By Andrea Towers
February 11, 2016 at 04:22 PM EST
Valiant Comics

Summer of 4001 A.D.

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All hail The Summer of 4001 A.D., Valiant’s newest crossover event, designed to pull out all the stops — including the return of the acclaimed RAI series by Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain. The series was initially unveiled during Free Comic Book Day announcements, but EW can now reveal that the standalone event series will begin May 4th with 4001 A.D. #1, the first of four monthly issues that will involve new directions for the RAI series as well as future versions of some of Valiant’s biggest players, including one that is being kept under wraps but is sure to leave fans reeling.

The one-shots will include 4001 A.D.: X-O Manowar #1 by Robert Venditti (Book of Death) and Clayton Henry (Harbinger Wars), 4001 A.D.: Bloodshot #1 by Jeff Lemire (Bloodshot Reborn), and Doug Braithwaite (Armor Hunters), 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 by Jody Houser (Faith), Rafer Roberts (A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong) and Robert Gill (Book of Death), as well as a one-shot simply known as “Classified.”

The “biggest and most visionary Valiant event to date” is also the perfect introduction to a universe of superheroes that is vastly becoming one of the most prominent stories in comics. EW spoke with Kindt as well as Editor-In-Chief Warren Simmons and CEO and Chief Creative Officer Dinesh Shamdasani about putting such an ambitious event together.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you known that this big crossover event was something that was in the works or destined to happen? When you found out, were you excited to dive deeper into this story in a new way?

MATT KINDT: I had two years worth of the RAI series plotted out before I started, so it was just a matter of getting to this point. The nature of a monthly comic like RAI makes it more of a challenge to create stories that can be satisfyingly contained. The only way to do that — to tell a larger story with beginnings and endings, is to just sit down and plot it out years in advance. Then, break it down into story arcs and then even further into smaller stories that fit into each issue. As for the crossover event, that was something that just happened organically. I happened to be getting to this large event in the main RAI series and it was big. There was the opportunity to really expand the story and broaden its scope, and the 4001 A.D. event was a perfect way to do that.

This is your first standalone comic with Valiant. Did you feel any pressure from that, in bringing these stories to an elevated platform?

KINDT: I don’t ever really feel any pressure. I honestly have so much fun coming up with stories and characters that it’s really all I ever think about. These characters and this world are so much fun, and the playground I get to play in is so diverse and rich that it’s almost impossible to not come up with some amazingly fun comics. 4001 A.D.? Anything is possible, and I wake up nearly every morning with a new idea that I’m trying to fold in to this world we’re building.

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I know that the main series builds on more than two years’ worth of stories from the RAI series. Did you find that challenging at all, marrying those stories with the new ones you wanted to tell, and trying to keep characters and plots consistent as you wrote these current books?

KINDT: RAI has a really large cast of characters, so if there’s a challenge with the series, it’s finding time and balance to let all of them have their moment to shine. Rai might be the protagonists and the “hero” of this story, but the series has always really been about family — the one you’re born with and the one that you end put patching together as you grow older. Writing a larger story like this with extended storylines really does let the characters take on a life of their own. New stories just end up suggesting themselves based on what’s happened before and where the characters are now.

Can you tease a little of what we’ll learn about Rai’s origins?

KINDT: I think the real reveal in this series is going to be Rai’s growth and what he’s turning into, rather than his origin. The twist isn’t one from his past, but more about what he’s going to be in the future. That said, we will also reveal the origins of New Japan, along with how and why Japan is now a floating satellite orbiting around the Earth. That’s kind of a crazy thing that has some even crazier reasons for being there.

This is a huge event for Valiant, but it’s far from your first big comic event series as creators. What have you learned from your previous books that have been helpful as you’ve put this story together?

DINESH SHAMDASANI: We approached 4001 A.D. with both great confidence and a little trepidation. Our previous events, Harbinger Wars, Armor Hunters and Book of Death, were tremendous critical and commercial successes that gave us the confidence to build 4001 A.D. into a story that is easily our most ambitious yet. We’re exploring 2000 years of history in 4001 A.D., including characters from both the far future books like RAI as well as the present day books like X-O Manorwar and Bloodshot Reborn, but without making new readers have to read a single Valiant comic beforehand.

WARREN SIMMONS: I think we always strive for accessibility with our events. I think it’s something our creators have taken to heart. As any fan of the medium can see, events can become very unwieldy, very quickly. So accessibility is important, as is, of course, building a great, original story that can stand on its own, and isn’t dependent on continuity for its success.

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

For the four separate one shots, how did you decide on those creative teams to bring the stories to life? I know the creators work with Valiant, but was there any “science” to the stories they chose?

SHAMDASANI: Three or four times a year we’ll bring a group of writers together in New York for a creative retreat in which we’ll chat upcoming stories and break new ideas. 4001 A.D. is a story we’ve been quietly working towards for several years now, and as such many of the writers have had the opportunity to lay the ground work for the standalone tie-in one-shots in their ongoings set in the present day.

SIMMONS: Robert Venditti and Clayton Henry did a terrific job with the Book of Death: The Fall of X-O Manowar story. The same goes for Jeff Lemire and Doug Braithwaite. For 4001 A.D.: Shadowman, Jody Houser and Rafer Roberts came up with an incredible story at one of our writers retreats. And artist Robert Gill excels at content like this. The fourth one-shot…well, you’ll have to wait and see what we’ve got coming, but we knew we wanted something new and unique…

Speaking of, I know that fourth one-shot is of a character who is “classified” so I’m not even going to ask…except I will ask what’s the ONE tease you can give about who we’ll see?

SIMMONS: Survival.

SHAMDASANI: The “classified” lead character of the fourth standalone tie-in one-shot is in many ways the biggest secret of 4001 A.D. and for good reason. But, readers shouldn’t assume this is his or her first appearance. When Book of Death #1 was released, we promised readers that they would be going back to the glimpses of the future for years — if not decades — to come. That we had quietly been preparing new characters and storylines for years and that we were going to reward our incredible fans by seeding many of them there. And with that, I’ve already said too much!

What can fans expect from these books and from this event? What should they be excited about when they pick up the first issue?

SHAMDASANI: 4001 A.D. is like nothing else in comics, guaranteed! It’s massive in scale, filled with emotion and all-out out craziness. We’re attempting to take everything we love about manga and anime and bring it to Valiant through the lens of American comics. If you’ve been waiting for a comic that somehow combines space dinosaurs, giant mech-robots, sentient cities and future samurai, then you’re welcome!

SIMMONS: At its core, the story is about a father and a son who have had a falling out. In this case, the son’s a half-human, half-A.I. warrior, and the Father’s a fascist A.I. who rules a country. The stakes are a bit heightened for this one, so much so that the future of an entire country — and possibly the Valiant Universe — is at stake. But we’re telling a timeless story with an unlimited special effects budget, and it’s a great combination for a terrific event.

View exclusive preview pages below.

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Valiant Comics

Summer of 4001 A.D.

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