Secret Weapons Volume 1 and #0: Owen

Secret Weapons Volume 1 and #0: Owen

Secret Weapons, Vol. 1 Eric Heisserer (writer), Raúl Allén (artist), Patricia Martín (artist and letterer) Valiant 2017 Secret Weapons, #0: Owen Eric Heisserer (writer), Raúl Allén (artist), Patricia Martín (artist and letterer) Valiant March 14, 2018 Look. Do you want a ragtag interracial band of misfits to form a supportive team led by a competent

Secret Weapons, Vol. 1

Eric Heisserer (writer), Raúl Allén (artist), Patricia Martín (artist and letterer)
Valiant
2017

SECRET WEAPONS: OWEN’S STORY #0 Written by ERIC HEISSERER Art by RAÚL ALLÉN with PATRICIA MARTÍN Cover A by RAÚL ALLÉN (JAN182016)

Secret Weapons, #0: Owen

Eric Heisserer (writer), Raúl Allén (artist), Patricia Martín (artist and letterer)
Valiant
March 14, 2018

Look. Do you want a ragtag interracial band of misfits to form a supportive team led by a competent and caring black woman? Is it okay with you if the woke-ness is a little bit clunky? Do you want them to have superpowers, but the superpowers are also ragtag? Do you want them to live in an abandoned theater and play with the costumes in their spare time and also help protect each other against, you know, evil?

Reader, I want these things, and Secret Weapons Volume 1, published last year, delivers them.

Valiant is now publishing special prequel issues, #0, for the series, first Nikki’s origin story as discussed by Claire Napier, and most recently, Owen’s, who conjures seemingly random objects into being. I read Nikki’s #0 first, then the graphic novel itself, then Owen’s #0, and I can wholeheartedly recommend this order, since Nikki’s #0 functions as a useful introduction to the world of “psiots,” people who can have special abilities unlocked by a dangerous “activation process” in their adolescence, but have no idea of what their special ability will be. Owen can make objects appear. Nikki can talk to birds. Other people can do other things. If this reminds you of the X-Men, that’s okay. You’re not alone.

SECRET WEAPONS: OWEN’S STORY #0 Written by ERIC HEISSERER Art by RAÚL ALLÉN with PATRICIA MARTÍN Cover A by RAÚL ALLÉN (JAN182016)

Owen is a solid character in Secret Weapons and in Nikki’s story. His #0 is fine, but it doesn’t feel as cleverly formatted as Nikki’s, nor as essential to forwarding the plot of the overall Secret Weapons story. In Nikki’s #0, we get to see how she becomes a psiot and discovers her special power, in an innovative snapshot format. In Owen’s, we see less time, much of it overlaps Nikki’s, and it is arranged first by object and then by archetype as represented by tarot cards. I don’t feel that it introduces me to a world or even to a character as successfully as Nikki’s #0 does. Instead, I’m seeing some of the interstitial scenes from that story to further enrich the world in which it takes place.

SECRET WEAPONS: OWEN’S STORY #0 Written by ERIC HEISSERER Art by RAÚL ALLÉN with PATRICIA MARTÍN Cover A by RAÚL ALLÉN (JAN182016)

Nikki is great. She feels like a character from a 1990s Neil Gaiman comic with her gently punky/grungy aesthetic and her ability to talk to birds. At first, I was annoyed that surrounded by people of color, this young, skinny blonde with her “alternative” look seemed to be the one with the most developed character. But the other characters do get more developed in the first volume, and I like them at least as much.

Their leader Livewire, a technopath, is a cool character who does get developed, with a cool power, which is not as developed as it could be. The treatment of “tech” in this series reminds me of Marvel’s science heroes of the early 1960s. Just as for them “radiation” could create any super-effect, so too for “tech” in this book. For instance, I feel that Livewire, as a technopath, would be more specific than to use the word “tech” all the time. She literally says, “I sense tech.” This seems more like a limitation in the knowledge of the writers rather than a believable character line. Similarly, there is some hacking, and it is silly.

Everyone in the team is playing an archetypal ragtag band of misfits role, but because the majority of the characters are people of color, reading their interactions encourages thinking about the stereotypical versions of those roles as well. For instance, Avi is the character who says “no” when the team asks him to join them. This is a common role in stories of the formation of teams of misfits. Embodying this trope, Avi says that he won’t get involved, he’s going to stay in school and wait out whatever trouble is brewing, and he never asked for any of this. Also, Avi wears a turban because he is a Sikh, and has brown skin. He tells a white racist who beats him up “for” being both a psiot and a Muslim, “Don’t lean in to your own stereotype, here.” There are clear parallels drawn between different kinds of discrimination and between different roles in scenes that get reenacted in different kinds of stories.

Owen’s #0 is valuable to the overall narrative in that it fleshes out the relationships between many of the characters since its timing overlaps with Nikki’s #0. In Owen’s prequel issue, anecdotes about different objects Owen has conjured build to convey his as-yet nascent understanding of his own power, and the reader’s sense that both Owen’s power and kindhearted personality are essential to the group’s overall dynamic and success.

SECRET WEAPONS: OWEN’S STORY #0 Written by ERIC HEISSERER Art by RAÚL ALLÉN with PATRICIA MARTÍN Cover A by RAÚL ALLÉN (JAN182016)

If other #0s follow, I hope they keep the innovative formatting of arranging anecdotes on a theme (so far, time snapshots for Nikki and priced objects at a tag sale for Owen), and I welcome the opportunity to learn the backstory of even more members of this engaging team.

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