Robert Venditti and the rest of the creative team involved with Valiant's ongoing summer crossover series get ready to take readers into the next chapter of this global catastrophe with Armor Hunters #2. What becomes clear in the wake of the destruction from last month's Armor Hunters #1 is the hunters are after more than just the XO Armor. In this month's installment along with the interconnected crossover issues, the heroes of the Valiant universe discover this alien threat is focused on eradicating anyone and anything that has been exposed to the armor…and given the big reveal from Issue #2, one almost begins to wonder if there isn't good reason for their arrival.
Once again, Newsarama sat down to talk with Venditti as well as Armor Hunters: Bloodshot writer, Joe Harris, whose first issue will be released later this month. Given the arrival of the one-man killing machine in Armor Hunters #2, it seemed fitting to bring Harris along for the ride.
Newsarama: What's the fan reaction been to Armor Hunters since the kickoff?
Rob Venditti: So far, it's been really, really positive. This is only the first event series I've ever really done, and obviously, we've only got one issue under our belt with three more to go. But I just attended the Derby City Comic Con and the response to it from fans was really positive for the story and for Unity #8, which was the first tie-in issue that had just come out. And with X-O Manowar #26, people are just really on board with the idea of expanding the universe the way that we are. Given the previews of the concepts out there, GIN-GR is a fan favorite at this point, which I can't blame them for! It's one of my favorites as well. But so far, it's been really gratifying.
Joe Harris: The energy at the shows has been great. I've done four Valiant panels , and the energy from the crowd has been spectacular. Like Rob said, it's been a very gratifying experience.
Nrama: Rob, in XO Manowar #26, you take readers behind the mysterious Primary Reebo's past as a bounty hunter. Can we expect future issues of X-O to fill in the backstories behind the other Armor Hunters?
Venditti: Yeah, definitely. Within the X-O Manowar tie-in and some of the other tie-ins as well, you'll learn about some of the other hunters. For X-O Manowar, from the very beginning, one of the things that [Valiant Editor-in-Chief] Warren Simons and I talked about even during the pitch phase was that the series was called X-O Manowar, not Aric of Dacia or whatever. To me, that seems it's about the armor, and so this seemed like a cool opportunity with the Armor Hunters tie-in series and Aric being one of the leads in the main series to explore that a bit and look at the armor from a different perspective. You still have the story with the armor but this time told through the eyes not of who's wearing it but who's going against it.
Nrama: In our last interview, we talked about the similarities between the missions of the Valiant heroes and the Armor Hunters in their desire to save their world or universe. Now, in both X-O MANOWAR #26 & Armor Hunters #2, it feels like we are seeing the narratives of old soldiers play out – beings who are war-weary. Was this something you were looking to pursue in this arc as well?
Venditti: Very much so. Armor Hunters shows that old soldier, warrior mentality. X-O Manowar is going to show what they were like before that. We only meet Control at the end of X-O Manowar #26 – the general, the George Patton-esque character of the Armor Hunters. There's a whole army of these people, so we're going to get to see that in upcoming issues of XO. We're going to get to see what their mission was and what their forces were like closer to the beginning of this conflict whereas in Armor Hunters, we just have the last team that's become isolated from the others. For all they know, they're the only ones left. They're just doing the mission because the mission is all they have left. It looks at them from the beginning and at the end.
Nrama: Right. There was this interplay between Reebo and Lilt before sending the hounds down to Earth, and he emphasizes wanting to get this final job done so he could retire from the hunt. It's an interesting flip on the brash young bounty hunter we saw earlier.
Venditti: Yeah, that's kind of the whole intent - to show "How do you get there?" A lot of times with a film or something like that, you'll see where the character is now and experience everything from that prism. The nice thing about doing a huge event like this, something that's this big in scale with a main series and all of the other series that tie into it, allows you to really look at the story in a long form sort of format by piecing together all of the short form chunks, if that makes sense. That's something that we wanted to take advantage of.
Nrama: In Armor Hunters #2, the treatment Malgam receives from MERO is incredibly inhumane. Was there a particular reason you wanted to show government operatives acting in this capacity?
Venditti: From their perspective, they are being good guys in the sense that what they're doing isn't good but it has to be done. Mexico City – the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere – has just been wiped off the map in a matter of moments. This is a level of threat that has never been seen in the history of humanity. I don't think any of us would know how we would react in that given scenario. That's one of those situations where the operatives that you're speaking about are in a position where it's all on them. They have to fix this problem, and they have a very short window in which to do it or everything might be gone – including the guy they're interrogating. He's going to go with the rest of the plant, so that's how they justify their actions on one level. But as we talked about before about micro and macro scenarios, when you focus too much on the macro, you lose sight of the micro. That's the balance that you're always trying to have. Is it possible to have both of those? Sometimes, yes, but for these characters in this moment, they don't believe it is.
Nrama: So there are no "black and white" scenarios - just a messy world of gray?
Venditti: Yeah, I think if we extrapolate that against the whole Valiant Universe and even what we're doing with Armor Hunters and showing in the X-O tie-in series the hunters from their perspectives and showing these rogue armors destroying planets and annihilating civilizations, we're making the Armor Hunters sympathetic even if their methods may be abhorrent. They're doing what they're doing for justifiable reasons, and that's no different from what the operatives are doing in trying to get information out of Malgam. The methods are abhorrent but they're doing what they feel has to be done.
Nrama: Joe, for readers less familiar with Bloodshot, what can you tell them to catch them up to speed for this first crossover issue?
