Saturday, January 31, 2015

The H.A.R.D. Corps: Overall (Classic Valiant)

The H.A.R.D. Corps #27, #28, #29, and #30 (Classic Valiant)

The reason why I don't mind that it's just an issue-long fight scene is partially because of the vast amount of story leading up to this, not only with the previous three parts, but the entire series has been leading to this final confrontation. I also don't mind because this battle is pretty epic and awesome, and because this is the final issue.

The H.A.R.D. Corps #25 and #26 (Classic Valiant)

Sigmund Heydrich, the director of superpowered paramilitary group The HARD Corps, has insidious plans afoot. He's imbued himself with the Omega power, which has made him akin to a god, and his first act is to order the HARD Corps to execute their one-time enemy Earl Simkus before he can build another device that can block their powers, or worse, fatally set off the failsafes in their brains. While the team leaves to find Simkus, Heydrich has dark intentions for the Corps rookies...

This story is the game-changer for the series, where the HARD Corps realize the true circumstances of their comas, and turn against Omen Enterprises, leading into the climactic events of the last four issues.

Prior to that revelation, the team are sent on a 'locate and execute' mission in regards to Earl, and while while some members are reluctant with the idea, specifically Hotshot (who's had the most connection with Earl), it makes sense why they decide to go through with their execution orders. The events of Issue #25 definitively convince them that he's an extreme danger to the Corps if he's alive. Though of course, they don't kill Earl when he tells them the truth about Heydrich, and that leads into the final storyline of the series.

The remaining parts of this plot concern Heydrich's machinations for the HARD Corps rookies, who he grooms into his own personal army, manipulating them into killing 'dangerous Harbinger Foundation higher-ups'-Really Omen Enterprises board members who want Heydrich to resign.

The writing here is very good, and there's one pretty hilarious line that comes from a thug when Wipeout raids a gang's hideout-"Whoa! Flying man! I'm gone!"

The characters here are very well-handled, from the main HARD Corps team to the Rookies, and Earl Simkus is made rather sympathetic. The guy's whole life has been brought down around him, and the only people left he thought he could depend (the Harbinger Foundation) on attempt to murder him. The guy's been an arrogant and narcissistic self-titled genius, and this story is a huge reality check for him.

Heydrich's turn to villainy is very well-handled, and fits in perfectly with his character. He was never quite evil up until this point, but he's always been enough of an amoral scumbag that such a development isn't out of nowhere.

Grasshopper has appeared before, but she never got much of an introduction. Despite that, she's likeable, and her character arc is compelling, and very well-written! It's just a shame that it never gets a conclusion due to the series ending.

The art in these issues is decent, but suffer a few problems, specifically concerning Heydrich, who's positions and expressions are so over-the-top cartoon-villainous that it's almost hard to take seriously at times. Elsewhere, faces are sometimes a bit off, eyes are buggy here and there, and there's one moment where the HARD Corps approach some cops to gain custody of Earl, and Hammerhead is civilly talking to a police officer, but the art bafflingly shows him firing an arc charge at them! This is a pretty big artist-to-writer miscommunication!

Another problem is the lack of vomit when Grasshopper throws up after killing her target. This would be fine, as I don't wanna see puke in a comic, but the problem is that this shot is a rear-view one, behind a bannister balcony, so we can plainly see that despite her throwing up, there's nothing coming out!

The covers here are both quite good! Issue #25's is stylish, and Heydrich looks amusingly over the top! #26's is good too, but the somewhat blocky artwork for the guy pulls it down a smidge. Otherwise, it's pretty neat in how the cover uses a more minimalistic tone.

This two-parter of The HARD Corps is great stuff, and we're in the home stretch now. Only one more story from this series left before the end...

The H.A.R.D. Corps #24 (Classic Valiant)

Eddie 'Ironhead' Abdul is a tough boxer who takes no crap, and certainly doesn't want to take a dive for mobster Joey Pinetti. Unfortunately, in response to this, Pinetti has Ironhead's drinking water drugged, and that, couple with the severe beating he gets in the ring, ensures that the boxer falls into an irreversible coma. Ironhead gets a second chance when Omen Enterprises use their technology to revive him, under the stipulation that he become a member of their paramilitary team the HARD Corps. He slowly starts to fit in, but once he learns of Pinetti's involvement with his 'death', Ironhead wants nothing more then vengeance...

