Thursday, August 14, 2014
Harbinger #1 and #2 (Classic Valiant)
is why Harbinger sucks! Oh wait, I'm sorry, I should start the review at the beginning, not in the middle. Whoops, my bad! Thankfully no big-time comic company ever did thatohwait...
This is yet another comic where the real Isssue #1 is Issue #0, which was released after #1 came out! I was originally going to be slightly lenient in this case, as Harbinger #0 was released around the same time as this, as opposed to XO Man-O-War #0, which was released well over a year after the first issue was released (yet still expected you to already know its plot by starting off #1 as if you'd already read #0...which would be impossible!), but I'm going to be harsh. You know why? Because apparently you could only get Harbinger #0 if you collected a bunch of coupons in the first six issues! So that's six months before you get the damn origin of the series! Why didn't they just sell the damn thing? What's all this rigmarole about coupons? It sounds like a good way for a company to hemorrhage money!
Peter Stanchek and his girlfriend Kris Hathaway are on the run from the evil Harbinger Foundation because of...reasons. The Foundation locates and trains superpowered 'Harbingers' (think mutants from X-Men) because...Err...Look at that cute bunny behind you!
Pete and Kris manage steal some Foundation mail and find a few applicants, such as flying Faith 'Zephyr' Herbert, pyrokinetic Charlene 'Flamingo' Dupree, and super strong John 'Torque' Torkelson, and tell them of the Foundation's evil.
rts off in the middle of a!...Err...This issue starts off in the middle of a sentence! I am not kidding! It's bad enough that Issue #1 starts mid-story, but mid-sentence?! Because of this, you're left incredibly confused, as you would and should be! Was it fucking uncool to start your comic series at the start in the '90's?!
Th plot here is boring, not much happens, and even less is explained, and what is is done so vaguely-Issue #1 of Harbinger can barely tell you its own conceit! The issue's main focus is on introducing the characters, and it doesn't do that well either, partly because of the lacklustre writing, and because of the story starting off in media res.
Pete is a plank of wood, and Kris' character is that she's Pete's girlfriend These two aren't very likeable. Not because they've killed people (some Eggbreakers (foundation 'soldiers') who die in an explosion after a battle), but because of their reactions to the Harbinger Foundation submission letters they read, and to what Faith has to say before they realize she actually does have powers. They're also idiots too, like how they don't wear masks when burgling a post office! To top it all off, there are some baffling pieces of dialogue, like when Kris wants to let Torque join the group, but Pete doesn't, as he thinks Torque is 'not one of us', and 'a normal human', and as everyone drives away without Pete, he thinks to himself in regards to Kris 'But you said this was a war'. Yes, she did, and she's the one who wants Torque to come along! This dialogue feels like it'd only make sense if the roles were reversed-If Pete wanted Torque to come along, and Kris was the one refusing. And speaking of Torque, there's a scene where Pete thinks he's a spy...for no reason. There's one scene where the comic tries to make Pete and his use of his powers morally ambiguous, with Kris calling him out on it for doing something 'evil', but it really isn't (as all he did was get Kris and Faith off each-others throats. A misuse of his powers? Maybe, but not friggin' evil!). It's a pretty weak attempt at ambiguity.
Onto Flamingo...And that's enough about Flamingo, because she has basically zero character to her besides 'Wha ah declare! flirty southern belle'.
Faith, however, is very likeable, and identifiable. It's awesome seeing a character you like this much actually getting involved in big superhero antics like she dreams of...It's just a shame that she's a player in the Valiant universe, where Depressing is the main dish, Horrible Death is the entree, and Eternal Human Suffering the h'ordeuvres. As entertaining as Faith is, there is one problem concerning her-Why is she palling around with Peter and Kris? They're strangers to her, and fugitives struggling against a super evil corporation-Also, her mother will be worried sick at her daughter having disappeared! I could buy it if she was really so selfless that she wanted to help Pete, but it's never explained in any way, let alone that way.
