For the second year in a row, Valiant Comics hid a special behind a classified solicitation.
And for the second year in a row, that turns out to be War Mother.
This time around, the character, a breakout fan favorite from the 4001 A.D. event last year, will be getting a four-issue mini-series to flesh out her adventures. Creator Fred Van Lente returns to write her new series, joined by artist Stephen Segovia and cover artist David Mack (who did the cover to the 2016 one-shot as well) for an all-new adventure kicking off on August 23.
While it was teased that at some point Ana, the War Mother of a tribal society in the post-apocalyptic future two thousand years from now, may wind up in the past eventually, this story will take place entirely in the future. Following up on the events of last year's one-shot, Ana is now both War Mother and tribal leader, and has to discover her changing purpose. Joined by her sentient rifle Flaco, Ana will have a wealth of new problems to deal with in 4001 A.D.
Fred Van Lente sat down with Syfy Wire to hint at what that entails, from scary new villains to new challenges and "a mouthy phallic symbol." We also have the exclusive reveal of all four David Mack covers for the series.
Fred, for the second time in as many years, War Mother is a classified reveal. What is it about this character that's so damn secretive?
Fred Van Lente: You know, I think she's a pleasant surprise. She's a brand-new "Valiant 2.0" character, and equally as important, she's a newly popular character in the future Valiant, the 4001 A.D. world. It worked last year to get people excited, so why not try it again, right?
Obviously, Ana is full of contradictions. Bred for war, but protective of life; the name "War Mother" is just screaming "oxymoron" in a lot of ways. Is there one or another part of her that's her core, that's unshakable and all other parts come from or revolve around?
That's a good question. Her character, I've only written about 40 pages of comics for her so far, so I'm still trying to figure that out. I think there's definitely an iron core there that once she's decided that what she's doing is for the greater good, nothing is going to stop her. She's the classic immovable object or unstoppable force. I think the people around her and Flaco, her talking, sentient sniper rifle, are probably more hesitant or filled with self-doubt than Ana ever has been.
I loved the simultaneous homage and subversion in the War Mother one shot last year. There are hilarious takes on classic action dialogue like "Come with me if you don't want to get eaten," but there were actually a ton of video game nods in there. There's the obvious of Flaco yelling "Critical Hit!" but the mission itself felt like a game, with emergence, retrieval, enemies coming from underground and a big wrench in the plans – was that intentional, and something you're planning to bring into the mini-series?
Yeah, you know, when doing post-apocalyptic stuff, it's hard for me to not be influenced by two of my favorite video game franchises of all time, the Fallout series and the Borderland series. Borderland has the post-apocalypse on another planet while Fallout deals with it right here in America.
One of the fun things about the 4001 A.D. world is that since it is so far in the future, two thousand years, and in the amazon where everyone is racially ambiguous – when you think about it, half the things we mark on census forms didn't exist the same way two thousand years ago, so it's fun to think about what might happen in another two thousand years. It's interesting to think about how mankind will shift and come up with new genetic cocktails.
Then also the idea of these bio-materials and the merging of man and machine, what does that mean, what does it mean to be "natural" in that way? That's something you'll see a lot more of in this iteration. The conflict there is a little more stark.
I guess that's a long-winded way of saying, I wanted War Mother to not look like any other post-apocalyptic story, but it's nice to have some of the tropes from video games so it's not so alien that the reader can't relate to it – or that I can't relate to it! (laughs)
With Flaco in particular; so he's a slightly sadistic killing-machine child, essentially, who's being allowed to age for the first time. What can you tease about that development and how the pair of Ana and Flaco will, to use her words, evolve?
As I said before, Flaco is surprisingly more contemplative and unsure of himself than Ana is. He has a real problem with the old phrase "guns don't kill people, people do," since he's a gun that's also a people (laughs). So at some point that might be a wedge between him and Ana, when she makes decisions he might not want to go along with. So Ana might start to see the wisdom in why this sentience is always wiped after ever mission.
I found it interesting that a lot of the one-shot revolved around what it is to be a child. When Ana comes out of the Grove it nearly looks like she's being born; Flaco is being born for each mission; the artificial children of New Japan including the survivor she returns with … what did that theme mean to the one-shot and how much will we see it continue in the series?
Yeah, definitely, and I think you'll also get as the title may imply, what it is to be a parent. In War Mother one-shot, she overthrew the despot, but now she has to be the leader! More leadership, more problems (laughs). So Ana finds herself in a weird position – she's the only person from the Grove that's ever left it, but now she's also the leader. Unfortunately, the mini-series opens with the fact that she killed Sylvan, the despot, and he was mentally connected to the vegetation and literally kept the Grove alive. So now it's dying, and she has to find a new home for everybody.
You have Stephen Segovia on the inside of the book, and David Mack covers again. What do each bring to the book, Mack as the first thing people see of it and Stephen as your storytelling partner?
I've long been a fan of Stephen's work, and I'm super excited to see what he does with the script. I think one of the reasons War Mother was so successful and buzz-worthy the first time around was because of David's terrific cover, and I'm so glad that he's back and continuing to knock them out of the park for this whole mini-series.
Yeah, his cover art just screams at you off the shelf. All right man, any last tease you want to throw our way for fans excited about War Mother's return at the end of this summer?
Well, all great heroes need great villains, and we have some great villains being introduced in this series that are so terrifying, they honestly actually scare me. I think they'll be great additions to the Valiant rogue's gallery.
And obviously still plenty of humor, right? Your fans certainly gravitate to your Valiant work because of that balance of action and humor.
Yeah, definitely. I think whenever you have a talking gun around, the possibility of jokes abound. Nothing like a mouthy phallic symbol to spice up your day!