Two weeks ago, we told you about Archer & Armstrong from the revived Valiant Comics company. Rebooting the story-lines of great characters in the “Summer of Valiant” in an industry downturn has caused quite a buzz and offered another avenue for creators to spread their wings with an independent publisher. Harbinger, which reaches Issue #3 today, is about a powerful psychic teen with destructive potential. New York Times bestselling author Joshua Dysart (BRPD) teams up with artists Khari Evans (Immortal Iron Fist) and Lewis LaRosa (Punisher MAX) to feed the constant voices in ‘psiot’ Peter Stanchek’s head.
Not unlike the original X-Men, the original Harbinger comic from 1992 was very much a team book, assembling teenage freaks with psychic abilities under the powerful Toyo Harada’s tutelage. Created by comic book legend and former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter as a flagship title for the original Valiant Comics, Harbinger was popular and (as is the case today) on the forefront of feeding the speculative comic market crowd with variant covers and rare comics.
Valiant in the ’90s had a shared universe in which psychic powers were paramount as opposed to the mutant or metahuman powers of Marvel and DC.
Joshua Dysart’s story opens with protagonist Peter Stanchek rolling through the busy streets of Pittsburgh, hearing the din of everyone’s thoughts: “Man, I drank a lot of coffee today!” OHMYGODLOOKATTHATPUPPY!” “I can’t believe I’m going bald.” It is enough to make him knock over a pharmacy to quell the voices in his head. The pills do work somewhat — well, temporarily — as Peter doesn’t quite realize his full potential yet. All of his life he has heard others’ inner dialogue and has been able to use his psionic powers to hurt or kill. Peter has no control and is on the run, escaped from a mental hospital with his schizophrenic partner Joe.
Peter and Joe are trying to escape two separate and unrelated entities. The first is Mr. Tull and his S.W.A.T. team of government aggressors attempting to capture and detain any Harbingers with high psychic abilities. The other is the most powerful psychic on Earth, Toyo Harada. Toyo is the head of The Harbinger Foundation, a secret organization and school for students with Peter’s abilities.
Toyo Harada is introduced in a flashback to when he was also an 18-year-old. Toyo knocks out a battalion of Chinese soldiers with his psychic blast. The soldiers are protecting “The Bleeding Monk Who Will Not Die”. The monk is expecting him, and warns Harada of the future.
If the future looks anything like monks bleeding out forever in full lotus, you can count me out!
In the second issue of the series, Harada reveals himself as a dog to Peter and advises him out of his current situation with the S.W.A.T. teams. If ever Peter were to choose a side, he defers to the talking Advice Dog and fellow Harbinger. After the tussle with Mr. Tull’s men, Peter is whisked away by members of the Harbinger Foundation to his new home.
Choosing to leave his old life behind him, Peter is recruited and indoctrinated into the multinational conglomerate that operates as a training ground for ‘psiots’ of notable power. Like other teams of its kind, different ages are represented, from teenagers to “graduates” of the program. Some others could be as young as 10.
Harada warns Peter that the first day of school is difficult. Peter is forced to relive dark secrets of his past and his powers by interfacing with a doctor and a fellow student. This almost breaks him, and this all happens before lunch.
Assimilating himself into the school is sucking for Peter, but as readers, we get to see how the book moves deftly from an individual story into a team book by introducing the other Harbingers with code names like “Ion” and “Livewire” in the third issue.
I highly recommend this book. It has plenty of action, dark themes, great reveals, and interesting leads. We’ve beaten the X-Men analogue into the ground as point of reference, but that’s not entirely accurate. Fans of BPRD, Star Trek, Lost, Nick Spencer’s Morning Glories, and the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents reboot will have a lot to sink their teeth into with Harbinger. Dysart’s writing is tonally dark, but lets you in the front door with the very identifiable teenage Peter Stanchek.
Discovering the world around Peter right along with him will leave you hanging on for subsequent issues.
Khari Evans and Lewis LaRosa are drawing huge action scenes alongside intimate dialogue scenes and flashbacks. I love the modern look of the book as much as its rich story.
This summer, make mine Valiant!
WAIT … THERE’S MORE! CHECK OUT LEAGUEPODCAST.COM — BOSTON’S COMIC BOOK AND POP CULTURE PODCAST — “Thinking about Comics since 2009″!
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