Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Fred Van Lente

4LN Interview with Fred Van Lente, author of Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery

Fred Van Lente is one of those writers that has me hooked.  Up till now, Mr. Van Lente has been churning out top-notch comics with Marvel, Valiant, Dark Horse, and IDW.  You might remember that we interviewed him awhile back about his work with Valiant. Now Mr. Van Lente is switching gears with his upcoming debut novel Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery. After reading a review copy, I reached out to Fred (editor: did you ask if you could call him Fred?) to see if he’d be willing to spend some of his increasingly rare spare time chatting with us about his new book.  Spoiler: he agreed.

4LN: Some of our readers may remember that we had a chance to speak with you in February 2015, what have you been up to between now and then?

FVL: Well, quite a lot. Many, many comics, like Deadpool vs the Punisher, Weird Detective and Comic Book History of Comics, and a few other projects, but I have to admit what I’ve been most excited about is my first novel coming out, Ten Dead Comedians, which I stated around November 2015, not so long after we last spoke, and is at long last coming out July 11th!

Digging into your new book, what is it about And Then There Were None that drew you in? Is there something special about that particular story, or the golden era of mystery for you?

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is a classic of the genre — it’s not just one of the bestselling mysteries, it’s one of the bestselling books, period, of all times. There’s something so elemental about the concept — a bunch of people trapped in a place, being knocked off one by one, with one of the potential victims themselves the likely killer. I had read that Christie thought of the idea years before she wrote the book because she couldn’t believe she was the first person to try it. She was, and justly reaped the rewards of her originality.

What made you decide to tell a classic mystery story using Comedians of all makes and models? (Genre mashup)

I’ve made genre mashup something of a specialty in my career, from Cowboys & Aliens (Western/sci-fi) to Incredible Hercules (Greek mythology/superhero) and more recently in books like Weird Detective, which combines the Cthulhu Mythos with a police procedural. So even though this is in the prose format it something that comes very naturally to me.
But you know combining comedy and mystery seems so simple, because so much of the language of comedy is about violence — you “die” on stage or you “slaughter” audience, if you did great you “killed,” if you do badly you “bombed.” So the idea of combining Last Comic Standing with basic set-up of And Then There Were None almost seems like a no-brainer.

Comedy obviously plays a big part of the novel, as you even go so far as to include a comedy routine for every comedian, each with their own style. What kind of work goes into ten unique routines, each in a different voice?

It was not easy, to be honest with you. When I first started writing the book I resisted doing the monologues because I knew doing ten of them in such distinctive voices would be a bitch. But then I a) realized how I could slip clues to the mystery into each and every one and b) uh, I would probably not hit my contractually-mandated word count if I didn’t add them, so, my choice was clear! It was very hard, although I am such a huge comedy nerd I had voices for all of them in my head kind of to begin with, but it was hugely satisfying and it’s one of the things folks say they like the most about the book, so clearly it was the right decision.

When I first started reading Ten Dead Comedians, I thought I could pick out specific real life comedians that inspired your characters, but as the story developed I realized that none of them quite fit. How did you go about developing your ten comedians that might or might not be dead soon?

I mean, there are certainly various archetypes the comics represent — Las Vegas lounge comic, late-night host, “blue collar” comic and so on — but, you know, I am killing (most of? All? Read and find out) these characters in spectacularly gory ways, and I’m not a monster. I don’t want any real people dead. Also, it’s not very interesting to me as a writer to just try and copy somebody else’s schtick completely. So everyone is a gumbo, a mixture of various actual comics. So the insult comic is really a blend of Joan Rivers and Don Rickles. There’s bits and pieces of Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman and various other “observational” comics in Zoe Schwartz. My wife nearly worked for Blue Man Group at one point so our “Orange Baby Man” is sort of a combo of their philosophy with a prop comic like Gallagher or Carrottop, and so on.

Is it difficult to make the jump from comics to novels? Are there any big differences between the two writing styles.

Sure. I mean, in comics scripting you’re creating a blueprint for another person to follow. But in prose you’re the whole show. There’s no other collaborators to lean on. I’ve been writing prose on and off since I was a high schooler, though, so it’s not like I was a complete neophyte. I’m one of those cliche writers who has a bunch of novels collecting dust in drawer. So to have the first one be published is indescribably exciting.

Was there anything from the comic world that possibly helped you with the writing process?

The comics world is a monthly grind, which translates to a daily, weekly grind on the creative team. The constant deadlines really builds discipline, which is helpful when you’re writing a 70- or 80,000 word novel spread out over many months. It lets you pace yourself properly.

Whenever you’re in a writing slump, do you have a method you use to motivate yourself to get back at it?

Yes: Write. It is the only method. Allow yourself to be in a slump and write shittily. You can always redraft it later. But the only way to get past writer’s block is to write around it.

