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by Thegreatmagnet on August 16, 2017

Writer: Eric Heisserer
Artists: Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín
Letterer: Patricia Martín 
Publisher: Valiant Comics
I’ve made no secret about my love for Secret Weapons. The writing by Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer is rich, clever and touching, and the art is dazzling and unique. Beyond that there is just something special about this series that sets it apart from the rest of Valiant comics, if not comics in general. It is more than the sum of its parts. At the same time, it’s also been fairly stand-alone with respect to the rest of the Valiant universe, which is a big selling point for new readers and a potential complaint for grouchy hardcore Valiant fans. However this issue introduces major new connections to external storylines, hinting at a significant role for these characters in next year’s Harbinger Wars 2 event. The action has reached a fever pace leading into the final issue of the series.
Having read the first two issues, I think that I was so enraptured with these characters that I was somewhat in a bubble regarding certain elements of the plot. The reality is that we’re now witnessing a major new narrative thrust in the mythology of the Valiant universe: bigotry against psiots. While this idea was always a mainstay of Marvel’s X-Men, it’s somewhat novel in the Valiant universe for various reasons. Psiots are an incredibly rare phenomenon. They numbered only a handful before Harada began to unlock the science of psiots decades ago, and the staggering cost of the activation procedure was a barrier for entry to all but the largest, richest organizations. Harada and Project Rising Spirit (now rebranded as OMEN) had kept their existence secret from the public until Harada was hacked and exposed to the world in the first Harbinger series. Since that storyline, psiots have arguably been well received. Faith and Torque (from Harbinger) are pop culture celebrities, and there were actually factions around the world (with possible fascist undertones) that advocated for Harada’s psiot hegemony. This issue is a turning point because we now see scary anti-psiot prejudice and violence among ordinary, everyday people. It is shocking and confrontational, especially given the recent uptick in hate crimes across America.
At first, it seemed like this anti-psiot mania was coming out of nowhere. I found myself asking, why is this happening now, especially given Avi was not concerned in the previous issue. The likely answer is that the catastrophic events of Rook, Michigan (see Harbinger Renegade 5) are driving panic across America, quite possibly aided by a propaganda campaign from the Trump Administration. However, thinking back, I now recall that the series opened with the aftermath of a murderous spree on the former home of the Secret Weapons kids (henceforth simply, the Weapons). We don’t know who attacked that facility, but it’s not likely to be Rexo, the most prominent antagonist in the series thus far. It’s most likely OMEN, but it’s even more scary to speculate that it might be militant civilians or corrupt local police. Regardless, it’s clear that this has been an action-packed, continuity-compatible story from the outset, and the rich character bonding scenes we’ve been feasting on were just the eye of the hurricane.
Character-wise, this issue is a strong step forward in the construction of this team. Avi has abandoned his reservations, and the team is starting to gel. They’re euphoric after their rumble with the cops and beginning to understand how to use their “useless” powers in a coordinated effort with surprising effectiveness. This is the fundamental theme of these characters and this series: every person has value, and that value is only unlocked by total cooperation. Indeed, we see the Weapons beginning to improve in the application of their powers, and I’m confident that their powers will continue to blossom over time. It’s a life-long journey of self-discovery, and they’re only taking their first steps, thanks to the loving support of their motley adoptive family. And now we’ll see that teamwork put to the test against the murderous Rex-O in issue 4.
Artwise, I’m not sure what else I need to say. This is a sexy G.D. book. Allén and Martín’s collaborative work is highly distinctive, consummately crafted, and disarmingly expressive. Each gorgeous page is frame-worthy, and it’s also brilliantly directed. I’ve made the film comparison before when discussing this series, and I’m not ashamed to rehash it again. This is truly masterful visual storytelling. Say Raúl and Patricia, have you ever considered dabbling in film? I know a great screenwriter… *cough* Eric Heisserer *cough* *cough* But seriously, the lines, the colors, and even the letters are brilliantly done, and they all work together perfectly. Also, as an aside, this issue has my favorite rendering of the character @x that we’ve seen in any Valiant book. Raúl’s character designs have been transcendant in this series, and I hope he gets a chance to tackle the Renegades soon. I bet he could lend a truly revelatory take on these well-established characters.
There are more than a few Valiant fans out there saying that Secret Weapons is the best book that Valiant is currently publishing, even moreso than their flagship X-O Manowar. There are even some respected voices arguing that this is in the running for the best book that Valiant has ever published – no small feat for a publisher that consistently puts out some of the best-reviewed comics in the industry. I don’t disagree with people who are making that argument. But that being said, I still feel that we’re only at the beginning of our journey, and the best is yet to come. I really hope that this series is able to break through to a wide audience, because it represents the best of what Valiant has to offer, and it also boasts some very poignant themes for our times. The only question is how can they resolve everything in the fourth and final issue? Thankfully, I’m sure the answer is partially that Secret Weapons will return, and their story will continue for a good, long while.

Our Score:


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