The Valiant, Valiant’s own massive event series shifted everything in the publisher’s shared universe around to bring forth a new era in the history of the company. Now the publisher is trying to evoke a new direction for the Valiant Universe via the Book of Death. This title is the next big Valiant event crafted by the first author to ever create material in the 2012 relaunch of Valiant: Robert Venditti, who’s working alongside illustrators Doug Braithwaite and Robert Gill. Here, the author is set to take on more characters, concepts, and ideas than ever before (almost every character from the new Valiant world was featured on that previous teaser poster seen below!) We sat down with Robert Venditti to pick his brain about the upcoming event before the first issue goes on sale.
Here’s a SPOILER warning for The Valiant before we dive into our conversation below:
Comics Beat: Can you give fans a primer for the Book of Death in the wake of The Valiant?
Robert Venditti: Yes, the Book of Death is about the new Geomancer, Tama, who we met at the end of The Valiant. Tama is a Geomancer that has come back from the the present. She is a young child, Tama was sent back by Gilad: the Eternal Warrior. He’s meeting her for the first time. He knows she’s a Geomancer, but he doesn’t know her on any personal level. Meanwhile all these things are going on in the Valiant Universe that I am almost hesitant to describe as natural disasters because they are far more horrific than that, but they are driven by nature and the environment. Gilad and Tama are wondering why now? What is the cause of it? Is the Earth acting out? What is the story? Meanwhile, Unity is wondering on some level if Tama is going to be causing this voluntary, or involuntary, or if she maybe the key to stopping it all. They want it back but Gilad doesn’t trust all of them because Geomancers have been killed before, most recently Kay McHenry in The Valiant. It’s his responsibility to protect Tama and find a solution for the problem.
I’m almost curious structurally if this story is almost the inverse of The Valiant, with the Geomancer character dying at the beginning — it seems as if Gilad has a completely different perspective now?
I think perspective is a great way of looking at it — perspective is what’s driving the entire story. You know, Gilad is someone who has been around for ten thousand years. He’s seen dark ages come and go — he’s seen all manner of things. He’s viewing the current events though this very long-term perspective that he has in the background of history, and of the planet, and of the Geomancers. Where the rest of the Valiant Universe is looking at this through the normal lifespan of the short-term perspective — I think the difference of those two perspectives is at the heart of the conflict. Whether you look at things from sort of a long term or short term point of view. In terms of picking up from The Valiant, or how it’s structured differently, I guess on some level The Valiant was the end of the relationship with Gilad and the Geomancer being Kay McHenry who we see dead at the end of that series. Spoilers! (Laughs.)
This is more the beginning of the relationship between Gilad and Tama, so I would say that they are opposites in that regard.
Can you elaborate on the themes and concepts of death in the Book of Death?
Let me think about that for a minute, I don’t want to give anything away! With the concept of death and the natural course of life, you might want to call it the circle of life? Obviously, death, life, and rebirth are the kinds of things that we have established with Kay McHenry dying at the end of The Valiant. Now you have a new child Geomancer, in terms of how nature is acting out the specific force that Gilad and Tama are fighting adjacent are all heavy themes that are playing into it. These are all themes that are much larger in how it plays a role in the event with some of the tie-in stories we are going to see. We’re going to see a lot of what the future of the Valiant Universe holds and births of characters. There’s going to be a lot of new concept and old concepts. There is also going to be a ton of content in every single issue, this is the most content heavy story that I have ever written.
How does the concept of death work in this shared Universe that Valiant has established?
In terms of the Valiant Universe as far as the DNA that the company was built on, you know there’s a maxim that goes back to the old the original 90’s incarnation of the Valiant Universe that dead means dead. That means when a character dies in the Valiant Universe, that character is dead. In that regard, Valiant is sort of a pioneer in that storytelling approach.
“That means when a character dies in the Valiant Universe that character is dead.”
With all the characters featured on the teaser with Robert Gill, is it safe to assume that there is going to be a very large roster of characters in this event?
Oh man, I cannot even…I honestly don’t even know the amount of characters that are going to be in this event. You’re going to have all the characters that readers want to see, you’re going to have X-O and Eternal Warrior, and all these characters that readers are already familiar with. Their will be a ton of ‘new’ characters ‘new’ ideas, as well as a lot of mystery surrounding these ‘new’ things. We’re hoping to whet the appetite of the readers and give them that perfect balance of everything that they know and are familiar with. We want to give them a lot of new things to really peak their interest — and want to read Valiant books for a long time to come. Soon, they can see how those concepts and characters play out in future stories.
Hopefully this is another question that isn’t too spoilery, but along with some of those new concepts can we expect to be returning from the previous Universe that we haven’t seen yet.
Yes, that’s all I want to know on that topic.
I also was wondering if you could elaborate on the inception of the event and how it came to be. For instance, did the creative team plan this story immediately following The Valiant?