Lastly, do you have any other big plans on the horizon that we should be on the lookout for?

I am excited to beginning my second novel, The Con Artist, a mystery novel set during the San Diego Comic Con, out next year. And I’m also co-writing a thing with my old pal Greg Pak, can’t wait to see that announced. For the summer I’m doing a lot of promotions for Ten Dead so maybe I’ll take a break afterwards? Ah, who am I kidding, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself…

Summary from Quirk Books:

Fred Van Lente’s brilliant debut is both an homage to the Golden Age of Mystery and a thoroughly contemporary show-business satire. As the story opens, nine comedians of various acclaim are summoned to the island retreat of legendary Hollywood funnyman Dustin Walker. The group includes a former late-night TV host, a washed-up improv instructor, a ridiculously wealthy “blue collar” comic, and a past-her-prime Vegas icon. All nine arrive via boat to find that every building on the island is completely deserted. Marooned without cell phone service or wifi signals, they soon find themselves being murdered one by one. But who is doing the killing, and why?

A darkly clever take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and other classics of the genre, Ten Dead Comedians is a marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect. It’s also an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming!

4LN Comic Review – 4001 A.D.: War Mother #1

Series: 4001 A.D.
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Tomás Giorello
Colors by Brian Reber
Publiher: Valiant Comics

Summary from Comixology: “Witness the battle-scarred debut of Valiant’s top-secret new hero! As the war for 4001 A.D. rages, the coming of War Mother starts now in all-new standalone adventure torn from the pages of the summer’s biggest comics event! In the 41st century, much of the planet has been reduced to a barren wasteland. New Japan orbits the Earth as a floating oasis that towers over the ashes of the old world. The survivors of this desolate new age, robbed of the planet’s once-lush natural resources, must endure great hardships to survive. Amidst the devastation, one outpost of scientific knowledge has thrived by adhering to a strict code of isolation. But even the denizens of this walled city must venture out into the wasteland to gather supplies from the remnants of what was. This task is designated to one and one alone: War Mother. But all is not peaceful, even in New Japan. When the space-faring empire begins jettisoning city-sized sectors to Earth during the onset of a civil war, War Mother is called upon with a new mission: mega-salvage! Armed with a newly born sentient sniper rifle, War Mother is a one-woman army bent on sacking the crash-landed sector’s technology-laden debris for anything of value to her tribe. But, as calm turns to chaos, Sector 8146 will reveal a telling secret about Earth’s true order that will collide War Mother against her community, her code, and her calling?and bring destruction down upon one of humanity’s last surviving outposts of order. Out of the ashes of the summer’s most ambitious crossover event, New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (GENERATION ZERO) and spectacular rising star Tomas Giorello (Conan) introduce the Valiant Universe to the boldest new hero of this century or the next when War Mother makes her history-shattering debut!”

4001 A.D.: War Mother #1

Cover A by DAVID MACK

Of all the 4001 A.D. one-shots, I anticipated this one the most. Well, maybe it was a tie between this and Shadowman, but nonetheless I have been eagerly awaiting the release of War Mother. There’s just something about a strong female character who kicks ass and vanquishes her foes. I don’t know how to explain it, or why it captivates me so much. It just does.

I love that the title is War MOTHER, and not something obvious and cheesy like, Lady Murder, or Death Queen, or Warrioress. (Yes, Autocorrect, you’re right. That isn’t a word.) I appreciate Valiant having the foresight and intuition to let the characters banner reflect the most powerful thing about women, which is their ability to give life. I mean, they’re f***ing superheroes for Chrissake. (No, Autocorrect, you’re wrong. That is a word, and I googled it to be sure.) Women grow humans inside of their body and then birth them. I’ve watched my own wife go through it three times and it is by far the most incredible human attribute and we dudes just sit there like, “Uh, I… I can pee standing up…?” The idea of a War Mother, a woman built and designed to birth war, or at the very least be the sole protector of an entire city, is deeply and profoundly satisfying.

Cover B by JELENA KEVIC DJURDJEVIC

War Mother feels like a flawlessly original character influenced by some iconic classic characters. I’d say there’s a little bit of Frank Castle in there, crossed with some Furiosa, and even a little of Valiant’s own Eternal Warrior. But I noticed a little Ghost Rider maybe too. That sounds like a stretch, right? I’ll explain. So, War Mother’s “sentient sniper rifle”, which she calls FLACO, is fully brought to life when she partners it with her targeting interface, which a small device that looks similar to an iPhone. When that is locked into the rifle it becomes aware and she can communicate with it. One of the things I love about the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance film is when Johnny uses the spirit to take over a giant mining machine and proceeds to lay waste to all the guys attacking him. I like the idea of him being able to utilize the spirit to take control of any vehicle, not just a motorcycle. I see the same possibilities here with War Mother. You could put a bazooka in her hands, or a drop her in a big-ass tank and she could turn all her ensuing enemies to ash.