This is a very mixed issue of HARD Corps. Let's discuss the positives first. The character of Ironhead is well-written, and his journey is an interesting one, in both how his character grows, and in his eventual quest for vengeance. At first I didn't like the issue's ending, which I thought was depressing, but it's actually really good, and I felt it complemented the story perfectly with its themes! Also, Ironhead isn't dead, so things aren't a complete downer

Onto the negatives. This issue feels very out-of-place in context with the rest of the series, not only because of the radically different art style, and how the issue focuses entirely on a new viewpoint character, but also because of the story's chronology. Practically every page is a new scene, and this twenty page story takes place over either weeks or months, which is a bit disorienting.

Like I said, this issue focuses entirely on Ironhead, with the only other character being Softcore, who has a much bigger role here than she does in all her other appearances. While it's a shame the rest of the cast get pretty shafted, it's a testament to how well-written this story is that we're able to care so much about a new character who's taking all the attention away from the regulars!

While very different to what's come before and what comes after, the artwork here is still pretty good, although too liney/crosshatchy in places, and Ironhead being constantly coloured golden instead of black is a baffling colouring and lighting oddity!

While it has some problems, Issue #24 of The HARD Corps is still very good reading!...

Harbinger: Overall-Part 2 (Classic Valiant)

Superpowered young adult Faith Herbert has recently been enrolled in the sinister Harbinger Foundation's school for similarly gifted teenagers. While Faith is instantly suspicious of the school especially thanks to her missing memories of her past, it takes a while longer before the friends she makes come to the same conclusion...

In Part 1 of my overall post for Valiant series Harbinger, I discussed at length how much of a misogynistic and unfocused series it is. It's poorly written, poorly characterised, and is a pain to read. After Issue #25, the series was basically over, but it still kept going post-#26, with an almost completely new cast. It was even briefly retitled The New Harbingers before instantly reverting back to the original title come Issue #27. I wish it would've kept the new one, as this is basically a different series. It focuses on the same villains, but Issue #25 felt like the conclusion to that series, and continuing on would be unnecessary.

The writing in Issues #26 to #41 of Harbinger is mediocre at best, but is thankfully rarely terrible, and almost never misogynistic.

Harbinger's main story meanders for several issues, and doesn't start advancing the main story arc until Issue #35! By then, it was too late, and there were only seven issues (making up only two-and-a-half stories) left in the series' life before it was cancelled. All in all, the only way it advanced the story arc was by having Faith and her friends realize Harada's evil, eventually starting up a team of Renegades. The Foundation try to kidnap them, fail a couple of times, and then the series just ends, on a miserable note with the pointless death of one of the leads. This is the biggest problem Harbinger ever had-The story never advanced! Ever! The series is always at Square 1, and when it finally moves mere inches forward in Issue #25, it gets scared and friggin' backpedals, restarting the Renegades plot from scratch, which is a plot you'll recall we already read 26 previous issues about! This is lazy recycling, and the series suffered for it. The reason nothing ever moved forward can be traced to one problem-Rai #0, Basically the Valiant Universe bible, it spoiled everything of what was yet to come in Valiant's future, including the state of Toyo Harada, who survives basically unimpeded all the way to the 2900's, where he's torn apart the world for nearly a thousand years before he's stopped once and for all. This comic was dreadful in so many ways, the worst being how it set each Valiant series on an unshakeable predetermined course, none getting less free will than Harbinger. So what's the point of even having a Harbinger series if nothing ever can come from it?!

The characters in these issues are mixed. The leads are certainly a likeable bunch, thankfully, but they don't have enough to them, never get enough development, and what little they do get feels rushed, as there was so little lead-up to it.

Faith, the only returning character from the first half of Harbinger, is completely out-of-character here. All the happiness, and lighthearted joy she once had is gone, and her personality is all wrong. This doesn't come across as character development, but rather that this is a completely different person who just happens to also be named Faith Herbert

My favourite character in this whole bunch is Amazon, the tall and super strong, yet meek student. Just like with Stronghold and Livewire, I more like her as a character based on her potential rather than what little we actually got with her.