Torque is likeable (he does say some rude things, but it's a defense mechanism) and interesting, but he doesn't say a whole lot, and he's pretty wasted. I friggin' mean that, given what happens to him in Issue #6! I have half a mind to just say what happens here and now, because doing 'that' to a main character only six issues into your series is a horrible thing to do! By the way, just like Faith, it also isn't explained why Torque goes with the bunch, nor how he sent a submission letter when he didn't send a submission letter! One last thing concerning Torque, there's a baffling line that Kris says to him-"You know, you don't fool me. I can tell you're pretty bright. This neanderthal bull is a cover-up, because you're ashamed of your ignorance, right?" Um, if he's bright, that means he's not ignorant! And if they mean ignorant as in racist or prejudiced, that doesn't make sense either, as if someone was ashamed of that kind of ignorance, then they clearly know it's a problem and would change their attitude!
Series main villain Toyo Harada is a complete non-presence here, having no character, and leaving zero impression. Not only is it barely explained why he even wants Peter dead, the first mention he gets in this series comes completely out of nowhere. As for the Harbinger Foundation, it's also basically a non-entity, as we know almost nothing about it! People online (like the misinformative Valiant F.A.Q.) talk about how amazing this series was for its moral complexity in how the Foundation are portrayed as enemies who you're not sure are wrong in their pursuits, and sympathetic, 'making you wonder if the heroes are truly right', but that's not the case here-They're just a bunch of evil dudes in jumpsuits.
The dialogue here is ok, but there are some low points (what teeenager...no, what person says 'Ho'?! If you mean it in the old context, as in, 'Ho, Sir Hewson'...and are from several hundred years ago, it's fine, but nowadays, it only means a Santa laugh!...Actually it's only one third of a Santa laugh, which makes it all the more awkward!).
Now, onto Issue #2. I haven't been talking about them together as these issues are pretty separate. #2 follows on directly from the events of #1, but it's not really a Part 2 in a storyline. The plot here is pretty eh, and there's not a whole lot to it, but it at least tells enough for an issue, and establishes the character of Dr. Heyward, and the team's new 'base'.
The characters are all pretty static, save for Faith and Torque. Kris gets a pretty good scene where she talks to Torque, pictured above. The only problem is that we don't see Torque say anything in reply, and the comic instantly cuts to later.
The team also get their costumes this issue...and they're boring! They're all red, save one! Also, there's a pretty dumb line Faith gets, considering how badly the series ignores it, for no reason-"Now we can look like a team! I can alter them a little so we don't look like their team."...Which is why the Harbinger Foundation symbol is always on the uniforms. What kind of moonshine absinthe were the writers drinking to make them this forgetful?!
A frustrating aspect of the series is how everyone calls Faith 'Zeppelin' instead of Zephyr, her proper codename. It paints the other characters as dickheads. They never learn, or stop, as this is a problem that never goes away. Also, it's never spelt correctly, as no-one in Valiant apparently knew that zeppelin has two damn E's in it, not one!
...Smooth explanation, Pete, you little fucker! But Faith can do you better-She called you 'perilously insecure' when all you called her was fat!
The artwork to these issues is good, but there are a couple of moments where faces aren't drawn so good. There's also a very lazy moment, when the team are flying towards a skyscraper, and the skyline is a photograph, rather than a drawing! The car is the only thing in the panel that's not a photo, it looks really out of place!
The cover to #1 is almost very good, as it looks cool and stylish, but a couple of the character poses drag things down, such as Pete's odd pose, and Flamingo's. I get why they did it, as it shows off her flirty character, but it makes zero sense for her to be sultry when she's being shot at! Also, Faith doesn't look all that fat on the cover.
#2's cover is ok, although Torque looks more like a lion than a human, the background tubes look straight out of Futurama, and Harada is so small that he's nearly imperceptible, and leaves no impression.
In closing, these first two issues of Harbinger aren't bad, but they're just...there. If only this series was headlined by Torque and Faith. Thankfully, after Issue #25, Faith did elavate to lead character status...Unfortunately, the series is still Harbinger, so it sucked, and totally wasted her. And that's an opinion even fervent fans of this series feel. I haven't read many opinions online that actually like the second half of this series...