I’ll say this though, I look forward to more from this character because I’d really love a story-arc where she has to manage a tough situation without Flaco or her targeting interface. I know I’m getting WAY ahead of myself here, but I just thing it would be exciting to see how she handles things without those two at her behest.

 

Cover C by CARY NORD

The artwork of War Mother is handled by Tomás Giorello, who’s previously done work on Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, and the Star Wars comics from Dark Horse. He’s also done covers for Bloodshot Reborn and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, so some of you Valiant fans may recognize his work from that. I really love his style. It seems like it’s got a little John Romita Jr. influence to it, but it doesn’t feel blocky like JRR’s form does. There are some absolutely beautiful panels, one in particular where this huge, underground dwelling creature comes erupting from the dirt to attack War Mother, where Giorello’s detailed line-work is perfectly accentuated by Brian Reber’s colors and the whole page feels like it’s jumping out at you. It makes you hope to see more from this team in the future.

Character Design Variant by ANDRES GUINALDO

If you haven’t been reading Valiant’s 4001 A.D. event, then I strongly urge you to head down to your local comic shop and pick up all the issues, but even if you don’t read it, you can still read this story and not be lost. There’s enough of a recap to let you know what’s going on so that you don’t feel lost. The story is self-contained as much as it can be, and even leaves some mystery in the past so that not only could we get some great ongoing stories from War Mother, but Valiant has left themselves room to explore her origins as well.

Do yourself a favor a pick up this comic. Fred Van Lente nails the story and the tone, and the art team of Giorello and Reber paint a gorgeous scenery and cast of characters. 4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 hits comic shops tomorrow, or you can click the link at the top of the page to get it digitally from Comixology.

 

Music Pairing –

I recommend pairing Danish black metal songstress Myrkur with War Mother #1. Her music makes for a fantastic soundtrack to the story.

 

The Valiant Summit 2016

From Valiant Comics:

As revealed today during the #ValiantSummit 2016 event live from New York City’s renowned UCB Theatre, Valiant Entertainment is proud to announce “THE FUTURE OF VALIANT” – an all-new wave of ongoing series, prestige format projects and standalone events from a star-studded roster of some of comics’ most visionary talents. Beginning in July with the first, much-demanded ongoing series for the breakout hero of the year, FAITH, “THE FUTURE OF VALIANT” will extend throughout 2016 with a total of seven epic series – each introducing an innovative array of new concepts and characters…and firmly establishing Valiant’s place as the premier publisher of creative storytelling in comics today:
  • FAITH #1 by Jody Houser, Pere Perez & Marguerite Sauvage in July
  • GENERATION ZERO #1 by Fred Van Lente & Francis Portela in August
  • BRITANNIA #1 (of 4) by Peter Milligan & Juan Jose Ryp in September
  • BLOODSHOT U.S.A. #1 (of 4) by Jeff Lemire & Doug Braithwaite in October
  • HARBINGER RENEGADES #1 by Rafer Roberts & Darick Roberston in November
  • SAVAGE #1 (of 4) by B. Clay Moore, Clayton Henry & Lewis LaRosa in November
  • DIVINITY III: STALINVERSE #1 (of 4) by Matt Kindt & Trevor Hairsine in December

“With ‘THE FUTURE OF VALIANT,’ Valiant is entering an ambitious new phase – one that will challenge not only the size and scale of the stories we choose to tell, but even the very notion of what a Valiant comic can be,” said Valiant CEO & Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani. “In just a short time, Valiant has established itself as the industry’s best reviewed publisher and a creative force to be reckoned with. Now, with ‘THE FUTURE OF VALIANT,’ we’re taking the mission of creating the best comics possible even further, and expanding with astonishing new concepts, a bold line-up of new characters, and one of the most talented rosters of creative talent working anywhere today.”

“Within the past year alone, Valiant has made unprecedented strides by bringing some of comics’ most celebrated characters to the fore. But DIVINITY and FAITH were just the first salvos,” said Valiant Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons. “In ‘THE FUTURE OF VALIANT,’ we’re about to witness the next great Valiant heroes of tomorrow come roaring out of the gate with GENERATION ZERO, BRITANNIA, and SAVAGE. And we haven’t even revealed the full extent of what’s coming for BLOODSHOT U.S.A. and HARBINGER RENEGADES, let alone the universe of new ideas that is DIVINITY III: STALINVERSE… For new fans or old, this is a phenomenal time to find out why Valiant has succeeded in building the most acclaimed and accessible line of comics on the shelves.”

