Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Harbinger #3 and #4 (Classic Valiant)
The superhuman Harbinger Renegades Peter, Kris, Faith, Charlene, and Torque, fly to Washington to meet up with Ax, a potential fellow Harbinger. Ax is a wormy teenager, and when Pete activates his latent Harbinger abilities, he's revealed to be a technopath. He breaks into the secure files of the malevolent Harbinger Foundation for the team, and they discover a list of extraterrestrial landing sites. They go and investigate one of the sites, and end up encountering hostile aliens. They fight them off successfully, but due to an accident, the team is flown to the aliens' base on the moon. They wake up what seems like a little while later and fight their way back to Earth, but quickly realize that they've actually been gone for over five months...
The plot to these issues isn't very well put together at all. The Renegades spend $35000 dollars on airfare tickets just to meet up with one potential Harbinger (although they're fifty-fifty on whether he may actually turn out to be one). Was there not a closer area code they could pick? From then on, they literally stumble into alien hijinks, like a bunch of idiots, causing the audience to completely lose sympathy for them. They return to Earth way too quickly, having only been slightly hindered by the aliens (technically).
The big 'kicker' of this story is that the Renegades are (technically) flung several months into the future, and this sounds like a crippling development for the team, but it doesn't really faze them much. Faith is aghast at first, but Pete instantly goes into acceptance mode, without ever having shown surprise, and the rest are pretty blase about the whole matter too, and it never adversely affects anything, or causes any negative consequences. It's barely even mentioned after only one page since the revelation, and not once is there police involvement, despite these five teenagers being missing for five months!
Following that, the story then picks up on the plot point the series that's meant to be about Harbingers should have been focusing on-Harbingers! Ax gets a bunch of sociopathic supervillains together to beat Torque to death. From here on, the writing isn't half-bad, but the scene is over too quickly. The ending is really abrupt, and has some unfunny and weak dialogue!
On that note, the rest of the dialogue in these issues is poor, and frequently expository. The most egregious piece of dialogue comes with this line from Pete-"Wow, things have sure gotten crazy, huh, Kris? It's bad enough we've got to stop the Harbinger Foundation from taking over the world. Now there's those aliens to worry about! But we can handle it, huh?". The aliens are literally never mentioned again, nor is the leftover spaceship the Renegades have obtained is ever put to use, or even seen again.
The villains in this story are completely wasted. The aliens barely appear, have no dialogue, and no motivations to anyone who hasn't read other Valiant series' Solar, Man of the Atom or XO Man-O-War. Their cybernetic henchgoon Rexo actually has a personality, but it's comprised of only two notes-'I hate humanity, especially women', and 'rape'. He's a dull character, and he barely appears, being taken out almost instantly by Flamingo.
There's one odd scene when Kris and the rest of the girls are examining Ax's burnt junk, for medical attention (which makes little sense, as he's the potential rapist/accomplice to murder that they deliberately burnt). Pete could easily do that telekinetically, but for no explained reason, makes his girlfriend do it by hand!
The character in this issue is pretty bland, and almost none of the cast are particularly interesting, while Pete comes across an idiot for creating a 'supervillain' in Ax. That could be a well-crafted dilemma, teaching the lead hero a lesson in responsibility and trust...However, Ax's crimes across his history in Valiant are far too great for this to be in any way effective, and instead of seeing this as a stepping stone to Peter learning how to handle people he doesn't trust with more care, we just see him as a goddamn idiot who's responsible for the death of countless people, including one of the Earth's greatest heroes, and nearly a techno-apocalypse in the future.
We get one decent character moment with Flamingo when she visits her mother, but it feels like the conclusion to a character arc that was never seen, and thus feels out of nowhere and rather weak. Still, it's at least some effort, so that's appreciated.
As the only likeable character besides Faith, I treasure every bit of dialogue from Torque...of which there is nothing! He barely speaks more than seven lines in this entire two-parter! The relationship between him and Kris is the most interesting aspect to this series at the moment, but also the most underutilized.
Ax is an annoying dickweed, and a crummy villain. He's too much of a smug and annoying jackass to be entertaining or threatening, and he's not well-rounded at all. At least he somewhat works as a bad guy in Harbinger more than he does in Bloodshot or XO Man-O-War, where he's ridiculously outclassed, and is frequently mutilated.
The artwork here is quite good, but the punctuation in both issues is off, as on numerous occasions, commas or full stops are missing. The covers are decent. #3's is ok, but shows off the ending to the issue, which is annoying. Issue #4's is much better, and paints a neat moody atmosphere.
This is a pretty bad two-parter of Harbinger. Everything about it is inconsequential, the villains amount to nothing, and the story can't keep straight, constantly introducing then dropping plots. Worst of all, this is one of the better stories in Harbinger...