It’s something that has been in the works for a very long time. Eternal Warrior is a character that has always been very interesting to me back in the original pitch phase, when Valiant first approached me about writing for the company with the two characters. I had to decide if I was going to put all my energy in writing a pitch for between Eternal Warrior and X-O. I chose X-O just because I felt that he was so unique, that blend of sci-fi, history, Visigoths, aliens and all this kind of stuff. I have always had an affinity for Gilad, and always wanted to write him. I got a chance to do him for a couple of issues in X-O, which are some of favorite issues that I have written. He’s a character that I have talked about for a really long time and always wanted to do a story with him. A lot of this has been in the works for a while. Now in terms of how it dovetailed in the end of The Valiant, that certainly informed the story and made it feel like the right time to turn this story in place. So it isn’t like Jeff and Matt were working for anything that I did, they totally came up with The Valiant on their own, but it seemed like a nice springboard to tell this story with Eternal Warrior in the lead.
I was also smitten with the idea of you sort of kicking off the Valiant Universe with X-O Manowar #1, and wondered if there was any correlation with Book of Death: The Fall of X-O Manowar #1 being the last tie-in issue to launch in October.
It’s not coincidence necessarily — I’m the current writer of X-O (Manowar) — it was my title to do in the same way that Jeff Lemire is writing Bloodshot, (Joshua) Dysart will be writing Harbinger, and (Matt) Kindt will be writing Ninjak. They are the writers of those titles. Those (Book of Death) tie-in issues are additional titles, so there will be a regular issue of X-O Manowar that will also launch that month in addition to ‘The Fall of’ issues for each of the characters. They are not replacing the issues that are regularly shipping in that month, they are additional content on top of that, but I think it’s more of a matter of the current writers on those characters handling these issues as opposed to: I wrote the very first issue of the Valiant Universe, and I’m going to murder the Valiant Universe (laughs.) I don’t think I’m the alpha and omega or anything along those lines.
I really take a lot of pride in the fact that by the time that October issue comes out, I will probably be on X-O Manowar #42 or #43 at that point. When I took this book, I didn’t know how long I would be on it. I hoped it would be a year, I really hoped it would be for two years. Now I’m going on four, and that’s a really long run for something that is my first monthly series. It could very easily be someone else writing the X-O Manowar tie-in issue.
*It was brought to our attention during the interview that Robert Venditti has written more issues of X-O Manowar more than any other writer in the history of Valiant.*
That’s incredible and with the shape of the market the way it is, it’s great for you to be able to really sink your teeth into a character like that.
It’s always a push and pull, you always want to make sure that you have long term plans with your character, but that you have more short term planning — because you don’t know if you are going to be around for the long term plans. This is the first monthly series I ever took on, so it’s almost like beginners luck or I got spoiled. This being my first experience, I feel very fortunate about it.
Can you compare the differences and similarities with working with both Doug Braithwaite and Robert Gill on the series?
This is my first time working with Robert Gill. In terms of similarities, they are both great professionals, they are both great collaborators. They are the kind of people that have a lot of great ideas, and are both excellent storytellers. I trust both of them implicitly. I trust them to deviate from my scripts where they see fit. I rely on them and know whatever they come up with will be an improvement upon how the page is layed out or any of those things. In terms of differences, I don’t know. Robert just has such a great grounded grittier down-in-the-mud style that is great for this horror type story than what we are doing. It’s much different than Armor Hunters, which had a cosmic-type background, and space settings, and giant robots and aliens — it was much more science fiction fantastical if you will. Gill is really able to dig all around that, with things like the emotions of characters. Doug is amazing at design. A lot of stuff that he is doing is similar to what he drew in Armor Hunters, but in Book of Death he’s working with some of the designs for the new concepts that we were talking about. He’s also an amazing storyteller, and he’s great with emotions. He turned in a double-page spread with Eternal Warrior upfront and with the expression on the Eternal Warrior’s face, you can feel the 10,000 years Gilad has fought through. I really feel super fortunate to work with the people from Valiant.
You hinted at a new status quota shift for Unity before, but could you tease anything else about the new developments for the team?
That’s really one of the central concepts of the story, it’s Gilad against the Valiant Universe. He’s one of the founding members against the team. If you go back to X-O Manowar in the ‘Homecoming’ arc, he’s actually the one that tried to talk to Aric in order to speak reason. The result of that conversation is what actually led to Unity in some ways. In some aspects, he even predates the Unity team. He’s been there for a very long time. It’s not a casual decision to break from that team and go off on his own direction. As much as he has friends and has fought alongside of the other Unity members — they still have a job to do. They still have other things that they have to consider beyond their friendship. It is a status quota change — and it’s nothing that anybody looks forward to with the possible exception of Ninjak. It’s a different mindset for all of them.
Would it be safe to assume that the relationship between Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior might have a special bond within the pages of Unity?
They certainly have spent a lot of time together in the Unity series. They have what Ninjak would classify with as a friendship — which is more like: we’re on the same side until we’re not anymore. That is how I sort of look at their relationship. Matt Kindt is really developing that a lot more than I have.
With Eternal Warrior going ‘rogue’ per say, could that effectively compromise their close relationship?
Oh…absolutely we are going to see that for sure.
Thanks to Robert Venditti and Valiant for letting me to interrogate their team for 30+ minutes. For more on Valiant and the Book of Death stay tuned to The Beat!