Rewatch all of “THE FUTURE OF VALIANT” announcements on Twitch HERE with an exclusive live stream of today’s #ValiantSummit 2016 event, or find complete details on each series individually below:

FAITH #1
Written by JODY HOUSER
Art by PERE PEREZ and MARGUERITE SAUVAGE
Cover by KEVIN WADA
ONGOING SERIES | BEGINNING JULY 2016

AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES! The high-flying hero that captured the imagination of the world is back with a colossal new comics milestone!In a city under siege by robots, aliens, monsters and even worse… celebrities, there is only one woman the people of Los Angeles can count on: the stratospheric superhero called Faith! Aspiring reporter by day and dedicated crime-fighter by night, Faith has tackled every obstacle in her path with confidence – like those crushing deadlines at work, the long-distance boyfriend half a world away, and the missing back issues that plague her comics collection! But, unbeknownst to her, Faith is about to collide with the one force she never saw coming: an up-and-coming super-villain bent on snuffing her out once and for all! But who is lurking behind the mask of her new foe…and could they just be the one person capable of rendering Faith powerless?

Jump on board now to find out why Valiant’s one-of-a-kind hero is inspiring a whole new generation! Be here as FAITH moves from her sold-out mini-series…and into the history-making debut of her first-ever ongoing series!

GENERATION ZERO #1
Written by FRED VAN LENTE
Art by FRANCIS PORTELA
Cover by STEPHEN MOONEY
ONGOING SERIES | BEGINNING AUGUST 2016

Because you demanded it! Exploding out of the pages of HARBINGER WARS comes AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES starring GENERATION ZERO from New York Times best-selling writer Fred Van Lente (IVAR, TIMEWALKER) and blockbuster artist Francis Portela (FAITH)!If you have a problem… If your parents won’t help… And if your cause is worthy… Log onto network #ZERO…because Generation Zero is listening.

Years ago, the children of the experimental strike team known as Generation Zero were taken from their families by Project Rising Spirit, a private weapons contractor, and raised to be psychic soldiers. After years of taking orders, they have fought for and won their freedom. Now, the world’s most wanted teenagers have pledged to protect each other tooth and claw, while using their extraordinary abilities to right wrongs for a generation without a future… To fight for kids, just like them.

One of those kids is Keisha Sherman, whose boyfriend just turned up dead after a suspicious car crash in Rook, Michigan – a newly booming tech town that sprang from rags to super-riches seemingly overnight. When Keisha makes a desperate plea into her webcam, the local high school suddenly finds itself with several unusual new students… But as word of Generation Zero’s presence spreads rapidly through the halls, this volatile band of teenage upstarts is about to discover that they’re far from the most extraordinary thing lurking behind Rook’s stainless-steel facade..


BRITANNIA #1 (of 4)
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by JUAN JOSE RYP
Cover by CARY NORD
PRESTIGE FORMAT LIMITED SERIES | BEGINNING SEPTEMBER 2016

On the fringes of civilization, the world’s first detective is about to make an unholy discovery…Ruled by the Fates. Manipulated by the Gods. Commanded by Caesar. In the year 65 A.D., one’s destiny was not his own. At the height of Nero’s reign, a veteran of Rome’s imperial war machine has been dispatched to the farthest reaches of the colonies to investigate unnatural happenings… In the remote outpost of Britannia, Antonius Axia – the First Detective – will become Rome’s only hope to reassert control over the empire’s most barbaric frontier…and keep the monsters that bridge the line between myth and mystery at bay…

From comics mastermind Peter Milligan (X-Statix, Shade the Changing Man) and incendiary artist Juan Jose Ryp (NINJAK, Clone) comes a psychological journey into terror, temptation, and bloodshed – presented in an all-new prestige format limited series!

BLOODSHOT U.S.A. #1 (of 4)
Written by JEFF LEMIRE
Art by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Cover by KANO
STANDALONE EVENT SERIES | BEGINNING OCTOBER 2016

In Bloodshot we trust! Project Rising Spirit – America’s greatest exporter of classified weapons technology – has achieved a breakthrough: a contagious, airborne nanite dispersion prototype that can turn the population of any city into an army of indestructible soldiers. A doomsday virus capable of destroying an enemy nation from the inside out. A machine-made pathogen that can completely rewrite human physiology…and hardcode every man, woman, and child with the same cutting-edge technology that created their greatest weapon: Bloodshot.

But now…Project Rising Spirit’s top-secret contagion has been released onto the streets of America’s greatest metropolis: New York City. As mayhem engulfs Manhattan, Bloodshot must lead the most dangerous invasion ever waged on American soil and keep a runaway pandemic from toppling armies and governments…and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

In the tradition of THE VALIANT, the Big Apple turns blood red in pivotal new standalone comics event from New York Times best-selling writer Jeff Lemire (BLOODSHOT REBORN, Extraordinary X-Men) and superstar artist Doug Braithwaite (ARMOR HUNTERS, Justice)!

