With debut issues currently staggered for release through August, Valiant is giving fans something fresh to look forward to all summer. This month brings us the first issue of the relaunched Harbinger, a series any comic fan should be familiar with as it was one of Valiant’s most acclaimed franchises in the early 90’s and one hell of a book. I’m glad to say the kick-off to the new series doesn’t disappoint – maintaining the general plot of the blockbuster original while playing around with great new takes on the characters and with a darker, more foreboding feel overall.
Harbinger is about as close as the Valiant Universe has come to something like X-Men, featuring a group of teenagers, born with dormant, extraordinary telekinetic and psychic powers, who learn to control and focus their abilities to fight for what they believe in. Issue #1 introduces only a limited cast of these characters – a smart move and one that will allow the reader to get a more intimate feel for each character. Peter Stanchek, the series’ main protagonist, is one of the most powerful Psiots (the term coined for these unique individuals) in the world and controls a broad spectrum of powers. As he doesn’t fully understand or welcome the powers he controls, Peter self-medicates himself with antipsychotic drugs to help regulate the swirling voices he constantly hears thanks psychic abilities. Early in the book, Peter uses a mind-control tactics to force a pharmacist to hand over this medication along with a register full of cash. Later, he forces Kris, a girl he knew as a child, to fall in love with him after she initially snubs his advances. Suffice it to say, Stanchek isn’t your run-of-the-mill do-gooder. In fact, more so than in the original run, Harbinger doesn’t define clear lines between hero and villain. This rich characterization makes the debut issue a great read and, while it’s a slow build up, it lays the groundwork for an intense story that will have you hooked by the dramatic conclusion.
Not only do Peter (along with his friend Joe) and Kris return for the relaunch, but key player Toyo Harada is also introduced. Harada, presumably the first and most developed Psiot, has used his powers and influence to become the wealthy head of a multinational conglomerate of corporations. While long-time fans know that Toyo plays a huge role in upcoming events, this issue provides just enough details to give readers a feel for the character and his intentions. While it’s a risky move to not immediately give readers a clear-cut person to really get behind and root for, the realism in Joshua Dysart’s writing is what will draw you in and make you care about the characters. The believable presentation of Peter’s fragile emotional state and his struggle to keep his powers suppressed made for a fantastic introduction that totally sucked me into his world.
Khari Evans’ artwork really suits the title as well, featuring a stylish mix of more detailed and heavily inked panels interjected with shots with minimal hard lines which instead rely on the colorist’s shading techniques to add definition. Whether aloof or abrasive, Evans did a fantastic job bringing the young characters’ moods to life through their facial expressions & body language and handles all the diverse locations the reader is taken to throughout the debut issue with finesse. Do yourself a favor and check Harbinger out — it’s another solid entry in Valiant’s new universe and has set the foundation for an intense narrative.
Check out a preview below of the issue’s first six pages, which include Toyo Harada’s prologue sequence and an introduction to Peter Stanchek, as well as a shot of Valiant’s QR Voice Variant — a QR code-augmented cover illustrated by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic, scripted by Joshua Dysart, and animated by Neal Adams’s Continuity Studios.
In addition to the QR Voice Variant, Harbinger #1 will also hit shelves with three other awesome cover variations – the standard edition by Arturo Lozzi, the Pullbox Exclusive Variant by Mico Suayan, and an incentive variant by Doug Braithwaite. Very cool stuff indeed.