Joe Harris: When we pick up with him, he's been brought in from the cold. He's already joined Unity and he’s been tasked with providing security at the MERO complex in Utah where Malgam is being held. Bloodshot is this ultimate weapon. This amazing, incredible, weapon of mass destruction that can take pretty much any hit you throw at him because he can heal due to the nanites that are coursing through his blood stream. He's incredibly capable and we're setting him at the door in an attack/guard dog role… just in time for shit to really go to hell.
Nrama: As someone who has the ability to not only serve as a one-man wrecking crew, Bloodshot's ability to interface with nearly any type of technology and bend it to his use seems to make him a particularly integral role to the success of the Valiant heroes considering the hunters' reliance on technology. How do you see him fitting into this grand narrative in that regard?
Harris: Well, when the facility is attacked, his ability to interface with the base’s various systems definitely comes in handy. We'll see him try to use his abilities to keep the perimeter sealed and make it difficult for Malgam to escape even though no one could anticipate what's coming for him in the first wave, let alone a second wave. And things quickly escalate beyond Bloodshot’s experience.
Nrama: Since the XO Armor is now being seen as a sort of techno-virus, do you think Bloodshot may hold the keys to saving Malgam, Aric and the rest of the characters from further infection?
Harris: Stay tuned! That's my diplomatic answer on that! [laughter]
Nrama: Rob, what about the revelation of the X-O Armor being a sort of techno-virus?
Venditti: It's huge. It's a big piece and its new continuity. This isn't something that goes back. These are all concepts that we've been working on for quite a while, but it's a part of the new version of the XO Manowar armor. It's something we've been working toward for a very long time. The whole series, up until now, has been about everybody wanting the armor. Aric wanted the armor, The Vine wanted the armor, Harada wanted the armor, Unity wanted the armor – everybody's fighting over the armor. Whoever has the armor is in the best possible place. This revelation is going to mean that whoever has the armor is in the worst possible place. It's really going to flip a lot of things on their heads. It's a risky story, and we're definitely pushing ourselves not just in terms of the story itself but also with the continuity and mythology that surrounds the armor.
But again, it's something we've been working on for a really long time, and Armor Hunters #2 is when it's going to get out there!
Nrama: Joe, looking back to Bloodshot, we see he's a loner… so why does he go corporate?
Harris: I can't speak, with regards to Unity, and why he's been brought in by Livewire to join that team. But in Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #1, we play out this scene in the jungle where you see some of what Bloodshot's been up to in the recent past – after the events of the current series and prior to the events happening in the runup to “Armor Hunters. He kind of steps in a lot of shit. He experiences a lot of tragedy. He’s a loner, yes, but I don't think he really wants to be alone. I don't think anyone does. He soon finds himself, particularly with Colonel Capshaw, in this sort of brothers-in-arms situation where they don't necessarily like or trust one another, but they find themselves back to back as the walls are closing in. And I think most people who work with Bloodshot agree they'd rather have him on their side than not.
Nrama: Shifting gears a bit, I'd like to talk a little about your other collaborators involved in Armor Hunters. What do your artists bring to the table as storytellers? How are they capitalizing on these stories?
Harris: I think the biggest thing that Trevor [Hairsine] brings is this energy, this "kineticism." It's very much what I scripted and very much what I had in mind, with this added dimension, this urgency that his pencils really add. It's just crackling! Those are the adjectives that best describe my reaction when I get these pages, and I'm not just bullshitting. Together with Dave Baron's colors, it all adds up to an incredibly gratifying collaboration.
Venditti: If I can just say something here, all of us writers, we're reading each other's scripts to make sure we're tracking each other to ensure continuity across all of the other books. So I read Joe's Bloodshot scripts, and I gotta say that I've read a lot of scripts over the years. Even talking about my own, they tend to be pretty dry documents. Now, Joe, you were talking about this "kineticism," and that really comes across in your script. It's very, very rare, and I don't know that I've seen it until I read your scripts. I don't know if Josh told you this – he's the editor of the book – but your voice is totally in the script. It was a really exciting, gripping thing to read even though a comic book script is not the most gripping art form or reading experience. I think my scripts are very dry and detail-oriented, but when reading yours, I felt that "kineticism" and it definitely comes across in the art as well.
Harris: Thanks, man!
Venditti: For Doug, he has this level of detail that he brings to the art that is just extraordinary. The angles he chooses, the emotions he's able to wring out of the characters, it really is a visceral experience. You feel like you're in the story when you're looking at his art. It's just not an easy gig, you know? You've got all of these alien races, all of these concepts, characters, and locations. You're in space, you're in Nebraska, you're in MERO. Then, in Armor Hunters #2, we're going to see a lot of other things, and it's going to get even more complicated as it goes. The set pieces get even bigger and the locations get grander. And Doug's able to bring it all to the page in such a way that, as I said, you just feel like you're there. That's the stuff that I really enjoy when I see his pencils come through.
Now Diego, he has a real talent for action and a great design sense. We've really asked him to think outside the box just in terms of what we've done with X-O Manowar up to now. Really, what I'd say what's been done with Valiant Universe historically and going back to the original Valiant Universe, there's never been these sorts of cosmic stories with all these aliens and all these foreign worlds, and these kinds of things. But that's what Diego's been drawing for these -XO Manowar tie-in story arcs as we go back and look at the origins of the hunters and see where they started out, what their past is and what their mission is. To be able to do that for 22 pages a month at that level of complexity with that level of design that you've got to bring to it is extraordinary. He's just really doing a great job with it.
Armor Hunters #2 is in stores now, while Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #1 can be purchased on July 23rd with both issues being available at local retail shops or through Comixology. And stay tuned in the coming weeks for our next discussion with head writer, Robert Venditti, and still other members of Valiant's creative team.