HARBINGER RENEGADES #1
Written by RAFER ROBERTS
Art & Cover by DARICK ROBERTSON
ONGOING SERIES | BEGINNING NOVEMBER 2016

Anyone you know could become a psionically powered “harbinger” with the potential to reshape the course of human history. Your neighbor. Your boss. Your best friend. Your kids. Six months ago, a secret team of renegade whistleblowers leaked the existence of these extraordinarily dangerous individuals to a stunned world. Today, all across the country, crude, DIY psiot activation attempts have left hundreds brain damaged…or worse. The emergence of a new psiot in a community often leads to riots and mass violence. Gun sales are through the roof.

America is terrified of what could happen next.

With this revolutionary upheaval now in motion, Kris Hathaway, John “Torque” Torkelson, Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, and Peter Stanchek are about to discover their calling. Together, the HARBINGER RENEGADES are moving from town to town, building their ranks, and subverting authority one mind at a time…and setting out to prove once and for all that behind their power, there has always been a purpose.

This November, the most fearless superteam in comics is going underground for AN ALL-NEW ONGOING SERIES from rising star Rafer Roberts (A&A: THE ADVENTURES OF ARCHER & ARMSTRONG) and superstar artist Darick Robertson (Happy!, The Boys)!

SAVAGE #1 (of 4)
Written by B. CLAY MOORE
Art by CLAYTON HENRY and LEWIS LAROSA
Cover by LEWIS LAROSA
PRESTIGE FORMAT LIMITED SERIES | BEGINNING NOVEMBER 2016

Fifteen years ago, the world’s most famous soccer star and his former supermodel wife – pregnant with their unborn child – disappeared without a trace. The world believes they are dead… But, in reality, their private jet crash-landed on a mysterious, unknown island ruled by by prehistoric creatures from another time…This is the story of how they lost their humanity.

This November, acclaimed writer B. Clay Moore (Hawaiian Dick) and explosive artists Clayton Henry (HARBINGER WARS) and Lewis LaRosa (BLOODSHOT REBORN) present a relentless epic of survival in a cold-blooded land ruled by instinct alone as SAVAGE makes his brutal entrance into the Valiant Universe!


DIVINITY III: STALINVERSE #1 (of 4)
Written by MATT KINDT
Art by TREVOR HAIRSINE
Cover by JELENA KEVIC-DJURDJEVIC
PRESTIGE FORMAT LIMITED SERIES | BEGINNING DECEMBER 2016
Earth has a new god. The world you know is gone. Welcome to the Stalinverse, comrade.
So there you have it folks! All the great new Valiant series’ to get excited about through the end of the year and beyond! Most of these series were teased in the Valiant 2016 Free Comic Book Day preview comic, but there are two significant absences… Psi-Lords, and Shadowman. Both were also teased with full page ads in the FCBD issue but were not mentioned during the summit so I guess we’ll just have to keep a lookout for info on those in the future. There’s still much to be enthused about with what was announced though, so let us know in the comments below which newly announced Valiant series you’re most excited about! ¡Viva la Valiant!

Valiant’s “Legends of the Geomancer” – Review/Synopsis

Valiant’s Book of Death event is off to an excellent start.  The first two releases, Book of Death #1 and Fall of Bloodshot #1, were both fantastic issues and really set the bar high for the event overall.  One of the more controversial aspects of this event, though, has been the inclusion of the four issue mini-series Legends of the Geomancer.  This book is a 1:25 issue, meaning a comic shop had to order 25 issues of Book of Death #1 to receive one issue of Legends of the Geomancer #1.

BOD-GEOMANCER_001_COVER-SAUVAGE

Legends of the Geomancer offers fans a glimpse into the origins of the Geomancers, who are pivotal to the Valiant universe, especially in The Valiant and Book of Death.  Unfortunately, due to the limited printing of this book some fans might have a difficult time tracking one down.  For that reason we decided to wait a little while to launch our review of the first issue so we could also include a spoiler-filled synopsis for those of you who haven’t been able to locate a copy or didn’t want to pay the $30 price tag most sellers were asking, but still want to know about how the Geomancers came to be.

I really enjoyed this book.  Fred Van Lente is a great writer.  His work on Valiant’s Ivar, Timewalker is both intelligent and accessible.  Unlike some writers out there, he is able to write an incredibly complex story, while also dumbing it down enough for us plebeians to understand.  Legends of the Geomancer is rather simple when compared to the mind-bending adventures of Archer & Armstrong or Ivar, Timewalker, but that’s what the story calls for – so far, at least.  Juan José Ryp’s art is unique and has this raw simplicity to it that lends itself nicely to Van Lente’s story.  The characters are well designed and the set pieces are pretty incredible.  Ryp does a great job making the world feel ancient, lived in, and dirty.

