Of all the releases of the Summer of Valiant, I was probably the least excited about Harbinger. I was never a fan of it the first time around, so I was not exactly thrilled that Harbinger was going to be one of the four main titles. However, spurred by the quality of the other titles in the launch, I decided to give the new Harbinger series a chance. I’m glad I did.
My biggest complaint about the first Harbinger series was that the writing felt ham-fisted. Characters were annoying and everything was handled so quickly and easily because of their awesome Harbinger powers that it just didn’t seem like there was ever any challenge. The fact that the characters were on the run wasn’t that intriguing to me since I thought they were all annoying and the world would be better if they were all locked up.
The new Harbinger is not any of those things. Joshua Dysart is creating a terrifying book where the main character is on the edge of control. There is a feeling that anything can and will happen and that nothing and no one is safe. The overall theme of the book is about control. There is a great deal of power in the world, and the person who controls that power has the ability to create a utopia or bring the world to its knees.
Issue 1 introduces us to the two main characters. Toyo Harada is a man of ambition. He wields a great deal of power and plans to use that power to create a new utopia. To further his mission he has searched the world for other people like him…people who can do amazing things with their minds. People like Peter Stanchek.
Peter Stanchek is 18 years old and on the run. He hears the thoughts of all the people around him and struggles to maintain his grip on sanity. He lies, cheats, and steals to make his way through each day. He is able to make people do what he wants with just the power of his mind. Of course, he is the perfect candidate for Harada’s program.
The rest of the book is all set up. It is about defining the characters and trying to determine what is important to them and the lengths they will go to make hold on to what is important. What is most impressive about this is that Peter is revealed to be a deeply flawed character who makes some truly bad decisions. In fact, by the end of the book it is difficult to like him at all. Luckily there is a cliffhanger to distract us from that!
Issue 2 is all about consequences. Stanchek has to deal with the fact that his best friend is not the most reliable person on the planet. That leads to a confrontation with the people who have been chasing Peter and his friend for the past six months. He is also forced to deal with the terrible decision he made in the previous issue involving his childhood crush.
All of this creates a situation where Stanchek is forced to give up everything that is from his previous life and embrace his new life. He is whisked away to meet the elusive Toyo Harada and begin the next phase of his life.
Issue 2 did not feel like a stand alone issue. It really felt like a continuation of the first issue and a bridge to the third. It is frustrating because this seems like it is a victim of the 22 page format. Had this story been allowed to flow as part of a trade collection, it would be perfectly fine. But as a 22 page stand alone story it just felt like a fight scene and a resolution, not much of a story.
Issue 3 was where the story really kicks in to high gear. The curtain is pulled back a bit to reveal a bit about the Harada Corporation, as well as why Toyo Harada has been so interested in Peter Stanchek. The reveal about Stanchek’s role in the world was particularly interesting and one that makes for a great twist to the story.
There was also a great scene where Stanchek is taken to the lunch room to meet some of the other people in he program. He hears what they are thinking about him and it makes him very upset. The reason the scene works so well is because the previous scene was one where Stanchek had to relive a childhood trauma of being teased and bullied at school. That incident resulted in Stanchek lashing out and seriously injuring several other children. Now, still reeling from having to relive that, he hears those thoughts echoed in the people around him.
If I had been on the fence after issue 2, issue three has me back! The storytelling was full of great moments and the art by Khari Evans was top notch. In fact, I would say that the art in this issue was the best art so far!
A special nod should also go to Ian Hannin on colors. He has one a masterful job of delineating between the real world and the mental plane where several of the characters have interacted. In the third issue he was able to blend the two a bit when creating the color palette of the Harada Corporation. which For the parts which are seen by the general public, Hannin sticks to the colors used in the real world. However the scenes where Stanchek is at the Harada School, the colors are bright and bold, giving it a feel that his real, but somehow separate from the real world.
Harbinger is now on my must buy list. From art to storytelling, there is plenty here to like. Another hit form the new Valiant!