It's been about five and a half years since Valiant Comics relaunched, bringing a whole host of properties back to life with a modern flair. When it came time for the first crossover to bring together some of its properties, like Harbinger and Bloodshot, the company revitalized and revamped the Harbinger Wars concept as well. Now it's been four years and the Valiant Universe has changed considerably, with character deaths, characters reborn, characters changing sides, and even a character who just flat-out left Earth.
That means it's time for a sequel.
Harbinger Wars 2 is coming, from the all-star creative team of writers Matt Kindt and Eric Heisserer and artists Tomas Giorello and Raul Allen. The story will be told in a manner unique to comic book events. While there will be tie-in issues of the ongoing series, the main event series will have two complete stories in every issue - 48 pages of story, with Kindt/Giorello on one half and Heisserer/Allen on the other.
"This event will be the biggest thing we've ever done," Valiant editor-in-chief Warren Simons told SYFY WIRE ahead of this week's New York Comic Con, where further details will be revealed. "The book itself is going to be absolutely massive, not just in scope, but in actual content."
Simons praised the creative team and their ability to build off the "intricate narrative web" of the last several years of storytelling in the pages of Valiant Comics. They're building to a story that is "essentially Mad Max meets World War II."
At the center of both sides of the story is Omen, the organization that took over Project Rising Spirit, creators of Bloodshot and instigators of the first Harbinger Wars.
"We've seen it in Harbinger. We've seen it in Bloodshot. We've seen it in Secret Weapons. We've slowly been building to this massive conflict, which is going to drive a wedge directly into the center of the Valiant Universe," Simons teased.
The pair of main stories will start with the basic concepts of X-O Manowar returning to Earth to take on Harbinger star Peter Stancheck, who is making a mess of Earth, as told by Kindt, while Heisserer continues Livewire's story after Secret Weapons and the new state of government powers in the Valiant Universe. To craft their simultaneous stories, the writers say they've had extensive conversations that were tantamount to role-playing the characters, each picking several and seeing how they'd react in real time to various situations.
"I would say we've had a lot of conversations and talked just in general about all of the characters. Who's involved, which at this point, I think is everybody in the Valiant Universe," Kindt told SYFY WIRE. "I think the other part that stung for me as a writer has been having Eric to bounce things off of and then to have him shoot things at me. If Livewire is doing that then I think XO's gonna do this, and in a way it's almost like we're role-playing the entire universe. He's taking off and I'm taking off, and we're role-playing it in a very real way."
They're not shooting for one particular endpoint, instead really focusing on letting characters and their reactions drive the plot of the story.
"I don't think we would be able to take all, so many of these characters to the universe and go off to our respective corners and just sort of write in isolation. Because I think that would result in a book or a series of books that feel kind of very loosely tethered to one another," Heisserer explained. "What I get so excited about with Harbinger Wars 2 is that Matt and I are basically side by side on this, and we get to share stuff early on as our artists will do the same, so that we wrangle ourselves the way that our characters sort of wrangle each other."
While both writers have played in the Valiant Universe extensively already, the concept of "every Valiant character" means they'll get a try at characters they've never written before.
"I'm super excited about Peter 'cause he's a character that is one of the most powerful in the Valiant Universe, and I haven't touched him at all. I've never gotten a chance to do anything with him," Kindt said. "Give me him and X-O, and we'll let the rest figure itself out."
For Heisserer, he's excited to continue Livewire's story but get to cut her loose and "finally get to take her on the racetrack." He's also excited to "ruin Bloodshot" to what he predicts is the ire of longtime Bloodshot writer Jeff Lemire, and to explore the relationship between Livewire and Ninjak.
Simons promised that despite the World War II nature of the story with "war on many fronts," if you have a favorite Valiant character, you'll see them get their due. "We're going to be leaving the Valiant Universe in a much different place than we found it," he said. "It's complex in managing what all the characters are doing, but luckily we have a staff of really incredible writers who really have an enormous amount of respect and appreciation for each other."
Within this epic, there will be some real-world issues at play, taking stock of the current world "where personal choices seem to be automatically politicized whether that's your intent or not," Simons said. So while current events may influence things that way, it's always through the eyes of Psiots and alien-armored warlords. "All my favorite stories, whether it's Watchmen or X-Men or Civil War, have always been informed by a political environment. The trick here is to deal with dexterity. The challenge is to not hit anyone over the head about an impending nuclear exchange with Russia with the hope that you build a narrative that informs the world that we live in. What's the human experience?"
With that in mind, we'll very much see every side of the conflict's points of view in Harbinger Wars 2, much like readers loved from the first event.
The first major choices that are made are all massive. Peter decides every potential Psiot should be active and goes around activating as many as he can. To stop him, X-O gets called back from his interstellar adventures. Meanwhile, Omen had, you know, killed a bunch of kids, and Livewire decides Omen, the government, basically everyone isn't being responsible, and shuts off the power of the entire United States.
"The American continent goes dark, and there's a panel I'm excited for Raul to draw where you're just looking from 5,000 feet down and you see what seems to be just a pair of headlights in an ugly, dark city and you go back to street level and you realize it's just Livewire's eyes glowing," Heiserrer teased. This Raul Allen promo art teases the event.
His experience writing screenplays, like the Oscar-winning Arrival and upcoming Valiant Entertainment live-action features (Heiserrer really likes playing with these characters), has helped make this story "as cinematic as possible," he said. He also gave Harbinger Wars 2 some very high praise and expectations for readers.
"But my confession is that, of all the scripts I've written, I think this event is actually more ambitious and bigger in scope than any of my screenplays to date, so that's a challenge. I don't know why I signed up for that," he said with a laugh.
In the end, the whole creative team hopes fans enjoy a "quintessential Valiant Universe story that can only be told here," said Simons, while Kindt just can't wait to see "every single character fighting every character." Heiserrer dropped the mic with a thematic tagline we can only assume will make its way onto a cover or poster soon:
"You have no power here."
Harbinger Wars 2 kicks off in May 2018. More teases await fans at New York Comic Con on Friday, October 6, at the "Valiant Presents: Harbinger Wars 2" panel, as well as at Valiant's other panels throughout the weekend.