Friday, January 30, 2015
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...