Matt Kindt’s run as writer on “Unity,” which combines elements from across the Valiant Universe, has seen characters from almost every other book pop in at some point to deal with the team. For the next arc, though, Kindt has something completely different in mind for the team — a new villain, War Monger, whose arrival brings with it a whole new level of chaos. She’s ready to start a war at a time when the Unity team members are least ready to stop one.
Having spent the last few months on a series of one-shot stories focusing on the team members, the core trio of Livewire, Ninjak and the Eternal Warrior band back together for this new storyline, which starts in June’s “Unity” #19. War Monger, the spirit of warfare, has been around for centuries — how can a team who have barely been together a few months hope to deal with her? To find out more about what awaits “Unity” in the next few months, CBR News spoke to Kindt about the characters and world of the series.
CBR News: The next “Unity” storyline sees the arrival of War Monger, a villain new to the Valiant Universe. What is the War Monger and what does it want on Earth?
Matt Kindt: Well… she basically wants war. She’s conflict’s biggest fan. We get to see her early start — she’s been around for a long time. Like, Eternal Warrior long. But she’s also kind of fun and a little sassy. The beauty of her and the big twist — that is a mild spoiler — is that she loves causing fights and engaging in battle, but she is physically and cosmically unable to take another person’s life.
War Monger seems particularly tied to the Eternal Warrior. Is he going to be the focus character for the storyline?
Not too much, as easy as a fit as that seems. This story is more about Unity, actually, and Unity throughout history — from caveman times, through the medieval ages, the 1950s and ’60s and up to present day. We’ll get to see various early incarnations of Unity that I’ve been wanting to play with ever since the “Bloodshot” #0 issue and the early “Unity” stories that showed little glimpses of older Unity… units.
How do you view the current group dynamic for the Unity team, with and without X-O Manowar around?
I think they’ve gotten past X-O. That was a concern to me early on in the series — X-O is a busy guy and a popular character, but he’s also really powerful, which of course is why he’s so busy. Having him on the team makes the balance a little more tricky. Do we need a non-powered ninja-spy if we’ve got an armored guy that’s indestructible? That’s fun to play with, but at the same time I feel like we get a lot of X-O Manowar and he can tend to hog the spotlight because he is such a great character.
I really wanted to push Livewire and Ninjak and Gilad forward and give them a little more screen time, since they don’t have their own books — not counting “Ninjak” now — and I think it’s all fallen into place organically. It was a group of oddballs and misfits in issue #1, and the luxury of working with Valiant is that we can show these core three characters grow over time — and nearly 18 issues later, they’re finally a team and a kind of ersatz family. Not a story we haven’t seen before, but to be able to give that kind of story room to breathe and happen naturally, rather than having a couple issues of bickering and then a fight where they magically now all suddenly get along and know how to fight together as a team. That makes this unlike any other team book I’ve worked on.
Livewire, the nominal team leader, has been particularly struggling with her role. What’s her mindset as this new storyline begins?
I think she’s finally come to grips with it, accepts it and it’s just now how it is. I loved playing with the dynamic between Gilad and Ninjak both being these type-A style characters sort of vying for the role of leader, and then Livewire just calmly stepping in and saying, “You know what guys, just listen to me” — and they do.
I loved the old “X-Men” story where Cyclops and Storm had a fight to determine who was going to lead the X-Men, and so it’s kind of fun to play with that in a more real-world way — to have characters fighting over this position of power and then the real leader just steps in and takes over without a comic-book fight.
We’ve recently seen that she’s an inventor, which means one thing: gadgets! As a known fan of the gadget, were you particularly involved in the design/creation of the Exo-Suit she’s recently taken on?
Yeah, for sure. I think this kind of “power of technology” idea is too vague for me. I really wanted to ground that and make it real and define what and how it works, so giving her an issue to show her stuff let us do that. She does more than “talk to computers” — she’s an artist, and electricity and technology are her medium.
