Friday, January 9, 2015

Harbinger #23, #24, and #25 (Classic Valiant)

Superhuman Harbinger Renegade Pete Stanchek is slowly unraveling. During an attack on the malevolent Harbinger Foundation, he learns disturbing information when he telepathically scans an executive's mind. Later, after losing his job in what he feels to be suspect circumstances, Peter angrily invites his enemy, the Foundation's head, Toyo Harada to come and get him if he's man enough, which he does, much to Peter's shock. He tears Peter's life down, and left with nothing left to lose, the rogue Harbinger has to take down Toyo Harada once and for all...

This three-parter is in a way the grand finale to Harbinger. The series keeps going of course, but the two halves of this series (Issue #1 to #25 and #26 to #41) are pretty separate, especially in regards to the cast. Is this a good finale, and send-off to the Harbinger Renegades? HELL NO!

Not a whole lot is accomplished in Issue #23, while even less happens in #24, and #25 is made up of two fight scenes and nothing more!

All this culminates in a HUGE anticlimax, as in the middle of the final battle, Harada has a stroke and falls into a coma. This has nothing to do with Peter, nor was it brought on by the fight. It just comes out of nowhere, and then Peter loses his powers, for literally no reason! He just walks off, and the story abruptly ends, having accomplished nothing but a single fight scene! Peter doesn't even kill Harada while he's the most vulnerable he's ever been, even though he wants nothing more than to do so, and he's killed like forty people across this story to get this far! Because of this nonsensical conclusion, the series immediately returns to the status quo in a few issues, but with mostly different characters. Worst of all, this coma of Harada's only lasts four issues!

There are also a few idiotic moments courtesy of Pete, such as when he calls Harada and angrily demands that he show himself and destroy the Renegades, and later, he's positively shocked when Harada takes him up on that offer and does exactly that! And in Issue #25, when Pete's fighting the Eggbreakers, he decides to leave Rock (who 'murdered' his friend Torque) for last, and by doing so, causes his ally Screen to be brutally murdered! Harada also acts stupidly when he attacks Peter, destroying a whole city block to do so! It was for this very reason that he wants to get rid of people as powerful as he is, as he feels they're a threat to the world. Then what the hell does he consider himself?!

The protagonists in these issues who aren't Peter are treated so disrespectfully! Those who aren't abruptly and pointlessly killed off are brainwashed offscreen, then briefly appear ages later, only to never be seen again! And I don't just mean for this one issue-Flamingo doesn't show up again in Valiant comics until later series The Visitor, and Kris literally never appears again! Only Faith comes back, to be the series' lead character post-Issue #25, but her personality is completely different.

Pete is an unlikeable murderous dick here, and acts very out-of-character. This story also acts as a terrible ending for him! What the hell was he even supposed to have learnt from all of this? Whatever he took from this experience, it doesn't matter, as he doesn't appear in this series ever again!

Shatiqua dies in Issue #23, which is maddening! Not only is it an injustice to a someone who hadn't gotten an opportunity to do much yet, thus robbing the character of potential, it's also a women-in-refrigerators moment, as her death only happens to affect Pete. What's worse is that we never get to know how Flamingo and the others feel for having unwittingly murdered Shatiqua!

Toyo Harada is really annoyingly written here. The writing makes him one of these villains who's always in control, and everything that happens is always 'part of the plan'. So it was Harada's plan to ignore Pete Stanchek for months until the dude broke down his door and destroyed a main Harbinger Foundation installation while slaughtering all of Harada's Eggbreakers?! That's idiotic!

Faith too is criminally underused, and gets a pretty bad scene where she drops a big metal pulley onto some fuel tanks, which somehow blows them up! What's dumber is that happy and kindhearted Faith is the one who blows these guys up! Way to act out of character!

The art in these issues is decent, but there's a very confusing two-page spread, that tries to be epic, but in reality says so much less than two regular pages would have. The covers are a mixed bag. #23's is ok, but zoomed in too close, in my opinion. The inaccurate representation of Shatiqua (who's shown here as brainwashed, even though she never is) is also annoying. Issue #24's cover is a confusing recreation of Issue #1's, but shattered, and with a different Peter. I get what it's trying to convey, but it just feels lazy. As for Issue #25's it looks quite good, but but the characters look a bit too far away, and the background is a bit cluttered and poorly angled.

These three issues make for an absolutely dreadful finale to the first half of Harbinger, and there are very few points in the series lower than this!...

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