Synopsis (Spoilers!)

The book opens in ancient times with a wide shot of a nomadic tribe traveling across a dusty tundra.  In the middle of the pack a wild boar leads a bound woman with blue and white hair.  As they come to the edge of a village, the tribal chief’s herald announces the arrival of Nergal, the Noon-King.  If they wish to survive, the village must pay tribute or be slaughtered by the tribe of Nergal.

Once the tribe enters the village they discover that the Earth has risen up against the villagers and enveloped them with roots, turning them into some sort of zombie trees.  When they approach, roots shoot from the tree-zombies (trombies?) and begin wrapping around the terrified tribesmen.  The trombies are only stopped when the tribe uses fired to burn the village to the ground.  A member of the tribe blames the captured woman for turning the Earth against them and tries to attack her before being killed by Nergal, who’s herald reminds his tribe that she is to be sacrificed to the gods at the temple.

As they settle down for camp, a member of the tribe leave the fire and brings the woman, who used to be the shaman for the tribe, food.  He thanks her for comforting his mother when she was sick.  She tries to convince him to give her a weapon, but he is told to quit fraternizing by the herald who calls him Padda.  Upon hearing his name the shaman introduces herself as Anni (will we finally learn the origins of the Anni-Padda brothers: Ivar, Armstrong, and Gilad?).

In the morning, the tribe begins ascending to the temple on the cliffs above.  While climbing they are set upon by teratorns (think giant crows).  The teratorns rarely work together, but have united against the tribe.  The members of the tribe that weren’t hurled off the mountain to a horrible, rocky death, finally arrive at the temple.

As Anni’s head is placed on the stone table by the executioner she begins telling him that she sees his wife on the dead-side, and the Nergal seized her before she could lead her though to bliss.  He raises the axe, but instead of beheading her he cuts the rope that bind her hands and asks her to send his wife a guide through the dead-side.  She promptly sends the wife a guide by kicking the would-be executioner off the cliff.  The issue ends with Anni, quite possibly the first of the Geomancers, jumping at the tribesmen with the executioner’s axe held high.

Like I said earlier, I really enjoyed this book.  The creative team create a simple, well-told story, and it feels like they are setting up an extremely interesting story about some of Valiant’s most enigmatic characters.  That being said, since this book is so rare and is going for around $30 for a relatively short story, the book might feel a little anti-climactic.  Ultimately, I am happy my local comic shop ordered enough copies of Book of Death for me to get a surprise issue in my subscription box (I am one of the few Valiant readers at my shop so they saved me a copy).

BOD-GEOMANCER_001_001 BOD-GEOMANCER_001_002 BOD-GEOMANCER_001_003 BOD-GEOMANCER_001_004 BOD-GEOMANCER_001_005 BOD-GEOMANCER_001_006 BOD-GEOMANCER_001_007

Timewalking with Valiant: an Interview with Fred Van Lente + a Preview of Ivar, Timewalker #2

Over the last month or so, I have been catching up (see: binge-reading) the Valiant Entertainment catalog.  One of my favorite books so far has definitely been Archer & Armstrong, written by Fred Van Lente.  It’s a great 25 issue run that is both entertaining and hilarious.  Last month, Ivar, Timewalker #1 (also written by Van Lente) hit the stands, and it was absolutely terrific (you can read our review of it here).  We caught up with Fred Van Lente to talk about how he got into the business, his work on Archer & Armstrong and Ivar, Timewalker, and more.

FVL_high_line-lores

4LN: To help our readers get better acquainted with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got started in the comic industry, and, more specifically, how you got started with Valiant Entertainment?

Fred Van Lente: I went to college (Syracuse University) for screenwriting and filmmaking, and ended up hanging out with the guys who were studying illustration and comic book creation instead. It didn’t take me long to figure out moviemaking wasn’t for me — all I cared about was the story. I kept creating comics with them, and when they moved out to New York City to break into the industry, I went with them. Eventually, a comic I did with my SU buddy Steve Ellis, THE SILENCERS, got noticed by Marvel, and worked for them for many years.  One of the books I was known for at Marvel was the buddy book INCREDIBLE HERCULES, which I did with Greg Pak. Because of that, Valiant approached me to see if I would write the revived ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, and we made a pretty good fit!

4LN: When working on a series like Archer & Armstrong or Ivar, Timewalker how do you balance the material from the original Valiant titles with where you want to go with the new series?

