HARBINGER WARS 1
Writers: Joshua Dysart, Duane Swiercyznski
Artists: Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, Mico Suyan
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
A week or two ago I railed on the lack of inspiration in STORMWATCH. A team that used to be comprised of really cool powers doing bad ass stuff that has essentially been neutered by continuity. I have a message for DC right now, read the “official” introduction of the new Psiots in HARBINGER WARS 1 and try to buy the rights to this team. They are the coolest set of powers in town and this is the damned coolest book because it finally brings together two other big buckets of awesome sauce; Team HARBINGER and the super powered messiah BLOODSHOT.
As fans we bemoan crossovers, but really we’re the last that should complain. Crossovers are the zenith of fan service, while they truly shun new readers. It’s an amalgam of characters we love doing something epic. The trick is not to make a crossover required reading. Where the big 2 fall down as we’ve seen with the current AGE OF ULTRON is when the crossover hijacks an entire fucking universe in the pursuit of the coveted upsell. And don’t give me any, “well they did AU issues.” Nuh-uh, asking me to skip a month of a title is a worse sin than causing confusion because of crossover aversion.
HARBINGER WARS remembers this cardinal crossover rule. Of course I haven’t read the issues to come yet, so we’ll see if the Valiant boys can make those issues make sense sans HARBINGER WARS. I have the utmost faith though since for two iterations, spanning the course of twenty plus years, they have NEVER failed me.
All right, let’s talk about what actually is and what’s not, versus my fanboy soothsaying. I’m going to talk to Valiant fans, because if you’re coming in raw to Valiant turn the right the fuck around. I refuse to let you into our party; and frankly it’s for your own good. This is story is the perfect conclusion to the last arcs of BLOODSHOT and HARBINGER.
BLOODSHOT needed a place to end. We learned a Kardashain asston about this guy in the first arc. It was a discovery of self despite the perpetual mind wiping and implanted fagazi lives courtesy of Project Rising Spirit. It was then a brisk well-paced discovery of self, with a little help from his nanite sentient blood (nice upgrade from V1.0 BTW). Arc 2 though, was taking a hella long time to get in and out of one building. But we needed to be introduced to the Psiots and the fact Toyo Harada isn’t the only evil bastard to be packing next gen Harbinger powered humans. It was good, but again was milking it a little.
HARBINGER needed someplace to go. The introduction to this tale of anti-heroes was an origin for the ages. Pete Stanchek is a train-wreck of emotions with the power to change the course of humanity with his limitless mind. The morality grays this book paints are morosely beautiful. Kris, Pete’s victim of mind rape, is tied to the team of the damned or the land of the dead. Plus she bears the unenviable responsibility of being the only one who can control Pete. Her dedication to humanity is to be commended. Even the villain Toyo Harada makes one question whether evil means, actually means evil ways. After escaping Toyo’s initial grasp, arc 2 became a teammate magnet attracting the likes of the nerdly Zephyr the floater, Torque the true embodiment of Brodouche, and Flamingo the stripper with a heart of gold and supernova level ignition. But again they were just escaping from Toyo the whole time, they needed something new – they needed a purpose grander than mere survival.
HARBINGER WARS pushes booth books in their needed directions, while simoultaneously amping up the threat between the world’s largest corporate superpowers. Opening with the aforementioned Psiots, we learn how deeply entrenched Project Rising Spirit is within the American Government. You know you’re dealing with true power when after unleashing a zombie plague on Chinese soil, the only questions is, “why weren’t you making it for Uncle Sam?” And of course they have to justify the four teen superpowers sent in to clean it up: Cronos, team leader and giver and taketh of life, Telic the girl who can see a few minutes from now, Hive the kid who will absorb and retain the mind of those he touches , and Traveler, the boy who can blink between space.
Before getting to HARBINGER AND BLOODSHOT’S place in all this now would be good time to talk art – perfect. Three artists is usually a sloppier experience than Kirstie Alley after a jog, but Valiant wisely chose to let each artist handle one of the three team experiences. The coolest part was that since none of the stories actually meet until the end, each artist could switch up mid-page as the story shifted without one clunky moment. And honestly I can’t pick a favorite; they all deliver the appropriate mood of each story.
And all three stories are starkly different while still serving the same narrative. HARBINGER’S part is morosely fun as the Bleeding Monk basically delivers Pete his ultimate destiny of having to topple Harada and play the Pied Piper of Psiots. The fun part comes from Torque of course. BLOODSHOT’S story collides when he runs into the Psiots with his merry band of mutants we saw him freeing last month. Looks like he is developing a bit of a messiah complex as well.
If I didn’t love this book enough, it also made me view the Valiant universe from a completely different angle. If you read HARBINGER, Harada is clearly a bad dude from the team’s point of view. Here though, his treatment towards his team of Eggbreakers seems almost noble when compared to the head-bomb implanting slavery imposed by Project Rising Spirit. When Harada confronts BLOODSHOT at the end, you almost wouldn’t blame BS for taking up the offer to work together. Given who Rai’s granddaddy was working for till now, Harada’s nefarious methods would still make him employer of the year.
All right I’ve spoiled the hell out of this book and I’m sorry. Just know that great dialog and seeing my descriptions executed by great storytellers still awaits you…along with that pretty pretty art. If you’re a Valiant Virgin and didn’t heed my warning before, I hope I entreated with you to go buy some trades to imbibe the maturity and majesty that is just this small corner of the Valiant universe.