It’s going to be a bad summer for the heroes of the Valiant universe. In the publisher’s new event Book of Death, a mysterious villain wants to destroy the world — and according to the future, he’s already won. We have the exclusive reveal of the mastermind, an interview with the creators, and a special preview of Book of Death #1, too!
First, let me set the stage: Gilad Anni-Padda is the Eternal Warrior, the immortal guardian of the Geomancer, a powerful, lineage of protectors and speakers for the Earth (not unlike Avatar: The Last Airbender). When the current Geomancer dies, a new one named Tama from the future is sent to the present in order to prevent an oncoming dark age. As proof, Tama brings the Book of the Geomancer with her, which tells the world’s future history — including exactly when most of Valiant’s superheroes will die.
The person responsible for the new dark age won’t be officially revealed until Book of Death #3, but we have the answer for you now: classic Valiant villain Master Darque, a necromancer who started life as a Shadowman villain but became Valiant’s version of Dr. Doom in the publisher’s ‘90s incarnation — and he’s about to do the same in 2015.
Darque has grabbed the present-day person who was supposed to be the Geomancer before Tama’s arrival, twisted both his powers and his mind, and is using him to destroy the Valiant universe. And according to the Book of the Geomancer, he’s already won.
So without further ado, here’s an exclusive look at Book of Death #1, due out on July 15th — followed by a few of the issue’s variant covers, too!
Variant covers by Robert Gill, Cary Nord, Clayton Crain, and Stephen Segovia, respectively.
We talked to writer Robert Venditti and Valiant editor-in-chief Warren Simons to get the scoop on the Book of Death series and Master Darque’s master plan.
io9: Darque hasn’t been seen for a while, and so far has been exclusively Shadowman’s foe. What gets him to start taking on the wider Valiant universe?
Robert Venditti: As Darque continues to master the arcane arts, new avenues of magic are opened to him. Up to now, he’s been dealing with Shadowman primarily because that was the specific sphere of magic that Darque was operating in. But as old and experienced as he is, he’s a child when compared to the secrets that a Geomancer holds. Geomancers are masters of a completely different sphere of mystical arts — they’re the eyes and ears of Earth, and their powers are derived from the same. If Darque were to somehow claim their power, there’d be no stopping him. When Warren Simons first approached me about writing Book of Death, as we started talking about the kind of story he was looking for, I thought Darque was a natural fit. He’s one of Valiant’s greatest villains. Of course he’d be in the thick of a fight like this.
How much can you tell us of his plan?
Venditti: I can tell you that Darque has been waiting a very long time for this opportunity. He has found a way to access the power of the Geomancer, though only in a limited way, which is absolutely something that he’d like to change. Enter the Eternal Warrior and the new Geomancer, Tama, both of whom have committed themselves to the fight, even if they don’t quite know who exactly they’re fighting against.
Warren Simons: As we’ll see in the issue, we discover that Darque’s plan has seemingly worked. The Valiant Universe — or at least the one that we see in the future — has all but been destroyed. The heroes have been decimated. An unholy force has risen and destroyed much of what we know. We learn this history from a little girl named Tama. She’s a super-powered Geomancer, and she carries with her the Book of the Geomancer, which is a record of the Valiant Universe from the future.
But she’s a wild card here. One that the Eternal Warrior is hoping to use to help provide a new variable in the equation.
Since the Eternal Warrior is the Geomancer’s guardian, I know he will be a major player in the series. But who else gets involved?
Venditti: This is a universe-wide event, so there are going to be a lot of players on the field. The ones everyone expects to see will be there, including X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Livewire, and GIN-GR the giant robot. But there are going to be plenty of surprises, too. In the first issue alone, there are more first appearances than in any issue of anything I’ve ever written for Valiant. Maybe any Valiant comic ever.
So is the Book of the Geomancer legitimate, or is it something created by Master Darque?
Venditti: Darque has nothing to do with the Book of the Geomancer. In fact, if he was in a position to, he might even try to destroy it. That’s because the book is 100% legitimate. It contains within its pages the actual recorded history of the entire Valiant Universe — past, present, and even reaching into the future. It’s key to defeating Darque, and he knows it.
You guys have done amazingly well relaunching Valiant’s stable of characters. What sets the new Master Darque apart from his ‘90s incarnation?
Simons: As with all the characters we’ve updated and relaunched, we’ve tried to tap into the qualities that made them so beloved in the first place. Darque’s thirst for knowledge — and power — is rooted in his past, and I think much of his motivations can be pinpointed to what we saw in the wonderful Shadowman # 0. He didn’t have a terribly normal upbringing — his dad essentially tried to sacrifice him and his sister for his own benefit — and that’s caused a bit of an... adjustment problem. So much of what he does is for vengeance, but much of it’s also for his own warped sense of survival. He’s also achieved a level of mastery of the arcane arts that very few humans are capable of. So he’s frequently operating in over his tattooed head...
So what’s next for the Valiant U. after Book of Death?
Simons: This one is going to carry major consequences for many of Valiant’s most prominent characters. Some of the events revealed in those pages will come to pass almost immediately, while some will take years to play out. Who lives, who dies, the return of old favorites, and the first appearances of many major new characters — it’s suitably epic and we still have a ton of surprises in store.
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