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Inside Valiant: Dead Teens, Hobo Treasure, Ghosts, and a Return to the 41st Century

For a company keeping a lot of secrets in 2014, Valiant sure wasn’t shy about laying out some of what was coming down the pipe, with regular series like X-O Manowar and Harbinger as well as upcoming titles and events like May’s Rai and this summer’s Armor Hunters. At WonderCon, a panel moderated by Director of Marketing Hunter Gorinson featured writers Robert Vinditti (Armor Hunters, X-O Manowar), David Baron (colorist on Shadowman), James Asmus (Quantum and Woody), Joshua Dysart (Harbinger), and CEO Dinesh Shamdasani.

“We heard something from you guys that was very interesting to us,” Shamdasani says of hearing that fans have reported being most excited about reading the Valiant titles among their pull list. With that in mind, the publisher plans to have a new number one issue every month from May onward throughout 2014 as part of their Valiant First initiative.

Matt Kindt’s and Clayton Henry’s Rai is the first title in that initiative – a project that’s been in development for at least nine months, according to Shamdasani. Gorinson says the first issue is essentially a murder mystery, telling the story of the first homicide in the 41st century.

The release of the first issue of Rai will be supported with a “Plus” edition, which includes 16 additional pages of in-universe content (you would have had to have pre-ordered the first issue at your comic shop before a cut-off date earlier this year). The additional material includes a map of Japan as well as fake ads/propaganda that fleshes out the mythology of the world (one segment introduces “Lu La Lee” a propaganda action hero used to coax Japanese citizens to not leave).

X-O Manowar has gone to a second printing, introducing the Armor Hunters. Writer Robert Vinditti talked about bringing the secret organization M.E.R.O. into the Valiant universe, as well as the character of Malgam. He teased Malgam as being the source of many of fan questions about the X-O armor.

How Malgam connects to the X-O armor as well as the Armor Hunters will be revealed in that four-issue miniseries. Doug Braithwaite is on art with Laura Martin on colors. The story will open with Aric and his followers in their Nebraska enclave as the Armor Hunters make their way toward Earth.

Meanwhile, X-O Manowar #25 will be a 48-page milestone issue, featuring art by Bryan Hitch, J.G. Jones, and more. Pick that one up if you’re looking for another tale of the Armor Hunters.

Vinditti showed off a few of the character designs from artist Clayton Crain as well as pages from the first issue of Armor Hunters. Among those was Ginger the Giant Robot, whose design (and an upcoming storyline) was inspired by the old-school game Berserk.

The events of Armor Wars (as well as a falling out with the H.A.R.D. Corps) will bring Bloodshot to the team with issue #9 of that series. Issues #22 and 23 of Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps will feature a major upheaval in Project: Rising Spirit. Gorinson says that if you’re attached to too many of the H.A.R.D Corps, he feels very sorry for you.

Bloodshot will then meet Livewire, a member of Unity, leading to his membership in the team as well as the July mini, Armor Hunters: Bloodshot, while the Renegades will be featured in Armor Hunters: Harbinger. That book will show readers the Generation Zero team, child soldiers who have broken free of the Harbinger foundation, and are idealogically very different from the Renegades. Writer Joshua Dysart says this is a smaller story, taking place in a corner of the universe while the big fight is going on.

Harbinger #23 will kick off the “Death of a Harbinger” two-issue arc where one character meets his or her end. Dysart says that this will change the emotional content and direction of the series. Gorinson says that #23 in particular reveals a moment where villain Toyo Harada pushes himself harder than he has in the series so far. “More than just super powers clashing,” Dysart says, “it’s more about who can out think who.”

July will bring Harbinger #25, which will bring back original series artist Khari Evans as well as Justin Jordan, Dan Goldman, Barry Kitson, and more. It’s also the last issue of the series, continuing in the three-issue Harbinger Omegas with art by Rafa Sandoval. That story will show the consequences of Toyo Harada being outed as a Harbinger, and what that means when the Steve Jobs of this world is shown to be a robber baron and supervillain as we check in on what remains of Harada’s empire as well as the surviving renegades. “Harada without legitimacy,” Dysart says, “is the most dangerous thing in the world.”

“This whole last five issues of the series has been interesting for me,” Dysart says. He said that it was a challenge killing off a member of the team – what he feels is essentially removing that character’s potential from the universe for the foreseeable future.

Quantum and Woody writer James Asmus joked that he’s only communicated with series artist (and new colorist) Kano through text. Describing the Swamp Thing artist’s style as “sex punch,” Asmus says Kano has jumped in volunteering new layouts and angles. Kano’s work on these two issues lead to his being brought on to the Quantum and Woody/Archer and Armstrong crossover, The Delinquents. Fred Van Lente is writing and there are hobos involved, apparently. Without revealing the plot, Asmus says it was a chance to throw the four characters into an It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World scenario based, in part, on the “hobo code,” with our characters attempting to find Big Rock Candy Mountain, home of the treasure of the King of the Hobos. The map was previously scrawled on the buttocks of a hobo, which was subsequently flayed and split, with Armstrong carrying around a half in bottomless satchel.

Archer and Armstrong is starting a new arc in issue #20, “American Wasteland,” which will be focused on Hollywood conspiracies. According to Gorinson, the duo will discover that the song “Hotel California” was about a real place. Pere Perez is on art and colorist David Baron says that the end of this arc will make you a fan of Archer and Armstrong for life.

Finally, there’s Jen Van Meter’s The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, with art by Roberto de la Torre and covers by Travel Foreman. Shamdasani says this story allows them to do something different, that it’s a smaller story. When we first meet medium Sharon Mirage, her husband Hwen has died and she’s unable to communicate with him. Van Meter has come up with a twist on Operation Paperclip, in which ex-Nazis were recruited to bring supernatural powers into a secret war between the global powers. Dr. Mirage assists a millionaire ex-Nazi tethered to a demon who recruits her to help keep the demon from following him into hell. In that way, she’ll be reunited with her husband in a darker twist on the lighthearted original comic.

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