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Graphic Policy Talk With Ray Fawkes and Jeremy Haun about Valiant’s Upcoming The Final Witness

The Final Witness

I have been all-in on Valiant‘s comics for a long time. But, sometimes a series comes along that really sings to me. The Final Witness is one of those books. The promise from the creative team that nothing will be the same after a comic isn’t an unfamiliar one. This is one of the few times that I genuinely believe that will be the case.

What is The Final Witness?

It seems to blend a murder mystery with superheroes in what promises to be something Valiant fans haven’t seen before. It’s from the creative team of Ray Fawkes (writer), Jeremy Haun (art), Nick Filardi (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters).

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to ask Ray and Nick a few questions about the upcoming series.

Graphic Policy: The Final Witness has really got me intrigued; where did the idea come from?

Ray Fawkes: The idea was a collaborative effort with Heather Antos, our great editor. We bounced the basic concept of the killer this book is based around, and the new hero who would face them as his first challenge back and forth until we settled on The Final Witness – something totally new for the Valiant Universe!

Jeremy Haun: It was one of those concepts that I knew I wanted to be a part of the second I read it.  We’ve read all of the superhero stories that are out there by now. This series— this point of view is something new. That’s incredibly exciting.

GP: How long did it take you to get from the conception stage to the finished product?

RF: We really worked it over for several months even before scripting began in earnest, just making sure we had the core concept as strong as possible, and making sure that the folks at Valiant were completely happy with the direction we were taking. Then the scripting started up – so we’re looking at about a year from the seed concept to finished product. 

JH: A lot of projects have a release date even before things are ready to go. I love that Valiant really let us take the time and build this story the way we needed to. I got working drafts of the first two issues when I came onto the project. They’d been developing things for months at that point. I came in and we built and added to things even more. 

GP: You’ve both worked together a lot over the years; did you know coming into the project you’d be teaming up again? It must be fun to work with somebody you know, eh?

RF: When I started putting together the plans for the script I didn’t know yet that we were going to be able to get Jeremy on board – but as soon as his name was mentioned I began to see this book as a project I didn’t want to do with anyone else. We’ve had such great synergy in the past, and I knew we’ d be speaking each other’s language from day one of the collaboration.

JH: There are certain creators that you’ll work with any chance you get. Ray is one of those folks. He’s the kind of collaborator who not only gets good storytelling, he gets the type of storytelling I get excited about. The second Heather reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to work on an all-new superhero noir book with Ray, I was in.

GP: Ray, you’ve said that you really got to cut loose with this story; how different has working with Valiant been from your previous gigs?

RF: Valiant has been one hundred percent supportive of the direction this book is taking – something new for the company and for its in-continuity characters – and it’s been really great seeing what kinds of boundaries we can push. All any writer wants to do is to be free to explore a concept to the hilt – Valiant has given me that chance with The Final Witness.

GP: With this being a limited series, can you tell us if there are any plans to do more with the characters you introduce down the road?

RF: I’ve already outlined a second story with the characters, and have ideas for more. It’s really up to the readers – if the book gets the kind of support I’m hoping for, there may be much more to come. I mean… with the characters who survive this story, of course…

JH: Oh— you’re going to want more of this. I want more of this.

GP: Will Final Witness change the way that fans look at the Valiant universe going forward? It certainly seems like it’ll be different than what we’ve seen before…

RF: I truly believe it will. What happens in this story may call into question some of the ethical problems certain heroes in the Valiant universe face – and some of the problems they represent. Both in-universe and out of it, for readers – there will be a new element brought to Valiant in this book, and once it hits, it can’t be taken back. For the worse in some heroes cases, and for the better in some – and, I like to think, very much for the better for readers.

JH: This is a story that adds a new layer to the Valiant universe in the best way. It’s already a world filled with a fantastic array of characters. THE FINAL WITNESS is going to give us something new— something we need…and might not even be ready for. Things aren’t going to be the same from here on out. 


The Final Witness is due for release April 29th, 2020

Review: Killers #5

Killers #5

Superpowered ninjas versus arctic monks versus kill-crazy commandos in the bloody final battle in Killers #5!

Who lives? Will someone die? Who will win the ultimate prize?

