character from one of Valiant’s many micro-events “4001 AD.” But who is this war mother and, for those (like myself) who missed out on the “4001 AD” tie-ins, how accessible is this mini-series? Let’s discover that together, shall we?
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Stephen Segovia
Colored by Elmer Santos with Andrew Dalhouse
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT — WAR MOTHER RETURNS IN A RIVETING NEW SERIES! Out of the pages of 4001 A.D., the breakout hero of 41st century charges onward in an high-powered tale of tomorrow from New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (ARCHER & ARMSTRONG) and high-octane artist Stephen Segovia (NINJAK, Action Comics)!
Two millennia from today, Earth is not the hospitable home we once we knew. Ravaged by an endless onslaught of war, disaster, and time, the world is littered with desolate badlands, fortified kingdoms, and secretive enclaves where humanity still clings to life… Enclaves like The Grove – Earth’s last known repository of scientific knowledge and bioengineered prosperity. Now, under the leadership of the lone protector called WAR MOTHER and her sentient sniper rifle, the denizens of The Grove face a critical choice: remain where they are and die, or find a new land and flourish. Can War Mother lead her people out of isolation and reignite the fires of a dying planet? And even if she can locate the distant citadel she seeks, can she fight back the horrors and perverse monstrosities that lurk just beyond her doorstep?
In the footsteps of RAI and BOOK OF DEATH, raw power meets tribal warfare as Fred Van Lente & Stephen Segovia forge a modern myth of the near future through the fire-tempered frontier of 41st century Earth for Valiant’s next stunning science-fiction showdown!
Full disclosure, I was never much of a fan of “4001 AD.” I read it but it didn’t grab me, as it was very much a Rai story and I am woefully unfamiliar with much of the extended Valiant universe. It also was an event that, much like almost every Valiant event, is essentially a mini-series for a character, albeit with a larger problem to solver (end of the world, future dystopia, etc.) that has some other Valiant characters play a role. While I commend Valiant for keeping tie-in’s small and events short, that means that many of these events almost require you to have read the leading heroes previous volumes in order to have any sort of understanding of the events.
Which is what makes “War Mother” a bit more interesting as, instead of an event spinning out of a series, this is a mini-series spinning out of an event. Not uncommon but still something to note. That also means that, if someone had no interest in the event and skipped the tie-ins, “War Mother,” as a stand alone series, needs to do a good job at towing the line between re-establishing the characters as well as furthering their story.
As far as the first point goes, Van Lente does a decent enough job of introducing our main character, even if I don’t know anything about her or her seemingly sentient gun. We get their names during the establishing shots and it’s apparent that Ana is our main character – what with her taking up half the page, imposing as we gaze up at her, with a halo of light behind her. It’s not exactly a subtle way of introducing the savior-warrior aspect of Ana, especially when we are constantly reminded of how she freed her people from the tyranny of the previous ruler, but it is effective enough to lay the groundwork.
Van Lente also gives us enough information throughout the issue to get a semblance of the world in which we are going to be spending the next four issues in but it all feels so unnatural, which isn’t aided by the art.
Stephen Segovia’s art is very shiny, with everything giving off this digital sheen, even the supposedly natural greenery. It makes everything, especially the people, feel fake and plastic-y. This works very well for rendering the buildings and the metallic people, as they should have this otherworldly feel to them but for Ana and the other members of The Grove, they should be much dirtier instead of these perfectly clean, shiny beings. They also all have this blank expression on their face throughout a large portion of the comic, (except for the talking gun, which has an oddly inked face) making it hard for me to connect with any of them.Continued below
There’s one scene during the flashback that sums all of this up very well. It’s a page with simple paneling, six square panels, paired up, with a seventh panel that covers the bottom of the page. All of the characters are kept in heavy shadow so that their faces are hard to read and most of the panels are filled with dialogue in mid-shots, instead of close ups or reaction shots to really sell the emotions of the scene, although that may be because there aren’t any emotions to sell.
Ana’s boyfriend? husband?, Ignacio, is moping about how he wants all the credit for discovering the memecast and that he is always being saved by Ana and that she doesn’t care at all about him and their son. This is something we haven’t seen at all in this issue and, because there’s only been one other issue of “War Mother,” his moping ends up coming off as disingenuous and annoying.
Additionally, because these pages are in flashback instead of occurring before the action that opens the comic, we aren’t aware of the thoughts that would be eating at Ana during her battle. While I can’t say for certain placing these events in a flashback was the wrong move, as the opening action was very well choregraphed and a great way to suck people into the comic, it does make the flashback events feel shoehorned in instead of strategically layered throughout. It’s too much bland information that would have been better distributed in smaller chunks throughout the mini-series.
The most interesting part of this issue is when Ana is on her own, fighting off the wonderfully creepy Urbanites, and investigating the mystery of who is luring people to the building. While the flashback gave me some more context for Ana and her job, there hasn’t been enough time for me to get connected to her and nowhere near enough silent moments to let events breathe and speak for themselves.
Thankfully, the comic ends on a high note, teasing interesting events to come and hopefully allowing us to get a little more introspection from Ana.
Final Verdict: 5.8. A weak first issue that has a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether that’s something good or just the sheen on Ignacio’s face will be revealed, next month.