Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Harbinger #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5 (New Valiant)

Superpower action series Harbinger is considered to be one of the best remakes in New Valiant's comic line-up, and with good reason!...

Teenagers Peter Stanchek and Joe Irons are two Mental institution escapees, constantly on the run from the law, and are now back in Pete's home in Philadelphia. Pete always hears voices in his head unless he drowns them out with pills, but unlike the schizophrenic Joe, Pete isn't crazy, but instead has uncontrolled psychic powers. Pete soon finds Kris Hathaway, a girl he loved when he was a kid, and uses his powers to make her fall in love with him when she refutes his interests.

Later, Peter is attacked by a strike team from Project Rising Spirit, a nefarious organization, but is aided by the mysterious Toyo Harada, leader of the Harbinger Foundation. Harada takes Pete under his wing to the Foundation, a place where he helps other people gifted with extraordinary powers. However, Peter soon uncovers the dark side to the Harbinger Foundation and the horrible lengths they're willing to go to remake the world into a 'better place', and rebels...

The plot to Harbinger's first arc is very good, with good characterization, and decent writing! As for its length, unlike other Valiant series Archer and Armstrong, where the first four issues were each simple segments of the one story, Issues #1 to #5 of Harbinger covers a lot more bases, and tells a larger story....However, this series still took nearly six months before the first storyline ended, which is unacceptably wasteful!

The prologue is great! It has a very interesting setting, an intriguing character in the Bleeding Monk, and shows off Harada's devastating Harbinger powers very well.

While the plot moves along mostly fine, there's unfortunately a couple of plot holes-Why didn't the Foundation mind-wipe Kris' memories of Peter, Rising Spirit, and the Harbinger Foundation after the end of Issue #2? To them, she'd be a liability, and it's clear that mind-wiping people is extremely common for them.It also isn't explained how Faith knows to find Pete at the climax or Issue #5, nor is it clear how she even knows he's in trouble, or how she escaped the holding cell dialogue suggested she was being kept in.

Pete Stanchek is a well-written main character, who you can understand, even if you don't necessarily sympathize with, due to the questionable stuff he does, such as using his powers to make Kris fall in love with him. While the series starts in media res, with him already on the run from the police, this isn't too much of a problem, as his backstory (partially touched on) isn't relevant to the series' main plot enough to warrant a full issue going over it.

Toyo Harada is a very good series antagonist. He's an evil son-of-a-bitch, but you can actually see how he considers himself to be a good guy. This is a marked improvement over Classic Valiant, where he was either wasted, or was 'MWUHAHAHAHAHA! evil' despite the series' insistence that he was merely morally ambiguous and not a bad guy per se. The other villains, such as Ion and Hidden Moon are merely ok, while Darpan, the creepy happy kid who can dredge up your worst nightmares is interesting, and the kinder Ingrid is decently written. Project Rising Spirit lackey Mr. Tull has good writing around him, given what Pete's done to him. Harada's seemingly mystical consultant The Bleeding Monk is an interesting and ambiguous character, with a very cool look to him.

Kris Hathaway is a very different character than in Classic Harbinger, where, as I stated in my review of Issues #1 and #2 of that series, the only character to her is that she's Pete's girlfriend. Not all that much happens with Kris this arc beyond Issue #2 though, so that's enough about her.

Joe is likeable, and gets some funny moments, so it's a shame what happens to him.

Faith Herbert-Zephyr-first appears at the end of Issue #3, properly appearing in #4. She doesn't appear a whole lot this arc, but we get a clear look at what her personality is like. As for her appearance, she's obese, which I originally had a problem with, as I can buy a pudgy superhero (such as Faith in Classic Harbinger), but not an obese one. However, I soon found out that part of Faith's powers is weightlessness, so the cardio of life and death superhero struggles isn't quite as much of a problem for her as you'd think at first glance.

Now, onto my sorta-favourite Valiant characters, Stronghold and Livewire. Are they any good here? Does New Valiant do them justice where the Classic company failed?...Well, Stronghold is a villain now, and Livewire's character is radically different.


Are they still well-written characters here though? Not particularly. Eddie's just a Harbinger Foundation lackey, and is near-indistinguishable from Ion, while Livewire has very little to her. Especially problematic is that we don't get to know her long enough for her important decision and reasons for it at the end of this arc to really have any impact on the reader.

As for her appearance compared to Classic Valiant, Livewire is is wildly different, as the redhead Caucasian is now black. On one hand, I don't mind this difference, as I'm not quite enough of a purist to care in this situation...but on the other hand, I really want to see these two Classic Valiant characters done right, and when one of them has had their looks changed so radically, it kinda takes away from what I wanted.

This series wastes Stronghold and Livewire, but at least it doesn't underuse them nearly as much as Secret Weapons, the Classic Valiant series they headlined for a brief period.

The artwork for this series is mostly decent, but really off in places! Faces can be very poorly drawn! Examples are pictured below...

...And no, this is a problem that never goes away! Thankfully this problem doesn't affect all characters, and some faces are more well-defined.

The covers are all pretty good, but #3's is pathetically lazy, as it's just a close-up of Pete's face! As for #1's, and the multitude of speech bubbles, if you're even slightly curious, you'll probably want to read them all. Good luck then! I did, realized I wasted my time, then realized there were more scenes like this in the book itself! Unless you want to take forever to read this arc, just skip 'em.

One layout oddity is that the placement of the issue title are all at the end of their respective comics, not the start.

To finish, Harbinger is a very good series, and a good example of a remake that's better than the source material!...

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