Valiant’s Secret Weapons series was one of the best of the year due to its strong superhero character writing. Eric Heisserer approached the story in a cunning way as it brought focus to the forgotten psiot-powered heroes as their powers weren’t flashy enough for the big battles. Through the first arc we learned the powers of these characters may not be as epic as others, but when they work together they can do as well as any super team. Nikki Finch was the lead character and in this special one-shot, Heisserer reveals her entire backstory.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Meet high school senior Nikki Finch… She’s a gifted athlete with an unusual set of medical ailments and high-aptitude test scores that have drawn the attention of an obscure and little-known NGO calling itself the Harbinger Foundation. With seemingly limitless resources at its disposal, the Harbinger Foundation has just offered Nikki a place in their newest class of recruits for a prestigious, but secretive, mission: to unlock her hidden potential via the invasive, dangerous and often deadly process known as “psiot activation”…
Why does this matter?
This issue offers a character story that’s relatable, focusing on Nikki at a young age in high school. She doesn’t know what she wants to be or even who she is at this confusing time. Add in Adam Pollina’s pencils telling a story via a very controlled layout structure and you have a tale that’ll draw you in.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Cute title card.
This entire comic is told via a consistent four panels per page, each in a wide format. This gives it a cinematic look, but also a very methodical one. Each panel or so tells you the date so that we may chart Nikki’s journey from confused kid to…well, confused kid. The only difference is she goes from confused kid living with her parents in high school to confused kid living on the streets. Heisserer does a good job establishing Nikki’s doubts and hopes through this journey which makes her deeply relatable and understandable. This in turn makes her story more tragic and heartfelt.
If you haven’t read the previous series you can still easily drop in here. The only difference is the final pages won’t necessarily have the impact they should, but they actually flow into the first issue of the previous Secret Weapons arc nicely.
Pollina’s art utilizes the four panel format well. The framing of Nikki (she’s in every panel) keeps your focus on her and her current emotions while life happens around her. There’s a visual message going on here relaying how, when you’re a teenager, the world goes on around you. You get that from this art. The facial expressions and acting of the characters is always understandable too.
A strong story of being a teenager can be found here.
It can’t be perfect can it?
I was never once bored reading this story, but upon reflection, I realized there’s no action. This is 100% a character study and a journey of her arc with much of the conflict residing inside Nikki. That means no action, no fight scenes, and no big bad villain punching her in the face. The story as a whole is good, but it’s straight character stuff and may not be the right fit for many readers.
Is It Good?
This is a strong one-shot that’s an interesting character study of being a teenager who just so happens to have unlocked potential to be superpowered. The story might feel slow for some, but overall this is a great read if you dig character-focused stories.
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