FVL: Well, the folks in the current incarnation of Valiant want everything to be accessible and as welcoming to new readers as possible. That said, I do like throwing in little easter eggs. The ninja nuns in Archer & Armstrong were in the original (though there they were men) and so were the Archies, the cult from the future that revolves around Archer. There was a character in the original Timewalker that inspired our Neela Sethi, the second main character in the series, but I can’t get into too much detail there without getting spoilery…

4LN: Armstrong seems to be a man with very famous friends. How did you decide which historical figures fit into your narrative, and how do you prepare for writing in all the different time periods? Did your work on Action Philosophers help?

FVL: Sure, Action Philosophers is probably one of the things I’m best known for, and I kind of have used it as a touchstone ever since. I made early on the decision that Armstrong was a big poetry fan, that he liked to hang out with artists and poets. He’s not really a fighter, despite of his strength. I was also inspired by this Carl Sandburg poem he quotes in #1, I saw that on a wall in the British Museum early on, I found it really inspiring.     

4LN: Ninja Nuns, Aliens, Dinosaurs, Himalayan Nazi Monks, Jim Morrison and the Church of Retrology, Time-Travel – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of things off the table as far as topics go. What’s it like writing a story with so many adventurous possibilities, and what can we expect to see in the future?

FVL: It’s been pretty awesome. The guys at Valiant really like this one character — or…race? of characters — you’re about to meet in Ivar, Timewalker #2, the Lurkers. I won’t give anything away, but it was definitely a case of a character just having a walk-on appearance and then becoming a staple of the storyline.

Also, Ivar is still pals with Amelia Earhart back in his Archer & Armstrong days, you might see her too.

4LN: In the first issue of your newest title, Ivar, Timewalker, you tackle several common time-traveling tropes (time paradoxes, butterfly effect, the necessity of not running into oneself in the future/past etc.) and throw them out the window. Are you telling the reader that the old rules don’t apply here? 

FVL: Well, there’s one very simple rule — Hawking’s Chronological Protection Conjecture, which says the rules of the universe are set up in such a way to prevent temporal tampering.  Unless, of course, one of our characters figures out a workaround…

4LN: Another 4LN writer, Stephen, and I like to “fancast” the Valiant characters. There was a panel in the early issues of Archer & Armstong, where Armstrong totally reminded me of Porthos (Oliver Platt) from the 1993 Three Musketeers. Are there any actors you would like to see portray Ivar, Archer, Armstrong, and Gilad?

FVL: Well, Ivar was first introduced in the Three Musketeers issue of the original series (#8), so that’s especially appropriate. Platt’s too old to play Armstrong now, alas, I was thinking Nick Frost, Seth Rogan or even Jack Black. For Archer I always said that kid who played King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, but apparently he’s retired from acting? Gilad and Ivar are good square-jawed types, a bunch of people could be good for them. Chris Evans for Ivar, Chris Pratt for Gilad? Vice-versa? Those two seem to be having fun palling around lately.

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We’d like to thank Fred Van Lente for taking the time out of his day to talk comics with us.   Check out this preview of Ivar, Timewalker #2 below!

You can follow him on Twitter here.

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First Look: The Clock is Ticking in IVAR, TIMEWALKER #2 – Coming in February!

Last Wednesday the time-traveling adventure Ivar, Timewalker hit the comic stands.  I thought the comic was a terrific first issue (read the review here), and have been excited to see where the series is going to go (besides just onto my pull list).  In lieu of actually time-traveling to February 18 when Ivar, Timewalker #2 releases, Valiant was kind enough to provide us with the following preview!  #LetsKillHitler

Valiant is proud to present your first look inside IVAR, TIMEWALKER #2 – the second clock-stopping chapter of the new smash-hit ongoing series from VALIANT NEXT! From the award-winning team that brought you ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, New York Times best-selling creators Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry take their centuries-spanning trek through time to the next level right here on February 18th!

At this very moment in Geneva, Switzerland, history is about to be made. A thousand meters underground inside the Large Hadron Collider, researcher Neela Sethi is seconds away from discovering time travel – and is about to jeopardize her life in the process. But she doesn’t know that yet. One minute from now, every deadbeat chrononaut, wannabe conqueror, and misguided protector of the time stream will be banging down her door. Good thing that the legendary Ivar, Timewalker, got there first…right? Now it’s down to history’s most jaded, most tempestuous time traveler to stop the worst of everything that is, was, and will be…before time runs out!