The villains over these issues are boring. At first, there's a mildly interesting turn of events when a schism starts to happen in the higher echelon of the Harbinger Foundation, but unfortunately Harada wakes up from his coma, just over five issues after he fell into the damn thing, which totally invalidates the climactic events of Issue #25, and renders this schism storyline null and void! As for his character, Harada is just the same as before. He's a murderous cackling (figuratively) madman who has zero personality. His character never advances, because Rai #0 ensured that it never can.

A new villain, lazily named The Harbinger, is introduced in the final few issues, but this amounts to little story, as the series is over by that point, which I bet must have gotten the writers really scared, as that meant they'd have no more stories to develop this new villain until the 'shocking' reveal of his secret identity. Luckily for them, they got that chance in later Valiant series The Visitor.

Well that does it for Harbinger. While this second 'half' of the series was better that the first, it's still a wasteful sixteen issues, and amounts to nothing. Harbinger is a terrible series, through and through...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Harbinger #39, #40, and #41 (Classic Valiant)

The renegade superpowered Harbinger B-Team are on the run from the Harbinger Foundation, who have sent their new top agent The Harbinger (Really? Imaginative title, guys!) after them. The team have to try and tell of the Foundation's evil to the authorities before they're killed by the seemingly malevolent Harbinger...

Here we are. We've finally reached the final issues of Harbinger. They're ok. Not terrible, and certainly not a good finale, but this story is mostly tolerable.

The writing here is ok for the most part, minus moments like one really unsubtle bit of political commentary, that's right up there with Nukie! One thing I did appreciate though was that there was an authority figure who actually believes the 'teens-in-peril' story the leads tell him, which I appreciate, as it's so cliched to have the opposite happen, not to mention overused.

If you thought Faith's been completely out-of-character ever since Issue #26, then you ain't seen nothing yet! The Faith here is like one of those crazy deep south doomsday prepping NRA fanatics! Jesus, Faith, if you're this pipe-bomb happy to take down Harada, just join the damn HARD Corps! It'll save you a lot of time!

The rest of the cast don't have much to them, and there even a few idiotic moments, like when they knock an innocent security guard unconscious, and bury him in snow, including his head, to cover their tracks! Um, Faith, do you and you friends realize that you just possibly killed that man?!

Another dumb moment is when Sam has had enough of fighting and running away, so he splits away from the rest of the group to run away on his own. Newsflash, dumbass. The Harbinger Foundation is responsible for this, not your friends! By breaking away from them, all you're doing is ensuring that you're on your own when The Harbinger inevitably comes for you! Idiot!

The big draw to this issue is that a main character is killed off (I won't say who, but that'll hardly help when the cover spoils it!), and while the characters' emotions at this are decently written, the death itself is completely pointless, as well as depressing! It only serves to end the series on a totally miserable note.

The Harbinger is a pretty boring villain, and his name is lazy, as well as confusing when trying to talk about him, Harbingers, and the Harbinger Foundation in the same sentence. He looks cool enough, but he has zero character to him. Also, his last scene is kinda confusing. If you read summaries for the issue, regarding this scene, they'll say that he's throwing up out of disgust at having to murder someone, and later series The Visitor does prove that description accurate, but in the context of the story, it looks more like he's having hernia pains moreso than a moral dilemma.

The at here is tolerable, but at times, the poor scale makes Faith look like a midget! The covers are ok, but nothing special.

And that's the end of Harbinger. It ends on a depressing whimper, having accomplished nothing but a multiple issue chase scene...

Harbinger #38 (Classic Valiant)

The superpowered Harbinger School B-Team students are relaxing in New York, but soon have another battle on their hands when Butch tries helping an battered woman away from her abusive Harbinger boyfriend Spikeman...

To make up for the complete lack of the B-Team over the last three issues, this issue focuses entirely on them,  and that's a decent move, although now that the series finally has a definitive arc, this standalone story feels a little superfluous sandwiched in-between these big cataclysmic events.

