Comic Book Review: Harbinger #1
· Joshua Dysart
· Khari Evans
· Ian Hannin
by Chris Delloiacono
Published: June 6, 2012
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Khari Evans
Color Artist: Ian Hannin
Return to Greatness
There are many wonderful comic publishers putting out worthy product today, but often it’s hard to find in shops dominated by Marvel and DC. Image, Dynamite, BOOM!, and IDW are just a few of the quality companies with a smaller output than the Big Two. Back in the ‘90s a startup company named Valiant rose up to challenge as a third major publishing company. Their storytelling was cutting edge with characters that were something very different from most of the other product on the shelves. There are long discourses on the rise and demise of Valiant, which had pretty well-fizzled out of existence by the turn of the century. Thankfully two fans of the brilliant early days of Valiant grew up to have enough money to buy the rights to the old and recently began a new universe with the name Valiant. The key areas that should lead to their success is a fresh start for all of the characters and, if the storytelling remains as stunning as the first few offerings, some of the finest sequential stories in the industry.
So, what’s a Harbinger?
The old Valiant was a shared universe where implications were felt throughout the publishing line. This relaunched universe promises similar storytelling telling that connects the dots between books. Thankfully we’re not talking crossover right now where you are compelled to buy books you don’t normally read. By all means you should check out the first two issues of “X-O Manowar” as well, because they’re a fabulous time, but you could just as easily pick up Harby alone.
If you do, well, you’re in for a treat. The focus falls upon the character of Pete Stanchek who has mega intense psychic powers. Joshua Dysart’s script has multiple layers including well told backstory, world building, heaps of characterization, and a smidge of action. You see, this is a world where there are more people like Pete. If you’re thinking “X-Men,” there are certainly some correlations but they are minimal at best. Stanchek is being pursued by a government man named Tull but more importantly by another powerful psychic, Mr. Harada, who has the vast wealth of a conglomerate behind his actions. His corporation is dedicated to finding and training people with these special powers—AKA harbingers.
More happens in these twenty-five pages then you see in many “arcs” from Marvel and DC. The cat and mouse game with Pete, Tull, and Harada is dialogued to perfection with allusions to the past that build this world and lots of activity driving us towards the future. The illustration of Pete’s powers is pretty mind blowing as well. On a number of pages we see panels filled with word balloons as Pete is inundated with the thoughts of others.
Amazingly there’s actually a lot more story packed into these pages. We get some background on Harada’s, but mostly we stay centered on Pete’s relationships. Will he link up with Harada is a question for the future. For now we are most watch as Pete stumbles through life not always making the most heroic decisions. He is willing to steal to survive and his steps over the line with mind control of a childhood friend let you know this is a world with layers of grey. That old buddy is actually a girl named Kris, and you won’t believe the lengths he goes to find love. Somehow there’s even time to build up Pete’s relationship with his traveling mate, Joe. Typing this review makes me step back and feel a bit of awe towards the craftsmanship within these pages.
Dysart’s script succeeds brilliantly in packing every page but allowing the story to be told with Khari Evans’ art. This is a gritty world with seemingly normal looking people doing ugly things. Evans brings the ugliness of the world out but grounds it in realism that could make you wonder if there are people like Pete and Harada out in the real world. Most of the pages have between five and eight panels on them, which allows Dysart’s heavy story to unfold. Evans is up to the task of telling the story without lots of big panels that usually waste space and give you little money for your dollar. Khari Evans proves that smaller panels don’t have to lead to cramped artwork. “Harbinger” is a pleasure to look at from the first page to the last.
The comic world has missed the characters of the Valiant Universe. It’s gratifying to see “Harbinger” and “X-O Manowar” somewhere other than a back issue bin. With only three comics to their credit since the relaunch the new Valiant still has a lot of work ahead of them before they become a powerhouse in the industry again. The comic business has changed in the past two decades, but “Harbinger” #1 is one of the best debut comics of the year. Clearly the new Valiant understands what it takes to a relaunch a brand—excellent writing, well crafted art, basically a complete package of storytelling goodness.