The end is just the beginning…

Killers has been a pretty interesting journey for me because I read the outline a long time ago in preparation for an interview with B. Clay Moore. Graphic Policy also published an interview conducted with artist Fernando Dagnino which you can check out here. Because of the former interview, I’ve had a very rough idea what was coming for some time. I’ve made no secret of this. The outline became murkier in my memory as time progressed, whilst still being able to enjoy the ride. It’s an odd feeling, and the first time that I’d experienced it,

As the finale of the miniseries, Killers #5 does its job. It would have been a much better end to an ongoing series’ first arc. I say this because this issue seems more focused on setting up the next chapter than wrapping up this one. This is fine in many ways. It’s a story with a cast of characters I enjoy and want to see more of. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the conclusion had a smaller bang because of the dual focus.

It’s the dual focus of concluding one chapter and opening the other that gives the book its biggest drawback. Moore’s breakneck pace has been an asset throughout the series, and so it’s ironic that it’s his ability to keep the story moving at such a pace becomes the only flaw in this comic. There isn’t really any breathing room in Killers #5, and it needs it so that you, dear reader, can digest and process the revelations in the story as they come at you one after the other.

Artistically, the book has its missteps. Dagnino and colorist Jose Villarrubia are very solid for 90% of this book. The areas where I found them less than solid were pretty minimal, largely limited to odd facial expressions and from the artists having less room to tell the story in parts than in others. Overall, though, the artistic flow of the book is enjoyable and easy to follow; the action scenes are clear and flow well, and you always know what’s occurring on the page.

At the end of the day, as a finale, this comic isn’t great. It’s good, but it’s not great. It lacks a sense of closure, opting instead to ensure we all know the door is open in the future for the story to continue. As a finale, it’s less than satisfying, but as a bridge book, it does its job very well. How you feel about the comic once you’ve read will depend largely on what you wanted from the final issue of a miniseries.

Story: B. Clay Moore Art: Fernand Dagnino Colours: Jose Villarrubia
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Killers #4

Killers #4

In Killers #4 it’s kill or be killed as the superninjas meet face to face!
What are they all trying to slaughter each other for? The reason behind the deadly race revealed!

It’s all-out action as the Killers face off against deadly Arctic assassins!

I’ve had an interesting relationship with this series. Not because I don’t enjoy it, I do, but because I’ve had a pretty good idea what will be happening from the first issue. Though that idea has become vaguer as the months tick by. Why, you might ask? Well for the simple reason that I had read the outline to the entire series in preparation for an interview with B. Clay Moore. Graphic Policy also published an interview with artist Fernando Dagnino which you can check out here. But of course, the outline was read some time ago. That has allowed me to transition from knowing the plot to having a rough idea how this’ll end whilst still getting surprised.

The part of Killers #4 set in the present day takes place almost entirely in a mountain pass. Various groups of assassins run into each other with some predictably bloody results. The action is smooth and swift. Dagnino and colorist Jose Villarubria work wonders with a limited color pallet for the cold snowy surroundings. The artists never fall back on pure blank space. Instead, they utilize subtle shades and the terrain to paint a picture for the assassins to play in.

You may have guessed that the comic isn’t entirely set in the present. Flashbacks flesh out the story so that we finally understand the motivations behind the driving force in Killers. The delivery is a little over explained over the course of the first half dozen pages, but not in a way that hammers you over the head with What You Should Know.

Killers #4 is a solid penultimate issue in the Ninja-K spinoff miniseries. While readers of that series will love the expansion of former Ninjas, those who haven’t read that series won’t have any trouble here. Moore has structured this comic along the edge of a blade; he’s got enough here for new readers to enjoy the story, enough for Ninja-K fans to delve deeper into the Ninja Programme lore whilst retaining a pace that’s as sharp as the edge he’s balancing on.

As an action comic, you really can’t go wrong with this issue. The surprisingly positive side is that it’s also pretty new-reader friendly too, assuming you’re okay to accept certain aspects of the characters capabilities.

Story: B. Clay Moore Art: Fernando Dagnino Colours: Jose Villarrubia
Story: 8.9 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Killers #3

Killers #3

The unstoppable marksman, Sights, joins the carnage in Killers #3! But where does his allegiance lie?

Can you trust a superninja with a mind broken by MI6? Just ask the Undisciple.

The high-octane battle royale continues as the Killers tear each other apart in a competition like no other!

For the first time since I began this series, I’ve read an issue with next to no idea what was going to happen. It was an oddly liberating experience. I’ve read the outline to the entire series in preparation for an interview with B. Clay Moore. Graphic Policy also published an interview with artist Fernando Dagnino which you can check out here.

