For every action, there is an equal reaction, and for every Deadside that exists beneath the surface of the Valiant Universe, there must therefore be an Aliveside. And that's the setting for "Rapture," a four-part event series being published this May, which sees Matt Kindt and Cafu reunite as the creative team for a full-on fantasy epic.
Featuring the unlikely team-up of Ninjak and a returning Shadowman, the series will see the duo head into the supernatural side of the Valiant Universe, getting tangled up in a huge war which'll bring them into contact with familiar faces like Punk Mambo and the Geomancer, along with possible new allies including a grizzled war veteran called Rex the Razer. In short, this is Valiant Comics meeting "The Lord of the Rings" for a fantastical, supernatural adventure-turned-war story. CBR spoke to Kindt to find out when the idea for the storyline first came to him, and how we'll see Aliveside come to, well, life.
CBR: That’s a pretty intriguing title for a series! What is “Rapture” about? What can readers expect from this, going into the first issue?
Matt Kindt: It’s going to be epic in scale. We are squeezing a lot of story into four issues. All of this started with an idea I had while writing the big "Operation: Deadside story we did in "Ninjak." I was writing all this really dark stuff with these twisted characters and I got to thinking, why is this always the case? Not just in the Deadside or in the Valiant Universe, but just comics in general. We always get to see the dark places, the underworld and that kind of thing. But we rarely, if ever, do we get to see the flipside. If there’s a Hell, then there should be a Heaven, right? If there’s a Deadside – then there should be an... Aliveside.
That was the premise, and then I tried to figure out what kind of character would be motivated to find this place... to be the sort of seal-breaker for us as readers. Then I came up with this character named Babel. And honestly, his "villainous" mission isn’t so wrong, really. I think we’ll understand where he’s coming from and as readers. I think you’ll want to see Babel succeed. It’s just that there are some problematic side-effects with poking a hole in the Aliveside that we’ll find out the hard way.
That’s where the epic fantasy-style battle will take place, and it’s why we need Ninjak, Punk Mambo, and the Geomancer to get involved. We’d have X-O Manowar too if I could get him – trust me, they would love to have him on this mission! But he’s busy elsewhere!
What interests you most about getting to work in a fantasy setting? How are you interested in playing into the classic elements of the genre - and perhaps also twisting some of them?
I’m a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan, and I grew up loving "Conan," so getting to splice those elements into the Valiant Universe and let it grow into this very unholy union... it’s fun and twisted. I really fell in love with the Tolkien world-building the most; "The Silmarillion" had a big impact on me when I was younger. I’d read all of the "Lord of the Rings" books, and picked that up because I just wanted more. Initially, I was put off by it, since it is so dense and it reads like a collection of actual myths: kind of dry, but with some good stuff in there. Only later did I really appreciate what he’d done.
The amount of work – the huge amount of scaffolding and back story and world-building he’d done to lay the "Lord of the Rings" stories on to – that was inspiring, especially later in my life, when I was actually creating stories. So I really wanted to bring a lot of that to this – world-building, but done in a way that isn’t dry and dense, and something that would move the narrative along and be a little more character driven. At the same time, I wanted it to make you interested in visiting the Deadside. It shouldn’t just be a place to set a battle scene; it should be a place you want to know more about... a place that has a real sense of history and is populated with a lot of insane and colorful personalities.
Setting the story in Deadside allows you and Cafu to really play around, I’d imagine - having worked with him before, how’ve you found re-teaming with him for this story? What does his style bring to the story being told here?
Cafu’s character design and framing of scenes is just amazing. The Deadside is a crazy sort of topsy-turvy world, which is something that really needs a great artist to make it come alive. And he does it. He has an elegant way of setting the scene and making you feel like these places are real.
The opening scene takes place in the Deadside, in the Putrified Forest, and honestly, you can smell how bad the place is. That’s how great the art is. Later on, we meet this really big, sad demon who’s lost his wings, and the way Cafu has rendered this character with so much pathos. It just really sells the emotion and the character. It’s one thing to write a character, but unless the artist "acts" the character, it doesn’t work. Writing is really so dependent on the art and the artist’s ability to act out the scenes.
Speaking of character, Shadowman hasn’t had a headlining role for a little while at Valiant. What’s your take on the character? What motivates him through "Rapture"?
That’s going to really be the heart of the story. Shadowman’s been through a lot, and I think this story is going to present him with a small window where he can gain some kind of redemption. But whether he makes it through that window or not is what it’s all about. I think I, and a lot of the readers, really want to see a proper Shadowman back in the universe and active. Hopefully, this will allow him to be that sort of character going forward... but he’s so hung up on his issues! Let’s hope he can overcome them!
The Deadside is somewhat unexplored as a location within the new Valiant Universe, and there’s a lot of possibility there. Is your focus on a team-up, or on bringing in other characters and making this an ensemble story? How wide is the scale of your story, here?
The Deadside is an amazing world that we’ve barely scratched the surface of in the Valiant Universe, so we’re really going to a deep-dive in this series. There are whole factions of armies and cultures at war, and this ancient force is at the center of it all.
But then, we’ve got a wild card, a new character in the Valiant Universe that we haven’t seen before called Rex the Razer. He’s this old barbarian who’s past his prime. He’s got a very checkered and violent history that we’re going to see unfold...he’s done some bad, bad things in the past, and it’s all coming back to haunt him (and ruin Earth) at the same time. And Rex is leading an army against this interesting... I hate to call him a 'bad guy'... but an 'interesting adversary', let’s put it like that.
In a lot of ways, it’s our familiar characters: Punk Mambo, Ninjak, Shadowman and Tama giving us a vantage point into this world. Tama, when we begin, has been to the Deadside a lot. She actually kind of enjoys the place I think, so we’ll be seeing a lot of this place from her point of view.
What interested you in including the current Geomancer, Tama, in this story?
What I love about Tama is that at the heart of it all, she’s just this kid... but a kid with this seemingly horrible burden. She’s carrying a book called 'death', after all, so that’s pretty heavy.
Anyway, she’s carrying this book around and trying to constantly put out these apocalyptic fires all over the place. She’s sort of the early-warning system for the Valiant Universe, who’s constantly trying to rally the troops when they’re needed most. But she’s also a plucky kid that’s smart and loves adventure. She’s a kind of supernatural Nancy Drew. She’s so great. I could write a thousand pages-worth of her character and not get tired of her.
You’ve said that you’re interested in getting to explore the grandstanding ideas of fantasy fiction - heaven and hell, godhood and demonic nature. As a writer, what appeals most about taking these huge high concepts in a story and them bringing them to a human level, and exploring that contrast?
I think you answered the question right there. I’ve been attracted to really pulpy genres and ideas since I was a kid. I can’t get enough of crime fiction, fantasy, sci-fi... all of ‘em. But as a creator, what’s interesting to me – especially as a writer – is not so much a specific character, but the idea of what it would be like to be put in one of the fantastical situations. For real.
That’s how I approach every story when I start. From there, it ends up being steered by the character that’s in the starring role, but my thought is always to write from the standpoint of the man on the street. What’s it like to see Shadowman up close? Does he smell funny? Those little details. I think that’s what really brings it down to earth and makes it real, even if you’re building a magical tower that’s trying to rip a hole into heaven.
If you can have it seem real, it’s so much more interesting.
The first issue of "Rapture" will be released by Valiant Comics on May 24th.