(Valiant Entertainment, 2013)
Reviewed by Cory Thrall
WRITER: Joshua Dysart
ARTISTS: Matthew Clark, Alvaro Martinez, Dimi Macheras
INKS: Stefano Gaudiano
COLOR ART: Ian Hannin
Pete Stanchek has had quite the life thus far. One of three people ever to be born as an activated Psiot, and the most powerful one of his generation, this has caused him all kinds of trouble. His powers can be a gift just as much as they can be a burden. His story throughout this series has been a darkly sad and highly emotional (for both the characters and the reader) ride, and one that has found him and his companions in one problem and disaster after another. Pete’s guilt for the things he has done (and not done) is as much a theme in this title as any other, and it is such well plotted and perfectly paced character development that you’re tied into his plight right away. Pete may start out as an aloof and lost young man, but as he grows to the stronger and more focused character we see today, you know and feel the mess he has been through. Deep guilt and remorse over his perceived failure to protect his only friend, Joseph. His personal hate and disgust at making Kris fall in love with him (and more). He is as complex as they come.
Leading up to issue #10, Pete and Kris – along with their new-found ‘team’ of Faith Herbert, ‘Flamingo’, and ‘Torque’ – are on the run from both Toyo Harada & his Harbinger Foundation and an organization known as Project Rising Spirit. This team of ‘Renegades’ have been trying to work against both organizations, and this new issue #10 finds them broken, scattered, and in major need of some saving. Pete, locked up and attached to machinery to essentially ‘block’ his powers, is trapped in a ‘thought loop’. He stares out blankly, drool and god knows what else dripping from his lips. Faith finds him, and they hatch a quick plan to get Pete out. Project Rising Spirit troops bust in, with Kris, Flamingo, and Torque in tow, and the whole group is rushed off to 2 different locations. Faith quietly follows the team of Helicopters transferring Pete and, when he sees his opportunity, a flash of his Psiot skills changes the situation to Pete’s advantage. Sending Faith to free the others, she smashes her way into the other copter.
At this point we are shown a bit of Pete’s memory of being younger with his now-deceased friend Joseph. Meeting six years prior when they were both staying at the Pittsburg State Mental Hospital, Pete and Joseph became fast friends and, eventually best friends. His short memory of their more ‘fun’ times together leads right into a shot of Pete holding Joseph’s dead body, the way he had found him after ditching him for the Harbinger Foundation. Having been told by the Foundation that Joseph would be looked after and cared for (Joseph was a little nuts), this is one of the main things that causes Pete and Toyo Harada to become fast enemies. This, again, shows the level of dramatic weight and just how much we care about these people. It is a sad, heart wrenching scene, and though it’s placed in the middle of some action, it feels correctly placed.
Having escaped from their captors, Pete and crew carjack a ride to a hotel, where they hole up and attempt to take in all that has occurred. Pete finally breaks and apologizes for all of the chaos and dangerous and deadly moments he had put them through, and lets them know he has no problem with them parting ways. With Pete more concerned that the ‘heavies’ will come for the group, his showing compassion and responsibility for what he has done really shows how much he has grown over these ten issues. The group’s response holds true to the characters and perfect within the world this title has created. The issue ends, and we are warned that – oh yes! – the Harbinger War is finally happening! With also being caught up on ‘Bloodshot’, I am more than excited for this crossover to get into full swing.
This title has been an awesome read every issue. It’s one of those ‘edge of your seat’ tales, and the inventiveness and more clever aspects of this work far better than in the early 90’s incarnation of this title. It’s great seeing familiar characters here and there, but it’s this title here that really takes the original idea and runs as far as possible with it. You feel empathy for the team, and some of the side characters, and it’s a deeply felt connection almost from the start. These seem more than fictional characters, feel like more than people drawn on a page.
The artwork has always been another strong point in this book, for me. It’s always visually stimulating, and incredibly intricate and beautiful at it’s best. The action is powerful, swift, and exciting. The drama and story itself never lets up, and never gives you a breather among all of the awesomeness taking place in these pages. The color art can go from very well colored panels to breathtakingly intricate and beautiful scenes. It all works so well in concert with one another that it makes this a 100% complete package.
So, while we are still left with a few questions (the Bleeding Monk?), and have plenty more answers to fully explore, this lead-in issue to the upcoming Harbinger Wars is as strong as they come. It’s not only a wonderful issue, but also a great starting point for what I feel is going to be one of the biggest and well told crossover events in quite some time. Jump in, get on board! Get ready for the War!
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