SPOILER ALERT! There are major spoilers for Armor Hunters #1 in this article, including the final page! If you haven't read it yet, do that first!
On June 11, 2014, Valiant readers were given their first full look at the summer series kick off with Armor Hunters #1, written by Robert Venditti and art by Doug Braitwaite (pencils) and Laura Martin (colors). This first issue spotlighted an elite team of hunters charged with the responsibility of finding and eliminating armored suits such as the one possessed by Aric of Dacia.
And while readers can learn some of these hunters' backstory in the recent XO Manowar #25, Valiant is also offering fans the opportunity to explore other hunters’ fates through its Armor Hunters Name Generator. Seeking a creative and unconventional approach to engage its readership, Valiant asks its fans: "Were you one of the ARMOR HUNTERS' honored fallen? How many armors did you destroy in pursuit of a safer universe? And what brought about your untimely end?" For those willing and interested in playing along, there are opportunities to learn more about the history of the alien warriors who have now turned their attentions to Earth.
Last week, Newsarama had the opportunity to speak with head writer, Robert Venditti, about some of what went into the development of Valiant's first, publisher-wide summer crossover event. Today, he joins us again alongside fellow writer, Josh Dysart (Harbinger), to discuss the Armor Hunters #1 and the impact the events from this inaugural issue will have on the rest of the Valiant Universe.
Newsarama: In XO Manowar #25, we get our first glance at the Armor Hunters – a balanced view of them as people seeking to make the galaxy a better place… as well as agents of genocide in their decontamination of the planet following the destruction of the armor they sought. In Harbinger #23, readers see Peter Stanchek just how far he has pushed his team in his quest to bring down Toyo Harada, and the results of his pursuit of a "better world" have also yielded death and destruction.
Both of these issues seem to be grappling with a similar question of "How much gets sacrificed when it comes to saving the world?" How do you see this theme playing out in the Armor Hunters storyline, Robert?
Robert Venditti: For the Valiant heroes, the goal is to save the world. The Armor Hunters have a much larger goal than that – they're trying to save star systems and galaxies and potentially the universe. I think you get a sense from XO Manowar #25 that they're not happy doing what they do, but they see it as a necessary step to take to stave off this calamity that could affect a much larger area if they weren't there to "pull it out by the root."
So the Armor Hunters are operating on a much larger scale for what they have to consider when weighing their actions whereas the Valiant heroes are dealing with a much more localized event – they're unaware of the much larger implications.
Josh Dysart: This is kind of a theme that a lot of us writing for Valiant have been pursuing for some time. Whether you're fighting to save the world or fighting to save your friends, there are repercussions for fighting for a thing that you believe in. The Armor Hunters believe in what they're doing, and of course, the heroes that are lined up against the hungers - and aiding them in various ways across the world - they obviously believe in what they're doing. That's sacrifice. You don't save the world without a great deal of sacrifice. We would be untrue to our stories if we didn't have that sacrifice be a big part of it. I personally think that's a great narrative engine.
Nrama: Looking at both the hunters and heroes, do you find there is there a danger in believing too strongly in one's mission?
Venditti: Yeah, I would definitely say so. If you're too focused on something local, you can lose sense of the larger picture, but likewise, if you're too focused on the larger picture, you lose sense of the local. I think those are both things you have to consider when committing yourself to a course of action. What are the immediate effects locally and what are the long-term effects on a larger scale? We're looking at two groups of people – the Armor Hunters and Aric (and, by extension, some of the other Valiant heroes)– who are both strong-willed and very determined individuals in how they want to achieve their goals. We get to look at them from two different perspectives: one local, and one more global.
Dysart: The macro and the micro are almost always at odds. It's very, very difficult in life to make a big macro decision and not sacrifice some of the minutiae, and vice versa. I think that's a really cool aspect about doing a big, global narrative like this. Our macro – earthlings – is so much different than the Armor Hunters’ macro.
Nrama: Right. We have two different sides with seemingly valid goals to pursue, but obviously, they're going to come to odds especially at Mexico City.
Dysart: I think in looking at Valiant, this is something a lot of us have really tried hard to do – to not have straight up villainy, to not have black and white, and have everybody's goal be understandable. It's relatable that the Armor Hunters are doing what they're doing even if it's at our expense.
Nrama: Looking at Armor Hunters #1, we get to see the Hunters (Primary, Helix, Quartz, and GIN-GR) in action – and they are vicious. What can you tell us about these characters that we don't already know from XO #25and Armor Hunters #1?
Venditti: From the beginning, it was always about creating this team of opponents for the Valiant heroes that would have a very defined purpose that would be in their own minds and in a larger sense that they were justified in doing what they're doing. We're going to find out as the crossover continues – not only in the mini-series proper but in the tie-in series such as Armor Hunters: Harbinger, XO Manowar, Unity, and Bloodshot – you're going to find out what exactly the nature of this threat is that these Armor Hunters have come to get rid of.