On February 18th, Ivar and Neela jump from the dawn of life itself to the heated heights of World War II, only in IVAR, TIMEWALKER #2 from all-star creators Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry! Jump on board here to find out why IVAR, TIMEWALKER is one of the most acclaimed series debuts of the new year:

“This long-overdue series is Ivar’s time to shine, and thanks to the team of writer Fred Van Lente and artist Clayton Henry, he really does.” – Wired

✮✮✮✮✮…[With] just one issue IVAR, TIMEWALKER has earned must-read status… I implore you to check this book out.” – Comic Bastards

“✮✮✮✮¾…Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry have hit a home run… IVAR, TIMEWALKER is a book you cannot miss.” – Geeked Out Nation

“✮✮✮✮½…Congratulations, Ivar, Timewalker. You just made my pull list.” – Nerds Unchained

“✮✮✮✮½…Compelling storytelling worth reading… Fred Van Lente really is creating some amazing excitement here and it’s only the first issue!” – Bloody Disgusting

“✮✮✮✮¼…It’s a whole new part of the Valiant world, and boy, is it fun… Van Lente and Henry are an all-star team that Valiant can’t miss with…” – Comicosity

“✮✮✮✮…A fun romp through time…[and] another very enjoyable debut from Valiant Entertainment.” – ComicBook.com

Plus: don’t miss each essential new series from VALIANT NEXT! Beginning with THE VALIANT #1 (of 4) by superstar creators Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, and Paolo Rivera in December, VALIANT NEXT continues with five blockbuster new series, starring Valiant’s biggest, most-demanded heroes alongside all-new, never-before-seen characters, throughout 2015:

IVAR, TIMEWALKER #2 by Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry in February
DIVINITY #1 (of 4) by Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine in February
IMPERIUM #1 by Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite in February
THE VALIANT #3 (of 4) by Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera in February
NINJAK #1 by Matt Kindt, Clay Mann and Butch Guice in March
BLOODSHOT REBORN #1 by Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan in April

For more information, visit Valiant online at Facebook.com/ValiantComics, Twitter.com/ValiantComics, and ValiantUniverse.com.

For Valiant merchandise and more, visit ValiantStore.com.

IVAR, TIMEWALKER #2 [VALIANT NEXT]
Written by FRED VAN LENTE
Art by CLAYTON HENRY
Cover A by RAUL ALLEN
Cover B by BRIAN LEVEL
Variant Cover by PERE PEREZ
Variant Cover by RAMON VILLALOBOS
$3.99 US | T+ | 32 pgs. | On sale 2/18/15 (FOC 1/2/15)

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4LN Comic Review: Ivar, Timewalker #1

Series: Ivar, Timewalker
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Art: Clayton Henry
Publisher: Valiant

Summary from Comixology: “From the New York Times best-selling team of Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry comes a centuries-spanning race against the clock, straight out of the pages of ARCHER & ARMSTRONG!

Prehistoric empires! Dystopian futures! And everywhere in between! The past, present, and future of our universe are about to meet an untimely end, and only the mysterious Ivar Anni-Padda can prevent all three from collapsing in on themselves. Unstuck in time, and pursued by enemies simultaneously across every moment of his time-lost life, can the man called Timewalker save everything that ever was, is, and will be? Get ready for a clock-stopping odyssey into the distant past and far future as the most unlikely Valiant hero of all leaps into his first history-ripping adventure!”

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Overview –

I have been adding as much Valiant to my long box over the last few weeks as my finances have allowed and I’ve really been enjoying the adventure.   When I heard another Anni-Padda was getting a reboot as a part of the Valiant Next event, I was excited to add it to my pull list.  This book features Ivar Anni-Padda, brother of Gilad the Eternal Warrior, as a time-traveling (anti?)hero that arrives just in time to save the future inventor of time-travel from time-traveling killer robots.  How is that for a killer setup?

Highs –

I was very impressed with this book.  It’s a perfect blend of swashbuckling adventure (in one case literally) and time-traveling romp, with just a pinch of murderous sci-fi robots thrown in for good measure.  Fred Van Lente writes a fun story and does a great job making it intriguing without making it feel like another Dr. Who (Whovians might disagree, but alas, I am not a card carrying member).  It also ends with an M. Night Shyamalan like twist (in his heyday) that had some gravitas to it, which is all the more impressive considering it was the very first issue.

This book also wisely sported a character redesign by Clayton Henry.  In the 90’s Ivar wore a trench coat and sported a sweet pony-tail that would have looked decidedly dated in a modern book.  Henry’s art really shines when it comes to the plethora of set-pieces seen throughout.  The nature of the book necessitates many different time periods be represented, and Henry makes it look easy.

Lows –

Maybe I am just not a good critic, or I just stumble into great reads, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with this one.  The creative team did a tremendous job on this issue, and I am looking forward to see where the story goes from here.

"Come with me if you want to live."

“Come with me if you want to live.”

The Final Say –

Valiant is still in the process of rebooting their franchise after the company was resuscitated by a young team of entrepreneurs, but they are building a damn legacy.  It seems like everything they are putting out right now is top notch, and this book is no exception.  The creative team is great, and the story already looks like it will be a fun ride.  This book is an easy 5 out of 5, and I am already looking forward to the next issue.