Regardless of how superfluous this story feels, it's quite decent, so I'll give it all the credit it deserves. It develops some of its characters rather decently, but unfortunately there's very little in the way of a proper ending.

While Simon is at this point a completely different character to the institutionalized mentally unstable kid h was all the way back in Issue #17, I suppose I could give this series the benefit of the doubt in this case and assume it's character development. As for Sam, he has reason to be sad, but unfortunately his dialogue can really sound emo at times.

I hesitate to say the that returning characters Spikeman and Roxy are out-of-character here, as it's been chronologically over two years since they last appeared, but it's definitely hard to get used to seeing them both act so differently. They're both decent characters if you can get over that, and Spikeman is an effective villain, moreso than he ever was before, now that he has a more distinctive identity. Unfortunately, Roxy abruptly vanishes from the action, never getting any onscreen resolution.

The art here is decent, but with some slightly odd moments, like bugged-out eyes. The cover is decent, although oddly angled, and Butch and Spikeman meld together a bit, causing confusion. Also, why is Mira in on the action? She's nowhere near the rest of the B-Team this issue!

This is another decent issue of Harbinger, but I still don't recommend it...

Harbinger #35, #36, and #37 (Classic Valiant)

Superpowered Harbinger Faith has gone rogue from the Harbinger Foundation in an effort to locate her parents, and along the way, meets up with a teen her age named Jack, and his uncle. They help Faith when the Foundation's cruel soldiers come to kidnap her, but they may have too much ahead of them when they learn about Harbinger's Aerospace program, which could spell the end of hundreds of innocent teenagers...

This three-parter of Harbinger is a load of crap! The story is broken to begin with, as numerous aspects to it breaks continuity really badly. 1, Harada's space program is only very recent, and hasn't been in the making for decades; 2 While Harada has made pairings of people with Harbinger qualities,  to act as breeders, he only did so through purging their minds clean, with eventual plans of adding false memories-He gave no-one a choice; and 3, Faith HAS no fucking parents! She has grandparents! She always has! While the early series never says what happened to her parents, it's a pretty safe bet that they died when she was very young, which is completely contrary to what this story, as well as later issues, suggest. Even if they are really alive, they certainly have nothing to do with the Harbinger Foundation, as the Foundation knew nothing about Faith before she became a Renegade! Her first ever exposure to the Foundation was when she sent them a letter, and that was never even seen by them, as it was intercepted by Pete Stanchek!

Faith herself is another big problem with this story. It treats her like she's a messiah, even giving her an important past decades in the making that was 'leading to greatness within the Harbinger Foundation', which she denied. The problem with this is that misses the point, and is the polar opposite of who Faith is! The whole point of Faith of all people starting the rebellion is that she's just a lighthearted second-stringer, and specifically doesn't have a messianic backstory!

The Harbinger space program part of the story is extremely poorly handled. Why is it so screwed up? Why didn't Harada know, and why couldn't he fix it? All this does to serve the story is torpedo an arc that's been going on in the pages of The HARD Corps for about two years, and to have an explosion at the climax. It also ensures that Faith doesn't actually have to lift a finger to destroy the Aerospace facility!

Faith is a boring whiner, as well as a mostly useless lead character, and any cheery fun she once had is long gone. She has little chemistry with her love interest Jack, and it certainly seems out-of-character that she'd bang him, especially on the same day that his uncle was murdered! He even admits that he loves this girl, and he's barely known her for more than two days! Especially annoying is that thanks to a line from Magnus, the story confirms that Faith and Jack will get married and be together forever! Well so much for free will! It's pre-determinism all the way, that's the Valiant motto!

Magnus' involvement in this story amounts to nothing besides fighting Faith's battles for her, which is not only a deus ex machina, but takes away from her, as the hero of the story isn't getting much of anything done herself, but rather needs the help of a man. A man who yells at her, and calls her 'Woman'!

Not only is Magnus a total deus ex machina, but his presence here is also very confusing to anyone who hasn't read 1, Magnus, Robot Fighter, 2, the main Chaos Effect comic, and 3, the Magnus-centric Chaos Effect Epilogue that directly ties into this story.