To me, those are the most fun parts of writing stories. To be able to write characters where there are these gray areas between them in the sense that the heroes aren't clearly defined heroes and the villains aren't clearly defined villains either. They're both right and wrong depending on the perspective from which you're viewing them. So when we were creating these characters, we wanted to create designs that were sympathetic visually, if that makes sense. It would be different if GIN-GR the giant robot was some big, massive death machine with guns and barbs or a big mace in its hand. Yet it's actually an adorable looking design. It has a head floating up on its shoulders and there's something endearing about it, but it happens to become a terrifying thing. So I think using the visuals to establish a sort of "relatable-ness" to make the Armor Hunters sympathetic characters is a huge part of that.
Nrama: Josh – this is a question for you: Given the strained relationship characters from Harbinger have had with corporate and government organizations in the recent past, why do you think they'd answer the call from the U.N. to help with the destruction of Mexico City?
Dysart: It's interesting, isn't it? Again, and again, and again, we find – I don't know why - my characters tend to find themselves back into the employment of the organizations they despise. For example, Bloodshot finds his way back to PRS, and we have to do a lot of narrative contortions to justify it, but it gets really interesting.
Why does Generation Zero find themselves in service to another organization? It's sort of questionable that they really do to be honest. They're really making their own decisions for the first time in their lives if you don't count the Harbinger Wars when they made the decision to take and hold the Bellagio in Vegas. This is the first mission they've given themselves. So they're not really in service to the organization; they're in service to the great inhuman catastrophe that's occurred they they're responding to and they happen to be in the area for.
Having said that, even that is an interesting turn for Generation Zero as it's really not against Christian / Cronus' character to just let all of humanity fucking die. It's a really interesting position for them to be in. They're kids, and they're near the blast site when the atrocity occurs near Mexico City. What else do they know how to do? What else do you do when you're a superhero child soldier and you're on your own and free? Your entire skillset is based upon going into situations like this and handling it. I don't know if they have a moral imperative to go in and help, but they might have a biological imperative to do something. There is a great deal of horror happening to other human beings, and as disconnected as they feel and as separate from the rest of the human race as they are because of their imprisonment for so long, they're ultimately still human. And these are situations that bind us.
Nrama: Rob, getting back to XO #25 and Armor Hunters #1, I have to ask: What the heck happened to the surviving alien race after the hunters left? Is this (the swarm) something Earth needs to be worrying about with the arrival of the hunters?
Venditti: You're definitely going to learn much, much more about the swarm you saw in XO Manowar #25 throughout the Armor Hunters series, and it's a very key part of the larger tapestry of what the event is and the conflict is that the Valiant heroes are going to face.
Nrama: Joshua, does that make Armor Hunters similar and yet different from your experience with the "Harbinger Wars" story arc?
Dysart: With Harbinger Wars, we tried to integrate everything like clockwork where everything responds to everything else. And I thought it might be cool this time because it's a global event and Harbinger Wars was just a very local event if my book could just explore this one corner of the whole world while all of this other craziness is going on that Robert's directing. For the most part, we're a self-contained narrative. However, where we really start to become part of the whole storyline is with that swarm. That's what ties us into the larger thing. That swarm has a lot to do with my end of the road.
Nrama: Now, Helix and the strike team discover earth is manufacturing what appears to be clones of Aric's armor. Are we getting an Iron Man 3 end battle in Armor Wars? It seems like you were planting some seeds for that when we see the different suits of armor in the sub-level of the base.
Venditti: What happened in Iron Man 3? LOL! Yeah, we're definitely planting seeds in some ways that are more apparent than others for future conflicts down the road. These go all the way back to the original pitch I turned in over two years ago. These threads have been teased out, and some of them have already been put in place. One of the things I really enjoy about writing these threads and getting them in place is people don't even know they're there until all of the sudden I tell them something and they can trace it all the way back 18 to 20 issues and just say "Wow! That thread's been a part of the tapestry the whole time and we didn't even know." So there's definitely those kinds of things going on.
Now as far as hinting as things for Armor Hunters #2 and down the road, those are for more long-term plans we have.
Nrama: Final question to you both: What are your favorite moments in or aspects of Armor Hunters #1?
Venditti: I think the way Doug [Braithwaite] draws GIN-GR. You start off with this very close-quarters, opening scene in a military bunker and it seems very rooted in earth even though you have these alien characters. It's very grounded in a sense. And then you turn the page and you're out in space with this giant robot – the spaceship for this team of hunters. I think that's a really cool moment, and I really enjoyed seeing Doug translate it to the page. It really hits you that this is not going to be something earthbound but epic and grand in scale. I think the way GIN-GR is drawn the first time we see him really communicates that.
Dysart: Yeah, I'm with Robert! I love the design of GIN-GR, and I love their use of it. And I like getting to play with it, as little as I do, in my series. I think that's a fantastic moment. Robert, you had said you didn't want GIN-GR to be all "spikey" and "agro" in its design, and it kind of looks like this lovely, rounded little toy. It looks like this Japanese toy floating up in space. It's a beautiful design. We have our fair share in comics of big, "agro" aliens, and instead, this is sort of an homage on Doug's part to the softer Japanese robot toys and cartoons over the decades. Not only that, its name is GIN-GR –that's fucking awesome!
Armor Hunters #1 is now available in local comic shops in either standard or chromium edition and digitally on Comixology. Fans can also continue to follow this story line in Unity #8 coming out on June 18, 2014
Be sure to follow all of Newsarama's exclusive coverage of Armor Wars this summer and our regular discussions with the creative team driving this epic publishing event!