Writer: Joshua Dysart
When we think of Superhero comics, the companies that always come right to mind is Marvel and DC. However, with the seeming sweeping change coming to the main Marvel line, and the New 52 DC continuing to seem like different characters than the ones DC is famous for, the Superhero comic, in sense of the big 2, is in one of the weirdest places it’s been in a while. With that reality, if you want to go somewhere where there is a strong sense of Superhero storytelling with a continuity that seems to matter from week to week, you need to be checking out Valiant comics. Being in the middle of an event in Book of Death, while it looks like sweeping change could come, the core characters will remain what makes them strong in the first place. To tie into the event, there have been Fall of books to go along with it (as I did a review for Ninjak a little while ago), and so far, they’ve all been gems.
Harbinger has always been my least favorite of the Valiant books, so going into this one I was a little hesitant. I love Dysart’s writing on other titles, like Unknown Soldier, but something about the set of characters, specifically the entire Renegade team, who are more or less the group of protagonists, left me uneasy and struggling to connect. With this issue, it all clicked. Dysart really brought on the personal connections and pulled on the heartstrings when it came to Peter Stanchek (the main character). As we are placed in the future, Stanchek takes a Presidential role The Harbinger Foundation, when Stanchek’s more or less adversary in Harada has to leave the world, as his mind is more or less escaping his physical body and will cause worldwide destruction. Soon, the world goes crazy, and Stanchek goes to look for the former President, only to discover these mind parasites in control of Harada’s mind. While the theme of these stories is that they are the stories of the main Valiant universe characters deaths, this was still incredibly poignant. As Stanchek goes to face Harada, he mentally makes constructs of his former Renegade teammates, and we go on a multi page heart wrenching scene where Peter explains what each of those characters mean to him, and to the greater world, and how each were lost. As soon as we hit this point, I was all in on Dysart’s story. The Pathos he works into this story is masterful. The overall story was so epic in scale, these small character moments kept this accessible to anyone, and a great read. In some parts, the story got a little confusing, and since it ends up that the people of Earth think Harada and Stanchek fought each other and destroyed the world, even though there was a lot more than it seemed to them, could make someone who isn’t really reading closely lost. Reading it close, however, I was able to grab the through line.
I was surprised in how much I liked the story, but good lord this artwork blew me away. I knew Kano’s work from Gotham Central, but this was on another level. His character work is grounded, clean line art style with expressive faces like in the vein of Michael Lark, made the storytelling strong on its own. On top of that, his mixture of classic panel layout with new looks is always fun. What made me sit there and examine every panel, however, was the crazy color work Kano does. Since this story is so giant, the huge range color palette works, and Kano manages to incorporated the perfect color combinations, both in background and highlight and shadow. It’s really just a marvel to look at each page, I cannot recommend you check it out highly enough.
If you want fun, continuity rewarding superhero stories, Valiant is the place to be. With an incredibly fun and effective one shot, this is an issue to check out. While it may not have the same effect storywise without knowing Valiant a little, the art is worth the price of admission.
4.5 Bleeding Monks out of 5