Not knowing, really not remembering, what was going to happen in this book left me able to read it with fresh eyes. The comic was still every bit as exciting as the previous two issue. Perhaps more so since it was an unknown for me.

Killers #3 reveals a touch more about the cast of former ninja operatives. It also introduces a fifth – Ninja E. Moore’s characters are wonderfully colorful. Their personality pulses from the pages despite him giving us only a little information as to who they are. Credit for that should also go to Dagnino’s art. The way he has choreographed the panels and action combined with the body language of the ninja’s themselves helps to build your relationship with characters who may not have said all that much over the course of the series.

The artists deliver an atmospheric book that immerses you into the story with every page turn; there’s something about their work that’s just damn impressive. There are little bells and whistles here, and the comic is all the stronger for it.

Killers #3 is another solid issue in the miniseries that spins off from the revelations in Ninja-K. Though reading that series is absolutely not required to enjoy this one. Moore has left himself two comics to bring the story to a close, and at the rate he’s going I have no doubt that he’ll be able to close this out with a bang. Though I suppose it would be more appropriate to make a ninja related statement there… so I have no doubt that he’ll be able to close this out with a bang of smoke? Yeah, I don’t know either. What I do know is that I am thoroughly enjoying this story and that I cannot wait for the next chapters.

This deserves to be on the pull list of anybody wanting a change from spandex and superheroes.

Story: B. Clay Moore Art: Fernando Dagnino Colours: Jose Villarrubia
Story: 8.8 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Killers #2

Killers #2

What’s mightier, the superninja or the rocket launcher? Find out in Killers #2!

Ninjas are virtually fearless, but what can cut straight to their core and make them tremble? Enter: Ninja-F!

Featuring the first appearance of the mysterious woman named Snapdragon!

My exposure to this series has been longer than most. As with the first book, I first read Killers #2 more than a month ago shortly after the first issue came out. I had read the outline to the entire series in preparation for an inter with B. Clay Moore, which you can find here already. Graphic Policy also published an interview with artist Fernando Dagnino which you can check out here. The reason I mention this is because it took me far too long when reading this comic to realize why it felt so damn familiar.

Because I had already read the book, in some form, at least twice.

The funny thing is that despite the book feeling familiar, I never once felt that book was any less exciting.

Killers #2 opens exactly where the first issue left off, with Ninja G plummeting from a five story window after Ninja J pushed her out. What follows is a tense confrontation before moving on to the introduction of another Ninja or two (Ninjas I and F).

What impresses me most about B. Clay Moore‘s story is that he’s able to get so much into the comic without crossing the line into “too much.” In many ways the content he has packed in is wonderfully reminiscent of the comics of yore, when a single issue told a complete story. Now this is obviously the second part in a miniseries, but Moore is able to make the most out of his page count and still give Fernando Dagnino and Jose Villarrubia (art and colours respectively) plenty of room to showcase their visual story telling.

The artists deliver an atmospheric book that immerses you into the story with every page turn; there;s something about their work that’s just damn impressive. There’s little bells and whistles here, and the comic is all the stronger for it.

Killers #2 is a doubling down on the shady world these former Ninja Programme operatives find themselves once again involved in. It’s a story that’s as well-paced as it is visually presented. More people should be reading this than currently are. This is a book that feels oddly free of any encumbrance from continuity. Despite the characters origins in stemming from Ninja-K, Killers can easily be read as a standalone story without any trouble.

This deserves to be on the pull list of anybody wanting a change from spandex and superheroes.

Story: B. Clay Moore Art: Fernando Dagnino Colours: Jose Villarrubia
Story: 8.7 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Killers #1

Killers #1 is a book that spins out of Ninja-K, but it can also be read as a standalone story without any trouble.

In Killers #1, five deadly assassins are recruited into a game of cat and mouse by their former sensei, the mysterious Jonin!

But what does the Jonin want from them, and what do they gain out of helping him?

Each of these assassins can channel their ki—the spiritual energy within all beings—in different ways, granting them incredible powers, essentially making them “superninjas”!

I first read this book in script for to prepare for an interview with writer B. Clay Moore, which you can find here. The second time I read the book was to prepare for an interview with artists Fernando Dagnino which you can check out here. The third time I read the book was for this review. Which I honestly thought I had written when we were first sent the preview copies. But I’m apparently an idiot at times.

