Thursday, 7 June 2012

Harbinger #1 review

Eighteen-year-old Peter Stanchek is on the run. His life dominated by psychic powers he can barely control, he's flitting from city to city to escape the man known as Tull. Accompanying Peter is Joe Irons, who's also unable to fit into society, but it's not powers that's his problem, it's a schizophrenic illness. Medication helps, but Joe won't take it if he can help it.

One day, Peter brings Joe back to his old Pittsburgh neighbourhood, hoping to see the girl next door again. But Kris hasn't been carrying a torch for him during his years in a mental facility - he'd terrified her and she was glad to see the back of him. And rightly so, as we see when Peter tinkers with her mind to make her think she cares for him. And he takes her to bed.

The next morning, a dog has a message for Peter. Except it's not a dog, it's Toyo Harada, head of a multinational do-gooding corporation and possessor of all the powers Peter might one day manifest - including illusions. He offers to teach Peter how to deal with his abilities, if he leaves Joe behind, and frees Kris. But then, all hell breaks loose ...

It sounds as if Harada's a good guy, telling Peter to let Kris go, but he's been closely monitoring Peter's progress since the day he was born, meaning he could easily have intervened the previous night, told the teen not to cross that line, not to rape Kris. But he didn't - he let Peter go too far, in the hope that he'd realise he'd hit rock bottom and take up Harada's offer. And Kris? Just one more baseline human to be used.

So I'm putting Harada in the negative column. And Peter too - I don't care how confused and alone he feels, the guy knows he's doing wrong. I could excuse his 'persuading' pharmacists to give him drugs to dampen his mind and help Joe with his condition, given that they were on the run. But rape? Nope.

All of which makes it tough for me to root for the two main characters in this reboot of the Nineties Harbinger book. I'll certainly give the series a chance, though. The comic doesn't condone Peter's actions - this isn't an Avengers #200 or Robot Teacher from Krypton scenario. I'm confident Kris will confront Peter when she learns what he's done. Plus, I want to see if some of the old guys - Zephyr, Flamingo and Torque, primarily - show up.

Knowing this revamp was coming, I've prepared for it by doing precisely nothing. I've not dug out dusty copies of Harbinger, to remind myself of what Jim Shooter and David Lapham gave us, and I've avoided Wikipedia story rundowns. I remember the bare bones of the series only, meaning I can come to this book almost fresh and judge it on its own merits.

And there are plenty, as presented by writer Joshua Dysart and artist Khari Evans. In Peter and Joe we have two complicated leading men, while Harada obviously isn't the benevolent mentor figure he presents as. Kris has an edge to her that seems to go beyond 'moody teen' while Tull may be more preyed upon than preying. Dysart's dialogue skews nicely towards the naturalistic, and he lays the storyline out with skill. And Evans has a real knack for giving his characters depth - they're easy to read, yet look to have a lot going on beneath the surface. The colours of Ian Hannin are smart and subtle, while letterer Rob Steen earns his keep with the dozens of thoughts, amusing and appalling, being picked up by Peter - that cover by Arturo Lozzi will give you the idea.

I liked this first issue a lot, and at $3.99 for a dense 25pp, it's a good value read too.

Mind, Peter could be making me type this ...

9 comments:

  1. I may have to grab this one, awesome review!

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    1. Cheers Tom, I hope you enjoy the comic if you do get it.

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  2. I LOVED the old Valiant books, but I've held off on the relaunch. I suppose I can get behind a Valiant reboot since there hasn't been a new book in 15 years, right?

    Which is better, this or X-O?

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    1. I've never actually read an X-O ... I was put off by a title that sounds like a game of Noughts and Crosses.

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    2. try archer and armstrong when it comes in august, fred van lente and clayton henry are working on it

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  3. I'm excited to see Valiant making a come back--and from the 'sounds' of it they're off to a good start.

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    1. Indeed they are - I wonder if they're planning any non-revivals.

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  4. I mightily enjoyed this issue. I did not enjoy X-O Manowar, but I did enjoy this. I can't wait to read Archer and Armstrong.

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