Do you remember Valiant Entertainment back in the late 80s? Yeah, well good for you if you did, because I didn’t. Of course, back then, I was still in high school, and under the mistaken belief that ‘girls shouldn’t read superhero books.’ Thank God, I grew out of that nonsense, right? At any rate, according to my sources (Wikipedia, ain’t going to lie here, gentle readers) back in 1988, Jim Shooter tried to buy Marvel, and when he and his partners were outbid, he shook his fists to the heavens and screamed as thunder cracked, “To hell with you all, I am making my own company, and it shall be called Valiant!” Or, at least that how I hope he said it. That’s how I would have done it, after all. So after licensing with WWF and with Nintendo, they turned to their primary goal of making their own superhero comics, including X-O Manowar, Shadowman and Harbinger.
Harbinger #1 was well received and made Wizard Magazines top ten list for a then-record of eight consecutive months, called “Collectable of the Decade.” There was even talk of a Harbinger movie to be produced by Paramount Pictures. Then they were bought by Acclaim Entertainment who promptly stopped making comic books, focusing on games instead before crashing and burning. Years of legal issues followed and now in this year of our lord 2012, Valiant with new money backing them, and new blood in their creator pool declared this to be the Summer of Valiant, announcing four new books to relaunch their line. Unsurprisingly, Harbinger was one of them.
The basic story is very very simple. The next step in evolution, Toyo Harada, a psionic, telekinetic, ruthless gazillionaire finds that he is not the strongest “harbinger” in the world when he discovers Pete Stanchek, a homeless, unemployed thief, self medicating to keep the voices out of his head. Pete, on the run with his friend Joe Irons, is trying to keep afloat but the two boys are being hunted by Mr. Tull, who has followed them from city to city, each time ending with Pete wiping his memories. It’s getting to Tull. It’s getting to Joe. It’s getting to Pete, so badly that he uses his abilities on Kris Hathaway, a girl he used to play doctor with as a kid. Making her love him, Peter pays for his indiscretion when Harada arrives and tells him who he is… and just what he can do.
This is not a new story, even when it was first written. Superpowered kid taken in by morally grey superpowered adult. Will he be taught to use his powers for good? Is his new mentor assembling an army? We’ve read this tale before, but it honestly doesn’t matter. Dysart does a great job making this old story new, making us actually care about what happens to these characters in a very short time, which is not an easy task because Pete is really a shmuck of a kid, a thief, a liar, and in using his powers on Kris, he effectively becomes a date rapist. Joe is mentally unbalanced, rude, whiny. Kris is a bitch. Harada and Tull? Two different scents of douche. But there is still something very intriguing here, something about the casual way the boys talk to each other that pulls a little at the heart. They are just a couple of sick kids who are way over their heads, and are about to get into something that neither of them are prepared for. I don’t think Joe is going to last long, frankly, and I will bet good money that he’s going to be killed for catharsis.
The art might be where the book falters a little. Khari Evans, known for pencils on books like Immortal Iron Fist and Carbon Grey, is a little heavy on the manga influences to the degree that I wasn’t entirely sure if Joe was Joseph or Joanna until he’s addressed by his full name. Beyond that minor quibble though, the art is clean and the colors by Ian Hannin complement the pencils nicely.
All in all, Harbinger is a good come back for Valiant. I haven’t read the X-O Manowar books which relaunched the brand, but if this is a sample of their quality, it looks like this second try might actually work out for the best.
Included in the back of the book is a sneak preview of their next release, Bloodshot, written by Duane Swierczynski, with art by Arturo Lozzi & Manuel Garcia with Stefano Gaudiano about a soldier brought back from near death by nanotechnology. I’m not going to read and review this one for you guys. I’m not a machine, damnit!
Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Khari Evans
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