That spotlight in issue #17 also revealed another surprise — her interest in Ninjak. What is it about him that interests her, given she doesn’t even know his real name?
That’s exactly what interests her. There’s the scene at the end that is really essential to what is attractive to her about him. He’s an unknown. Everyone else she’s ever gone out with or had a relationship with has an online or digital footprint or background file that she can just look up in a second. But, because of the nature of Ninjak and his relationship with MI-6, he’s not so easy to find. So I think she likes the idea of a man that she has to get to know the old-fashioned way — through personal interaction… and super hero fights [laughs].
You obviously also write the current “Ninjak” series – how do you think Ninjak handles working in a team against his background as a solo operator?
It’s not his thing. He’s much more abrasive in his appearances in “Unity” — and that’s really the reason why. If you’re used to doing everything on your own and doing the job the way you think is right, getting permission or relying on others isn’t going to be something you’re too excited about. I think a typical arc for that kind of character would be to show how he comes to some realization that he does need friends and companions — and that he can’t do it all himself. Except, I think Ninjak, most of the time, can do it all. So it’s extra fun to have that kind of frustrated personality on the team.
Unity face some of the biggest threats there are and, as you say, Ninjak is doing it without powers — except Ninjutsu, which some would say is the greatest power of all. What does he bring to the team?
He’s smart. It’s not always about who hits the hardest, but who hits the smartest. That’s the most appealing thing about him — he really is a sort of regular man, but he’s made himself into something more just out of his force of will. Smart will beat strong most of the time.
Artist Jose Luis is joining you for the War Monger storyline. How have you liked working with him on “Unity”?
I’ve only seen his pencils so far and they’re amazing. He’s really nailing it and I’ve asked a lot of him and even more over the next few issues — jumping from prehistoric times through the medieval era to ’50s and ’60s and ’70s and to present day and back. So there is a lot of “fun” stuff that he’s going to get to draw — but the difficulty level is way up there.
“Unity” has been the title which has really showcased the idea of a shared universe within comics — this month alone, you’re able to tie together story points from “Armor Hunters” and characters from the H.A.R.D. Corps without missing a step. How do you pick and choose which concepts you want to bring together in the series?
It’s really just organic. Valiant, as a company, has that as its main strength. There’s no mandate from the top that dictates what must happen where and when. It’s all story-driven, so I’m not just collaborating with the artists that I’m working with. I’m collaborating with all the other writers and their stories, but only when it makes sense and adds to the story. There’s a lot of stuff that Rob [Venditti] and Josh [Dysart] did in “Harbinger” and “Armor Hunters” that I just loved — as a fan and reader. The GIN-GR robot and Malgam and that stuff was really right up my alley, so it was just super-fun to pull those characters into “Unity” and not just give them a guest appearance, but make them a continuing and vital addition to the universe.
I’d been wanting to give Unity a HQ since issue #1 and I’d planned a bunch of different ideas, but nothing that I was really happy or excited about — and then GIN-GR showed up and it just clicked. A mobile HQ that’s also a character. Rob fixed my problem without even realizing it.
You’ve said in the past that you plan the series out on a story by story basis — is this still the case? How far into the future have you planned out with the Unity team?
I have a list of story ideas and then sort of organically stitch them together in an order that makes sense and has a good flow. I’d been building to the recent arc and its focus on individual characters since issue #1. It was an idea I’d wanted to do from the beginning — to show the characters in their everyday lives, just what they do when they’re not on duty, and then show what being on the team means to them and what they mean to each other and how this group of misfits could ever end up functioning as a team.
But you can’t do that story until you’ve got some 16 or 17 issues of history with the characters. I’m not sure there’s another place other than Valiant, or a creator-owned book, where you could do that as a writer — to build up to a series of character moments like we did with “Unity”, but over a year and half of issues.
War Monger declares war in June’s “Unity” #19.
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