11:15am PT by Graeme McMillan
'4001A.D.' Brings Future of Valiant Universe to Life (and Death)
Almost 2,000 years from now, the best of humanity has abandoned the Earth to live in a nation that exists high above the planet, controlled by a benevolent artificial intelligence called Father — or, at least, that's what it wants everyone to believe. Welcome to Valiant Entertainment's 4001A.D., a new summer blockbuster debuting in comic book stores this week.
The series builds upon writer Matt Kindt's Rai series, in which an artificially created hero moves from defending New Japan — the aforementioned floating state — to working with a rebellion intended to free the lower classes from the unjust and tyrannical system it contains. Written by Kindt with art by Clayton Crain, the sci-fi thriller offers an alternate take on the world of tomorrow, as well as the concept of the comic book event crossover.
Taking place almost two millennia from now, Kindt created an all-new history of the future that continues to fuel the story as it moves forward. "I worked up outlines not just for New Japan, but all of Earth for the last thousand years, and even the fate and history of every character in the Valiant Universe. Ninety-nine percent of that stuff will never get seen or read but it all informs what you see on the page," the writer told THR.
"I know I’m sitting on a mountain of ideas and concepts and characters, so we’re able to pack each issue with a bunch of ideas," he explained. "I don’t believe in holding on to ideas or saving them for something else. My favorite books, my favorite writers never skimp — guys like Philip K. Dick and Neal Stephenson — I feel like they’re kindred spirits in a way. I recognize it in their writing. You have to get these ideas out and on to paper to make room for the new ones that keep popping up."
Some of those ideas making it to paper in the first issue include an unexpected opening sequence involving dinosaurs (which can be read below). That may not be exactly the most obvious start to a story taking place in the 41st century, but Kindt said that he "really wanted to have the dinosaur non-sequitur to start the book. It’s a fun way to sort of set up the idea that this series is going to be … strange."
The sequence isn't just a nod to Valiant's past — Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was an early series from Valiant's first incarnation, running from 1993 through 1996 — but, Kindt admits, "There’s an unintentional blockbuster aspect to it as well. If you’re just starting to read about Rai and this universe, it’ll read like you’ve just started watching the most bombastic action movie you’ve ever seen. But if you’ve been reading the first 12 issues of Rai, you know that we’ve earned these big moments. We’ve been building to them for nearly two years and this is the culmination of a lot of buildup."
Despite running in its own four-issue series, Kindt said that the story of 4001A.D. remains the one he intended to tell when launching Rai in 2014 with artist Crain. The central Rai series continues during the run of 4001A.D., with Kindt and artist CAFU telling flashback stories about the origins of New Japan; additionally, one-off issues tying in with the storyline will be released for X-O Manowar, Bloodshot and Shadowman, with a mystery tie-in also set for release in August.
"This is the beauty of how the Valiant Universe and editorial is constructed," he said. "This storyline was part of the Rai story that I pitched when we started the series. It was a natural progression and a big story beat that I was always building to — from the beginning. It’s something that you don’t see done very often, if at all — world-building and then tearing it all apart to tell an even bigger story."
He continued, "If anything, when we realized that this part of Rai’s story could be an 'event' it expanded it in a way that allowed me to tell some smaller stories — to world-build and ground the universe even more. By splitting the big story moment out into it’s own series, it freed up Rai, the regular ongoing series, to give some more background and flesh out the history of previous Rai that have been alluded to in the past but we haven’t gotten to see yet. And those smaller stories running concurrently with the bigger event really feed into it — and give the bombast more heart. I think we inadvertently constructed the most unique event series ever — in that it’s a perfect payoff for longtime fans, but is structured in a way that welcomes new readers."
4001A.D. may be the first time that Kindt is in charge of an event storyline, but it's far from the first time he's participated in one; in addition to contributing chapters to Valiant's 2015 Book of Death event, he's also worked on massive crossovers for both Marvel and DC. The Valiant approach, he said, is "night and day" when compared to either company.
"I think most events end up with page-counts being handed down and writers trying to figure out what to fill those pages with," he said. "With Valiant, we’re coming up with stories and figuring out how we can get more pages to tell these stories in the best way possible. We don’t sit in the writer room and hash out ideas for events — what we do is go around the table, everyone describing the stories they’ve got planned for the year and for their characters — and then it’s either really obvious that something should have more room to be an 'event' or when we start talking ideas back and forth they events come out of that. Unless you’re doing creator-owned material, it does not get more creator-friendly than this."
4001A.D. No. 1 will be released digitally and in comic stores on May 4. Below, enjoy the opening pages from the first issue.