What if the Valley of Death was real? What if you could see it for yourself and all the horror that came along with? This is the premise of the latest graphic novel from Max Brooks, author of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide. Titled Shadow Walk, Brooks collaborated with legendary comic book creators Mark Waid and Shane Davis for the graphic novel’s creation. Collider was able to sit down with Mr. Brooks and discuss his latest collaborative work, with writer Mark Waid and artist Shane Davis, his part in creating the world, the possibility of more from this universe down the road, and whether we’ll be seeing more graphic novels from Brooks down the road.
So turn off the lights, say your prayers, and hit the jump as Collider walks you through the Valley of Death.
“Shadow Walk” follows a group of soldiers as they discover a portal into the actual Valley of Death in the Middle East. Along with the cast of roughnecks, they are accompanied by a priest, Tucker, who is a man that relies entirely on his faith and a scientist, Bella, who questions the existence of the Valley. “There’s a difference between a cynic and a skeptic,” Brooks stated. “A cynic will attempt to debunk a theory, while a skeptic finds themselves more in a gray area.” This was one of the ideas that sprung from the mind of writer, Mark Waid, who worked alongside Brooks and artist, Shane Davis, to bring the story to life. “Shane did an exceptional job, and he had a strong hand in conveying the horror of the story.”
“Really, if we were having a parade to celebrate the graphic novel, Mark and Shane would be the ones to be riding along in golden chariots as they did all the heavy lifting.” Brooks said with regards to the collaboration. “I was brought into to create the universe and the geopolitics that went along with it. Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Entertainment, brought me into his office and we talked about the idea of Shadow Walk. From there, I discussed the idea with Mark and Shane for the final product. Working with Mark was great as he’s really a fountain of ideas and supplied me with gems such as the ‘cynic vs skeptic’ argument.”
Shadow Walk’s protagonist is soldier, John Rhames, who is a brilliant weapons designer and discovers the Valley of Death in the Middle East. “The Middle East is a nexus of human migration,” Brooks added. “It’s the perfect setting for this story.” With the aforementioned cast of Bella and an assortment of soldiers exploring the Valley of Death, Brooks took the opportunity to pull from real life and incorporated David Marshall Williams, the creator of the M1 Carbine, into the story. “Carbine Williams was an interesting case, who created this entirely new machinery while incarcerated, much like John Rhames who creates weaponry in his own head.”
The story also delves deep into the concept of mythology and what that means for us as a society in modern times. “Back in the day, everything was considered a miracle, because people back then didn’t have a grasp on science and so when something happened that they couldn’t explain, it was considered a miracle. What an amazing time to live in where lightning is considered a miracle.”
The Valley of Death itself is something out of a nightmare. Laden with walls of corpses and demons with “eyes sewn to their breasts”, as Brooks put it. The Valley acts as a “Nexus of Evil”, where all myths originated from, which spews a kind of energy that the governments of the world take very seriously, with each thinking, “Can we harness this and who else may be looking?” The race is on as the governments of the world attempt to explore the Valley.
With so many graphic novels being scooped up by Hollywood Studios, Collider inquired whether or not Brooks felt Shadow Walk would make it to the silver or smaller screens at some point in the future. “It would be extremely difficult to adapt Shadow Walk as a movie or television show, mostly due to the stuff we put in it. With a character named Judge who’s a southerner who pisses on the Confederate flag and the demons particularly, it would be tough.” However, Brooks is happy with the support he gained from Legendary Entertainment, stating that if the company believe in something, they’ll back it.
The possibility of a sequel to this story isn’t entirely off the table either. “I wouldn’t mind delving back into the world, but we’ve left it at a place where the graphic novel is its own complete story.” When asked whether or not Max would create more graphic novel work, he retorted, “Sure! I have a lot of crazy ideas, but I find it hard to be the writer of graphic novels since I’m so much of a micromanager. I feel like I would be over the artist’s shoulder 24/7. That stems to the sign of a good writer, my mentor Alan Alda would always say, one’s ability to rewrite.”