Harada is a boring villain here, and beside talking menacingly to Faith a couple of times, he does practically nothing. Also, if any Valiant elitist wants to tell me that Toyo Harada is a morally sympathetic and ambiguous villain, then please, feel free to explain to me how we can readily sympathize and potentially even agree with a villain who casually orders the murder of an innocent teenager and the disposal of his body, or in how he expresses ownership over other human beings without their consent!

The rest of the characters are dull. We see very little of the rest of the B-Team, while we finally see Beatrice again, but unfortunately not for long, and she adds nothing to the story, then it abruptly ends. It's a shame. She's my favourite character from the second half of Harbinger (not that she had much competition), but is also the most underused.

The art here is ok, while the covers are mixed. Issue #35's is quite good, while #36's isn't as much, and #37 is just bizarre, with its non-sequitur group shot, and extremely clashing out-of-place painted-style cover. One annoying quality to all these covers is how they constantly lie about the individual story titles!

This storyline is one of the last remaining from this series, and there's very little left of any worth in this series...

Harbinger #34, Armorines #5, XO Man-O-War #33, and The H.A.R.D. Corps #23 (Classic Valiant)

Up in space, a fleet of Spider Aliens are gathering for a purpose, and many factions on Earth, from the governments Armorines, to the paramilitary HARD Corps, supervillain businessman Toyo Harada, and alien armour wielding XO Man-O-War, plan on destroying the aliens before they can go further with their plans. Meanwhile, down on Earth, a mysterious electromagnetic force field covers the entire Earth...

For the better part of a year's worth of issues, XO Man-O-War has been building up the event The Gathering, which is a grand plan by the Spider Aliens. What is this Gathering, you ask?...It's just a few alien ships meeting with each-other, and Earth's forces arrive and effortlessly kill them all. That's it. No big story, just four issues that waste our time with a nothing story that amounts to nothing! There's no epic scope, no grand villains, nor climactic moments! It's a single fight scene that goes on until it just stops! The End! We don't even know what The Gathering is! It's possible it was explained in a previous issue of XO Man-O-War, and I've just forgotten, but even so, the story where said event takes place in should at some point explain what it even is! As it stands, this four-parter has zero plot at all!

Despite being one of only two four-parters to the company-wide Chaos Effect event, this story's involvement with the Effect is negligible at best! The Chaos Effect has no bearings on the story, most of which doesn't even take place on Earth, and only serves to mildly inconvenience the HARD Corps, as they're not able to decimate the aliens quite as fast without the ability to select their powers. In fact, the lack of their powers makes their role in this story entirely pointless! 'But,' you ask, 'perhaps this story could work by showing them more vulnerable than they're used to?' Not so, as we've already had three stories over five previous issues of HARD Corps where they had to fight without the use of their powers.

Now let's get to the individual issues to this story. Issue #24 of Harbinger is the only part to this event that takes place mostly on Earth, although it's very rushed, moving from scene to scene too quickly for us to settle, and a lot of the Chaos Effect = is told to us rather than shown by actually happening.

one really confusing scene involving upcoming antagonist The Harbinger. This scene is only a page long, both starts and ends abruptly, and has absolutely zero explanation to it! The Harbinger doesn't even appear again for another six issues! When he does appear again, this scene is never brought up, so you won't even know it has anything to do with the character unless you're a Valiant expert like me.

The Armorines part doesn't bother continuing immediately on from the previous issue, with the characters once again meeting up with The HARD Corps, who they previously met under a lot more hostile circumstances. There's no character or dramatic tension from their previous encounter at all aside from one single panel, which is instantly resolved! And what would an issue of Armorines be without the lead hero Gunny insulting Major Lane for being a woman! This fucking guy!...

The XO part is more of the same, but from Aric Dacia's viewpoint. The only real addition is when we finally see the story's main villains, who are unceremoniously killed off just as abruptly as they appear. We also get a subplot this issue concerning Randy and her Department W buddies being marked for death, but it only makes up one scene, and is a pretty pointless addition to this issues.

There's one really stupid scene in this where Aric demands that a Spider Alien tell him Aristedes' whereabouts. This is stupid for two reasons. 1, Aric asks this question as he blasts the alien's torso into a fine powder, killing it instantly, and 2, because he asks this question after he's broken though the ship's hull, which should negate any and all sound!

