Publisher: Valiant Comics
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Art: Stephen Segovia
Release Date: 23rd August 2017
It’s about damn time, Valiant. If, like me, you read 4001: War Mother as part of last year’s Valiant event, you’ll definitely have been left wanting more. I even Tweeted Dinesh, begging him to confirm that wasn’t a one-off, that War Mother would be a new ongoing IP. I got one of his infuriating ‘wait and see’ replies. Finally, my patience is reaping that reward.
Why am I so excited about War Mother? Well, how about this for a sales pitch: Imagine 2000 AD’s Rogue Trooper mixed with elements of Swamp Things ‘The Green.’ Does that pique your interest? Now create a strong female lead and a mythology around that character. A protector of a peoples, called ‘Mother’ by her charges, although the irony is she cannot bear children of her own. A truth that helps her define her role as protector, yet the consequence of her actions in the one-short story has put all her ‘children’ in danger. Now inject this mix into the post-apocalyptic landscape that is Valiants 4001 Earth. A strong lead character, an established backstory, and an established setting in under two issues. What is more: it’s setting that can still evolve.
The 4001 universe -until last year’s event- was viewed through the filter of New Japan. A technologically advanced culture that had now failed, or at least faltered. We’re now on the planet surface and things are a little different. Well, a lot different. Fred Van Lente is building into 4001 thousands of years of biological evolution. This world is a very different place.
After 4001: War Mother, The Grove is dying. Ever since Flaco (War Mother’s gun) shot Sylvan to save her, the symbiotic relationship between the Greenlings and the Grove is failing. Without the bounties that the Grove provided it’s people hunger and starvation are an impending threat. Out of the blue, a beacon signal from a new habitat is uncovered promising a new home. Faced with the reality of starvation the War Mother promises to investigate.
Unsurprisingly, the Grove isn’t the only community to have received the signal. The story begins with War Mother engaging other scavengers trying to claim the site. We meet The Urbanites, some form of evolved humanoid (that look a bit like Neomorphs). They are holding some Traders hostage (hybrid humans with positronic parts). This interaction is telling in that is serves several purposes in the story. First, it inducts to the reader that ideas of both biological and technologic evolution in the world. Second, we’re reminded that Flaco (War Mothers gun), is very much an infant AI. The fight itself is a lesson for Flaco, and is another play on the Mother/Son dynamic that is a key theme in the story.
The art in War Mother, by Stephen Segovia, keeps with the 4001 style introduced by Clayton Crain in Rai. There is a sterile cleanliness to the drawing that ties a straight line to the aesthetic of New Japan. Yet, nature is reclaiming everything and there is a definite organic/inorganic confluence in War Mother that I find very cool. The colour work by Santos and Dallhouse fortifies this. There is a slight blue filter to the colour, suggesting futurism, but there is also a sense of decay to the world. It’s an excellent advert for an Urban Dystopia. Add to this some wonderful fluid panelling, mixing long vertical and horizontal shots, and your eyes tear through this story with ease.
I could wax lyrical for a long time about War Mother. I was drawn to this character immediately from last year’s one shot and I’m delighted that she has her own title now. Hopefully it’ll be more that the promised four issues. I genuinely think Valiant has a winner here, and War Mother has reminded me why I love comics after a bit of a self-confessed slump.
Reading War Mother had me associating with so many tropes. I’d mentioned The Green and Rogue Trooper, yet (bizarrley) I also thought of Mike Pondsmiths Cyberpunk 2020 and Paolo Bacigalupi’s the Windup Girl to name a few more. War Mother may have elements of these, but it is its own animal entirely. Quite simply it’s another strong female lead and another outstanding story from Valiant.
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The writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.