Each time I’ve had the opportunity to read this comic, I’ve been impressed with how the art is so bloody perfect for the debut issue, setting the story’s scene and establishing a quick pace despite the being packed full of words. I was going to try and pick out my favorite scene to talk about and stick to that to limit spoilers, but the book is so full of great moments (any one of which would be the focal point in some comics) that it’s hard to pick just one. For that reason, I’ll do the smart and/or fair thing and talk about the first few pages.

With the book opening with a former operative being attacked in her kitchen, Dagnino’s grasp of visual storytelling is on full display as he expertly guides you from panel to panel and eventually page to page whilst Moore’s words have almost nothing to do, at least on the surface, with the action. But this is where the multiple readings over the course of several weeks have come to benefit me; Killers #1 is a comic of two sides. The first is the story you’re being told – a damn good story – that you’ll be able to pick up on with no problems. The second, as befits a book about the clandestine operatives of MI6’s Ninja Programme, isn’t as obvious all of the time. You need to read between the lines, find the parallels between the art and dialogue or narration when there doesn’t seem to be any and then put the pieces together yourself.

Killers #1 is a book that spins out of Ninja-K, but it can also be read as a standalone story without any trouble. It’s a comic that has a unique flavor to its art, the work of Dagnino with Jose Villarrubia supporting him on colors is powerful, smooth and enjoyable to read. Without a doubt, it’s the highlight of the book for me.

If you see this on the shelves, pick a copy up. I will.

Story: B. Clay Moore Art: Fernando Dagnino Colours: Jose Villarrubia
Story: 8.7 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Doctor Mirage Conjuors Up a New Series from Magdalene Visaggio, Nick Robles, Jordie Bellaire, and Dave Sharpe

A brand-new Doctor Mirage series will be conjured by Eisner Award-nominated writer Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio, artist Nick Robles, Eisner Award-nominated colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Dave Sharpe

How do you solve the case of your own death? Paranormal detective Doctor Shan Fong Mirage had the ability to see and talk to the dead. Except the dead have gone silent, their spirits mysteriously vanished, including Hwen, her deceased husband. Now, Doctor Mirage must face the most challenging question of her life: Is she dead but doesn’t know it?

The paranormal puzzle begins in Doctor Mirage #1 this August.

Underrated: X-O Manowar: Birth

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: X-O Manowar: Birth

 


 

I’ve been a Valiant fan for nearly four years now, and while I have dabbled in the original comics (affectionately known as VH1 among the fanbase), it has primarily been the modern era, comics from 2012 to the present day (known as the VEI era), that has been my reading and collecting focus. But a couple of weeks ago, the owner of my LCS returned from visiting one of his other stores with a hardcover for me because he thought I’d be interested. That hardcover reprinted the first six issues of the original X-O Manowar run from 1992, the #o issue and an original story featuring the origin of one the early issues villains. This collection represents the earliest comics from Valiant I’ve yet read, and although I prefer the 2012 origin for X-O Manowar, I can understand why Valiant was able to hook fans in with the original X-O stories. I’m looking at this book today from the perspective of somebody who has read a lot, or even some, of the modern X-O Manowar comics before ever touching the original VH1 run, and asking whether that person would be interested in looking to the past.

If you’re at all familiar with Aric of Dacia, the X-O Manowar armour and his abduction and subsequent return to Earth then you’ll know the essence of the plot this book. The 2012 origin took a lot from these six or seven comics, and although some details were updated or modified, the the influence the original story still bears upon the modern is easy to see. Aside from Aric’s Hulk-like speech patterns that do, thankfully, begin to diminish as he learns English, the barbarian’s character still shows flashes of the man he will become when the publisher relaunched.

The Vine are replaced with the Spider-Aliens, although aside from the name there is little that distinguishes them from the first few comics in the 2012 run. Where as the Vine become one of the more interesting and complex plot points in the VEI stories, the Spider-Aliens show little of the same qualities at this point (yes, there are signs that there is more to the Vine within the first three issues of the VEI run), but then that really just makes it easier to enjoy the battle carnage as Aric tears his way through the soldiers and corporate representatives of the Spider-Aliens.

Although you can enjoy the book without any prior knowledge, for a Valiant fan of the old or new school (or both) this beautifully presented book is a must read. And most of us will seek the story out if we can, but for those not entrenched in Valiant lore, this standalone story here represents an Underrated gem from comics history.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

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