The HARD Corps part, the finale, has nothing to it, and is the absolute worst of the bunch! Perhaps this is due to the fact that at this point, we're just reading more of the same, and because this is meant to be the big conclusion, yet does nothing with it.

That's it for the 'plot.' The characters in this story are numerous, but have nothing at all to them, and some are pretty unlikeable, and sometimes stupid, but not in a way the story intended. Harada is a high-and-mighty dick who belittles the HARD Corps and Armorines for 'wasting time and energy' on attacking the alien soldiers outside instead of taking the fight to the ships themselves. The problem with this arrogant thought is that the teams are fighting the ships! The rest of them are holding off the aliens as a stalling technique! Harada also doesn't stop whining about how the HARD Corps 'hitmen' tried to murder him, which isn't true! They made a conscious choice to not be Omen Enterprises hitmen, and spared Harada's life, as they refused to execute a defenseless man! You'd think the universe's greatest telepath would know this!

The art in these issues is ok, even though it does fluctuate between styles between the issues. The covers are pretty bland though. None are particularly appealing, and the Chaos Effect cover motif only allows them to show off things in the small strip near the middle of the page.

This four-parter is wretched! It does nothing but waste time with dull action and no story. It's also the final nail in the coffin for Spider Aliens in the Valiant Universe, partially because this story clinches how little of a threat they pose, and because their only appearances past this point are just bit-parts...

Harbinger #33 (Classic Valiant)

The superpowered Harbinger Foundation B-Team students are driving to New York, but when they go through a small country town, they find it overrun by a psychotic villain who's as powerful as he is insane, and won't stop until he absorbs the necromantic energy of everyone in the area...

Oh look, another good issue of Harbinger! Well, it technically is, anyway, mainly due to the fact that for the most part, it has nothing to do with Harbinger. This issue focuses entirely on the B-Team battling guest villain Doctor Eclipse in a small rural town, and in certain respects, this is a poor decision. Not only is it annoying that this is an issue-long fight scene, but it gets across zero character, not even for Faith, who has a massive turning point this issue. Her decision is so brief and rushed that it has no impact!

Onto the positives, we have Doctor Eclipse! He's a great villain here, and carries the story very well! His insane dialogue is hilarious, with lines like "Hey, a flying fat girl! Cool! I've never eaten one of those!", "Ooo, you've set me on fire, big deal. That trick never works.", and other such golden lines! Eclipse was never a developed villain in any of his appearances in various Valiant comics, but I've always found him to be such an amusing antagonist, with great visuals, and his hilariously wacko personality.

Aside from Eclipse, the writing this issue is pretty mediocre, though I loved the nod to Eclipse's time in The Second Life of Doctor Mirage! The second one bugged me though. It's not that the reference was forced, or even unsubtle but it's unnecessary, as a nod was already made. You can have one, or the other, but not both

The art here is pretty good. I especially like the school scene with Eclipse, where he draws his origin on a chalkboard for the students' benefit. The cover is decent too, with the pitch black background actually being effective, and decent character poses.

I hesitate to recommend this issue. It's not very good, but its villain is worth every penny!...

Harbinger #32 (Classic Valiant)

At the Harbinger Foundation school for superpowered teenagers, visiting mentor Gilad Abrams gives Faith new purpose to find out the mystery behind her forgotten past, and the whereabouts of her parents. Meanwhile, Foundation Eggbreaker (supersoldier) Blast has been dating student Natalie 'Stunner' Toynbee under false pretenses, claiming that he'll ensure she gets Eggbreaker status. She finds out the deception soon when another student steps in to take Blast to  for his actions, and she swears vengeance...

This is more of a character-centric issue of Harbinger, and doesn't have all that big a plot. It does an ok job at focusing on Stunner, but it doesn't develop her enough, and what's worse is that nothing here is ever followed up on again. Stunner did almost nothing prior to this point, and literally never appears again.

Blast is just an annoyingly unlikeable jerk. The guy's got connections though, I must admit, because I could've sworn he died in Issue #25! As with Weasel's reappearance in Issue #26, Blast is another character we didn't see die onscreen in the Eggbreakers' final battle with Peter Stanchek, but there's no way he survived, in any way. Even if he was only knocked out, he would've been crushed to death by the collapsing building.

