Review - Secret Weapons #1 (@ValiantComics)

"Bring me a champion for your next soak."

Comics have a tendency to glamorize what it means to have superpowers. There are plenty of instances where characters contend with a moral crisis as a result of their abilities, but by and large the fact that they have abilities is still a point of enjoyment. Secret Weapons #1 from Valiant is an example of characters with abilities and no glamour. The issue is written by Eric Heisserer and illustrated by Raúl Allén and colored by Patricia Martin.

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. 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 Rexo 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.

The spectre of Toyo Harada always looms large over the Valiant universe and Heisserer effectively taps into that in Secret Weapons #1. His script is very engaging as it introduces the reader to psiots who have what some would perceive as "useless powers." The lack of importance so to speak is the catalyst for the plot and Heisserer leans into it well. Each of this misfits are really just kids at heart and the infusion of youth into the issue also lends it some intensity and unpredictability. Sure, there are shades of a Professor X/X-Men vibe throughout, but Heisserer is looking at a broader theme of impressing upon individuals who feel as if they don't have a place a sense of belonging.

The artistic approach by Allén is relatively simplistic yet offers some intricacies. Allén shifts focus and perspective quite frequently throughout the book in a way a movie frames different shots, working in cuts to the other side of the action. Characters are rendered with lines that give them enough detail so that they stand out against the backdrops. Allén also handles the action in the book very well, meticulously sketching out each segment of an exchange so that the reader gets a full sense of what the characters are contending with. Martin adds another layer of depth to the book with muted tones throughout the book that emphasize the more subtle nuances of the setting, such as time of day for instance.

Secret Weapons #1 is yet another fantastic entry in the Valiant universe. Nicole, Martin and Owen are all interesting additions to the publisher's stable of characters, mainly because they have abilities that aren't necessarily that exciting. Heisserer focuses on the less glamorous side of being gifted and brings them together in a way that makes sense. Allén's artwork is fantastic and follows along with the characters' discoveries quite nicely. Secret Weapons #1 is a really interesting premise that offers up a refreshing take on the prototypical superhero.

Secret Weapons #1 is available June 28.