Review: Secret Weapons #0 Nikki’s Story

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“Meet high school senior Nikki Finch… She’s a gifted athlete with an unusual set of medical ailments and high-aptitude test scores that have drawn the attention of an obscure and little-known NGO calling itself the Harbinger Foundation. With seemingly limitless resources at its disposal, the Harbinger Foundation has just offered Nikki a place in their newest class of recruits for a prestigious, but secretive, mission: to unlock her hidden potential via the invasive, dangerous and often deadly process known as “psiot activation”…

If they succeed, Nikki could become an extraordinary example of Toyo Harada’s vision for the future of post-human biological superiority. If they fail, she’ll likely die on the operating table…or be locked away for future study in the mysterious research facility known as The Willows…”

Valiant‘s critically acclaimed Secret Weapons was my favorite series, ongoing or mini, of 2017. So it’s with some excitement that I opened the review pdf that arrived in my inbox a few days ago (I wanted to drop everything and read it immediately, but alas I had things that I needed to do). Nikki’s Story originated from, I believe (and am unable to verify because I heard the information on a podcast and can’t remember the exact episode) character backgrounds that Eric Heisserer had created for the characters prior to the first four issues, and after one thing led to another, ended up as zero issues.

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Even though this serves as a prequel to the main series, Nikki’s Story is best read after you’ve read the main story, because even though it details the events leading up to Secret Weapons #1, it would only  create more questions than it would answer if a reader were to start here. That being said, I’m going to assume you’ve read the best comic of 2017 if you’re reading beyond here as there may be minor spoilers.

Once again, Eric Heisserer is back behind the typewriter for this issue, but he’s joined by artist Adam Pollina and colourist David Baron provide a different visual style than Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, but the comic still feels as though it’s very Secret Weapons-ish thanks to the colour palette and the interesting art style that Pollina employs with four panels a page set up to resemble a photograph with Nikki taking center stage in almost every panel – there’s one or two where she’s not quite the main focus of the panel, but the majority have her front and center. It’s an interesting effect, and one that enables some strong visual storytelling for the majority of the issue right up until the final page or two where the comic reads more as a preview of Secret Weapons #1 than as a conclusion to an issue.

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The glimpse into the Psiot activation process will be enough for hardcore Valiant fans to lap this up alone, but the rest of you will be happy to know that the comic does also flesh Nikki’s character out a little more. But, much like Darth Vader’s back story, the question remains whether we actually needed to find out about Nikki’s life before she was activated. To be clear, I am not equating the quality of this issue with the Prequel Trilogy, as unlike those movies, this is a very enjoyable comic that doesn’t quite measure up to the overall quality of it’s sequel – but then not much would be able to do that.

Ultimately Secret Weapons #0 Nikki’s Story suffers because of the strength of the original Secret Weapons. As creatively interesting a book as this is, it’s just not as strong as issues 1-4, and isn’t really required reading for fans if they’re not

Story: Eric Heisserer Art: Adam Pollina
Color: David Baron
Story: 8 Art: 8.3 Overall: 8.25
Recommendation: Read if you enjoyed Secret Weapons. If you haven’t, Pass until you have.

Valiant provided a FREE copy for review, but I’ll be adding this to my collection Wednesday anyway.