Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Harbinger #5 and #6 (Classic Valiant)

The superhuman Harbinger Renegades are continuing to fight the malevolent Harbinger Toyo Harada, and attack one of his bases while he's trying to restore a henchman's powers. The man, Puff, is able to cause localized explosions to whatever he wants, but has lost control of this ability. The Renegades are successful in fighting back Harada's security, but when costumed vigilante Solar, Man of the Atom shows up, he forces the teens to leave the facility, giving Harada the opportunity to escape, and plan revenge...

We've reached a low point in Harbinger's history now! Issue's #5 and #6 are crap! The plot is pretty flimsy, and just an excuse to have a near two-issue long fight scene, while the writing is either dull, or repetitive (specifically with the Renegade's new battle cry, which is way overused!).

The first of my problems with this story is the Renegades and how they're 'clearly' making an extreme effort in fighting Harada and taking him down before his plans for world domination come to fruition, by doing such things as seeing the sights in New Orleans, enjoying tasty dinners, and lounging about watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. If these schmucks wanted to be genuinely effective, all they'd need to do is call the police. That's it. The cops would hardly be skeptical when the Renegades can instantly prove their powers, and given all the crap that goes on in the Valiant universe, it wouldn't take them long before they have insurmountable evidence convicting Harada of mass murder, among a vast litany of other crimes. At worst, the cops couldn't find any evidence, and they would either bring their findings and suspicions to the government, which could sanction a black ops team to either gather evidence on Harada or just plain try and kill him. Either that, or they'd send the Renegades to work for the H.A.R.D. Corps, the non-government paramilitary strike team that already exists that wants the Harbinger Foundation in ruins.

Articles and reviews on this series try to push the idea that Pete and the Renegades are just as bad as Harada because of what they do to try and defeat him, making the audience wonder who's truly right and wrong in this situation, but nothing backs this concept up, as Pete and co. have done nothing but good, while on the other side of the fence, Harada is perfectly willing to have five teenagers brutally murdered! He's meant to be a New World Order type villain, where you can sympathize with his motivations, even if his acts are morally dubious at times, but that never comes across. Instead, he's just a sociopath and murderer with delusions of world domination, and nothing more, while his henchman are a bunch of cruel, violent thugs. No intelligent writing on display in Harbinger, that's for sure!

The big plot twist with this story is supporting lead Torque's death. It's incredibly pointless, as we'd only just gotten to know Torque! He'd barely had any dialogue before this point, and wasn't yet fleshed out much, and then, only six issues in, he's killed off! It's ridiculous! That's why I'm just discussing this openly, without spoiler tags, because there's nothing to spoil. Torque's death is a highly wasteful event that deprived the series of a good character, and affected nothing for the team. It didn't even shift up the status quo! Pete's anger when he discovers Kris' infidelity in Issue #8 lasts literally only four pages, Kris' baby is instantly out of the equation, and even more infuriatingly, at no point in this series did she and Torque have sex, nor was a reason given for why Kris would do that to Pete when she still loves him. It's never explained.

As far as I'm concerned, if writer Jim Shooter wanted to really throw a curveball, he could've killed off Pete instead. It's not like his character ever grows, whether in the pages of Harbinger, or onwards, and the all-powerful team-leader getting axed off could provide some interesting story routes.

One final idiotic plot point to discuss is what Solar does at the start of Issue #6. He has an opportunity to team up with an Omega powered Harbinger (the rarest of all, with Harada and Peter being the only examples in the whole world) and take down his mortal enemy Harada once and for all, but refuses too, because he deems Peter irresponsible. So? get him to help you vaporize Harada, then make sure he stops using his powers. Or you could just act like a real superhero for a change and teach Peter about responsibility! And finally, he's known Peter for less than a minute, and the 'irresponsible' thing he did was briefly scan the last few seconds of Solar's memory to get the information on how to control molecular explosions and relays it to Puff, saving the Harbinger's life, and the lives of everyone in the city radius! That's hardly irresponsible, and even if it was, the guy who's committed genocide at least twice is really in no position to judge.

The characters here are poorly written idiots, and get zero development, save for one scene with Torque. Faith nearly gets one when she unwittingly seriously injures one of Harada's henchman, but that plot point is immediately ignored after a couple of panels. For his last appearance, Torque gets barely anything of worth, while the guest starring Solar, Man of the Atom is a dickhead! His presence isn't even a very good crossover, as people who are just reading Harbinger will have little to no idea who he is! As for the villains, despite the 'devastating' blow they deal the Renegades, they're not all that well-written. Not even Thumper and Puff, the most well-rounded of the bunch

One last thing to discuss is this story's apparent misogyny. While I do think Jim Shooter is a misogynist, this story isn't, in my opinion. It just has some very questionable moments, from Torque calling Faith a fat pig and threatening to rip her face off when he thinks she's spying on him, to when he pummels Harbinger bodyguard Thumper, rips her clothes off, then is inches away from attempting to tear her throat out. Jim Shooter has issues!

The art here is decent, minus the inking of dialogue in one part, which reduces Batman to Ratman! Funny just how much it takes out of a line just by removing the bottom of a capital B! The cover to Issue #4 is ok, but the lack of background, and Solar's oddly drawn position drag things down. Issue #6's cover is pretty stylish.

Overall, this is a crummy two-parter of Harbinger, and the most wasteful issues in the whole series!...

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