REVIEW: “Harbinger” #15

(Valiant Entertainment, 2013)

Review by Cory Thrall

WRITTEN BY:  Joshua Dysart
PENCILS BY:  Barry Kitson
INKS BY:  Stefano Gaudiano w/ Mark Pennington
COLOR ARTWORK BY:  Ian Hannin w/ Sotocolor

The world of “Harbinger” has, for a good number of issues, been embroiled in the expansive ‘Harbinger War’ crossover.  Along with “Bloodshot” and the crossover series itself, we have seen this ‘War’ from all viewpoints, all showing how crazy and epic the battle was.  Pete and his ‘Renegades’ were run through the ringer, and came out mostly worse for wear.  So, what do you do after such an event goes down, with all the death and destruction finally behind you?  You take a vacation, of course.  And, when you’re the Renegades, you do it in true Renegade fashion.  You head to the beaches of Los Angeles!

I really enjoyed the ‘Harbinger War’, even with being a full time reader of “Bloodshot” (where you’d see the same basic things happen as the other current parts of the crossover, just from his perspective).  I felt the change between the titles and the differences in what we saw versus what we thought we saw were pretty damn genius and made for a nice and full crossover experience.  It had a large chance of not working, but in the end I was satisfied and excited for the future of both books.  So I was excited about this newest “Harbinger” issue, as it’s the first after the ‘War’ and a beginning of a new arc.  It being one of the most consistently awesome books on the shelf helps, as well.

Pete and crew are hanging around Venice Beach, taking in the sun, sea, and general relaxation they hadn’t had a single second for until now.  Having been on the run from the get-go it’s nice to see the characters take a break and show more of their personalities and interactions within the team.  Without a war raging or the group forming under a serious situation, it’s refreshing to have them talking like old friends, like they’d been a crew since grade school, weathering life as it lead them here.  The dialogue is spot on for what we’ve come to learn of these individuals, and the group dynamic is strong.

With all that’s happened to them, it’s no surprise when they eventually want to split up – Torque off to find a Metal concert of any kind, Flamingo and Kris are headed to a DJ/Rave party, and Pete and Faith plan to fly over the city of LA and its surrounding sights.  Within a few panels of the team messing around as a group, they split and head for their separate destinations.  And this is where things get weird, then even weirder.

The mention of Sea Lions during a group conversation at the beginning grows into a much bigger problem, of what magnitude we really aren’t shown yet.  There are some ‘trippy’ images and what look to be visions with giant Lion creatures devouring a crowd of people under the ocean, and the Metal band Torque eventually finds is named, appropriately, ‘Sea Lion’.  What this all has to do with everything is unclear, as Kris begins to lose hold of herself within the visions and phantoms.  There is a hint of a possible relationship of some kind between Flamingo and Kris, as well as Faith and Pete, and even a strange and creepy scene that starts out like Torque and Kris might get together, as well.  It ends on a final cliffhanger page that will not only have fans abuzz, but will also serve as the real start to this new story arc.  It’s intense and brutal, and a perfect WTF? to lead you into the next issue.

While it was fun to see the team out and about, having themselves a good time where they can find it, I do have some problems with this issue.  This is a top favorite book of mine, and I am very invested in these characters, but I really feel the ball was dropped hard on this one.  The ending was great and really opens the title to a whole new level of crazy, but it was the whole package that left me numb.  As stated, the scripting of the characters is perfectly done and well balanced, playing and teasing their personalities in interesting ways.  What bothers me, however, is that the issue reads way too fast, and things are rushed to the point where almost every page has a whole new scene with different characters.  The set-up for the coming arc is awesome, but it felt a bit forced as opposed to boiling up to that point.  Actually, the whole issue feels that way.

I was very excited to read this, and maybe my own expectations for this title got in the way, but the book didn’t feel as if it had any ground for a story to be placed on – like random scenes only linked by the fact that they are all of the same group.  Where this can totally work out fine, and I see why they chose to go this route with the book, the delivery of the story in this issue is flawed.  It leaves me with the feeling of having watched a film on TV, with the parts cut out for time to fit in the commercial breaks.  I felt like they should have been more of what we were given.  What could have been a fun read with a good dose of lead-up falls due to a hurried script with wobbly pacing, as if Dysart wasn’t sure how to lead from such an event as ‘War’ into a more relaxed issue.

The artwork is top notch as always, though there are a few panels that seem overdone.  There is also a problem in the storytelling in the artwork, but that might be more evidence of the faulty script.  There are a few other stumbles in the art – mostly concerning the rendering of the main characters, which caused me to pour over a drawing or two to make sure I was looking at who I thought I was looking at, and some of it does feel a little rushed.  Overall, even with the slight problems the artwork is the best thing about this issue.

I’m not quite sure what went wrong with this issue, or why it did so.  All I know is that every issue thus far has given us such brilliant writing and strong artwork that this is most likely just a bump in the road of an amazing title.  This is a new arc and an great ‘jumping on’ point for new readers, just be sure to expect better down the road.  Like, you know – hopefully next issue.  This is too important and well done of a comic to not pick itself right back up.  And I fully expect it to do so.

So, with this issue I’ll have to give it 2/3rds of a “BAG IT!” and a small 3rd of a “BORED IT!”.  great idea for an issue, and a perfect placement for this break, it just didn’t follow through enough to make it as good as I feel it should have been.  Onto next issue, then!

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Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter:  @FeralFang27

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