Gilad  here is completely pointless, and while he does inspire Faith to find her parents, the scene is very confusing, and only makes sense if Gilad's really against the Harbinger Foundation, which he isn't. On that note, how does he not know the Harbinger Foundation is evil? The fact that he doesn't paints him as incredibly stupid!

Gilad is not only stupid in this issue, but also very unlikeable, given what happened to Stronghold and Livewire, which is tangentially his fault! At one point here, he says "This is my fault. I failed them." No shit, jackass! Rather than make me feel sympathetic for this character's mistakes, this line just makes me dislike him, because he did fail his friends, irrevocably!

The remaining characters here are underused and underdeveloped, save for Butch, who gets a couple of decent moments.

The writing in this issue is sometimes ok, but there's some terrible dialogue, like after Butch says "This guy's a lying leaze, Mira! He's been promising Stunner that he's gonna make her an Eggbreaker", Ms. Kabuto replies to Blast with "Is that true? You know you don't have the authority to choose who's in our elite paramilitary group!". I don't know how dialogue like that got past the editing stage!

One last thing to talk about is a bit of dialogue I find so amusing! Butch calms Natalie down from her rampage by telling her how amazing he thinks she is, and says "You don't need help from a creep like him to get a shot at being an Eggbreaker. You'll be one someday. A damn good one.". And then she'll get violently killed by the HARD Corps.

The art here is decent, and I like the effects for Stunner's powers. The cover is ok, but has an annoying lack of background.

This issue of Harbinger is tolerable, but not worth your time...

The H.A.R.D. Corps #21 and #22 (Classic Valiant)

The majority of the paramilitary HARD Corps team are celebrating the birthday of their colleague Flatline, but unfortunately the festivities are interrupted when old 'enemy' Earl Simkus arrives. He needs their help, but before he can elaborate, the teams' restaurant is attacked by Star Soldiers-Men in tough mechanical suits. What's worse it that the Star Squad have a signal dampener over the entire city block, ensuring that the HARD Corps can't access their superpowers...

This two-parter of HARD Corps is mixed. On one hand, it's not badly written, but it's really only a single action scene dragged out over two issues. There's barely any plot, and what little there is has zero payoff, as Midnight leaves the story at the end, with nothing having been accomplished besides some bad guys getting killed. We don't even know why the Star Squad wanted Earl to begin with!

Thankfully the proceedings at least aren't without some consequence, as Heydrich is further embittered at the old team thanks to the story's events, which becomes important as the series goes on.

There's some entertaining action here, and it's all that sustains the story. The characters have little to them, as the story's real time status ensures that there's little time for anything like that. The only exceptions are Hotshot and Flatline, but the latter's is incredibly rushed, while the former's is a continuity error. Hotshot tells Sam how she had a husband until he was killed, but in a previous issue, she asks Shakespeare how to cope with the death of a friend, as she's never experienced losing anyone before.

Earl's appearance in this story may be the instigator for its events, but he adds nothing to it, and leaves just as quickly as he arrived.

One thing to note, I find it a bit of a downer that not only does the Star Squad utterly destroy Shakespeare's restaurant, but also that this whole encounter interrupts Flatline's birthday party!

The art here is decent, and has a few cool moments, while the covers are mixed. Issue #21's is ok, but a bit empty and generic, while #22's is better, but lacks any kind of background.

While a mixed bag, this is still a fun two-parter, and is worth a read...

Harbinger #30, and #31, and The H.A.R.D. Corps #19, and #20 (Classic Valiant)

Evil businessman and head of the malevolent Harbinger Foundation Toyo Harada is in an irreversible coma, and his sworn enemies, the superpowered paramilitary team The HARD Corps, plan to strike the despot while he's down, and copy his devastating psionic abilities along the way. Meanwhile, as the team wrestles with the idea of killing a defenseless man, a group of Harbinger Foundation schoolkids realize what's going on and try to stop it...

This four-parter is so boring! Rather than tell a sprawling epic, this crossover between Harbinger, and The HARD Corps instead meanders until it stops, crushing many potential future storylines with its sluggish weight.

The writing in this story is sometimes decent, with a couple of ok character moments, but most of the issues are incredibly dull fight scenes and nothing more. Thankfully Issue #31 of Harbinger does at least   but you know what it focuses nothing on? The HARD Corps! Yeah, remember that?! It was only the entire plot to this four-parter, yet it's totally ignored for this whole issue! Following that, we're at the finale, where Harada mounts his attack on the HARD Corps ranch. This conclusion has no punch to it. It's a issue-long fight scene that accomplishes next to nothing, and it's never even followed up on. Harada knows where the HARD Corps base is, and he's already nearly decimated it, yet he never tries attacking it again!

Now, let's get to the myriad of characters here. First, the Harbinger B-Squad. After the serious events of last issue, the characters are facing such harsh punishments as!...err, cafeteria duty. And they go through such major emotional effects such  as!...Wondering if a girl they like reciprocates. Yeah, the events of Issue #29 really mean jack and shit, as they literally affect nothing in the long run. No traumatized characters starting to question their place in the Foundation, and not even a punishment for what they were caught doing. It's barely even mentioned! They're only on cafeteria duty thanks to the childish prank from the end of last issue, not because of what else happened!

These leads are irredeemably stupid at this point. They attack the heroes of the Valiant universe, ensuring that its greatest villain continues to exist! Sure, they don't know either facts, but it doesn't make them any less loathsome! Putting all that aside, they're rather boring main characters, and every moment the HARD Corps aren't onscreen is pain! However, there are a couple of decent scenes, such as Sam consoling Mira, and Simon standing up for himself to get Harada to keep the B-Squad together. Of course, both scenes are rendered entirely pointless in a few issues, and the latter didn't have sufficient development before this point, so these fine moments don't amount to much.

Their actions in saving Harada are especially infuriating because the team had already decided not to execute him. That choice would have so much power had it not been forced on them anyway when the B-Team turn up. The only reason they did was so the story could have a fight scene between them, because there's nowhere else in the story the two parties interact. It's especially poor writing as the point of this series at this point is these characters slowly realizing the wrongs of the Harbinger Foundation, so what better way to advance that arc than by encountering the HARD Corps, who could set the kids straight on the truth!

There's very little in regards to the HARD Corps. They have a decent amount of 'screentime', but the majority of it is just dull action, and the only real character moments are at the start of Issue #19, but that's interrupted.

Ever since Harada's coma, there's been a schism slowly developing between the upper echelon of the Harbinger Foundation, and this story completely derails that arc! Harada wakes up from his coma, rendering the entire struggle null and void, and he instantly fires, then murders Kuramoto. On that note, I've no idea why Harada is so disgraced at Kuramoto's actions, as they're no worse than any of the psychopathic crap Harada has pulled. Performing human experimentation is no more evil than ordering the wholesale murder of innocent teenagers.

Also on that note, what really annoys me about the schism arc is the reason why Kuramoto is being vilified by his colleagues. None of them have a problem with his torturing and performing human experiments on students, but rather at stuff like his making security a bit lax! What the hell? That's a pretty pathetic thing to be at ends over as opposed to what the story could have done. I think it would have been much better had there been a huge moral disagreement between the Foundation, as that makes the schism a lot more interesting and thoughtful than people arguing about how much security is needed!

Harada is a crummy villain, and he gets many out-of-character moments (such as his reaction to Stronghold, and disagreement with Kuramoto's actions), and his dialogue is laughable at times (specifically at the very end, where he espouses how dangerous his powers would be in the wrong hands-Ya THINK, Mr. Genocide?!). Not only was Harada brought out of his coma way too soon, which invalidates all weight the climactic Issue #25 had, not only does it close off so many other potential storylines, but it also brings the boring status quo screeching back!

The art here is decent, and the covers are mixed. Harbinger Issue #30's is ok, but shows too little, while #31's is boring. The first HARD Corps cover is pretty good, but the second is oddly angled, and just ok.

This story was a painful chore to read, and Issue #19 and #20 of The HARD Corps are two more that aren't really HARD Corps material...