If you haven’t been enjoying these Book of Death one-shots that look at the end of some of the most popular Valiant characters then there’s little hope of you enjoying the latest, The Fall of Harbinger. If like me, you have been enjoying them then you’ll definitely like this one-shot look at the end of the Harbinger universe or what you know it as currently… Imperium. Now you may be wondering what’s so good about these one-shots? Why are they worth reading. Granted they don’t add anything to the Book of Death series, but that’s also a good thing. It means they can actually be read on their own. The thing that’s good about them, they feel like an honest wrap up of decades of stories.
This issue in particular feels like it has a natural conclusion to everything that Joshua Dysart has built up through forty or so issues of Harbinger and its tie-ins and off-shoots. What’s truly impressive is that it continues the strange friend/enemy, master/student relationship between Peter and Harada. Frankly, their dysfunctional relationship is one of the best and most realistic relationships in all of comics as they’re both forces of good and evil. Battling each other usual hurts themselves and others and while they have empathy for others, they just can’t stop themselves.
It could just be me, but there’s a cinematic approach to the issue. I can’t for the life of me recall the film that it reminds me of, but the stories pacing is very familiar. In the issue Peter walks the reader through his life, mistakes and all. It’s a great throwback to the early issues of Harbinger and Dysart even plays on that by saying the beginning is the foundation for the future. Very meta when you think about what this issue means for the series and the Valiant U. Also, I absolutely love the spoiler about who Faith marries. HOLY SHIT!
The art is rough. I like Kano’s style, but he seemed to crank up the amount of lines and thickness of said lines for this one-shot. Part of that seems to be intentional to show the age of the characters. Peter and his wife (not who you think it’ll be) look old. Not comic book old, but actually old. There are actually a lot of characters in this story that look old. I commend Kano on that, but overall it makes the issue look dated which is a strange thing to say about the issue. It’s not bad, but it hasn’t been my favorite art to come from these one-shots.
If you’re not reading Imperium or you didn’t read Harbinger, then you’re probably thinking, “I should skip this issue.” Well here’s the strange thing. Dysart actually treats this issue as more of a recap to everything he’s done with the franchise from day one. He still manages to craft a rewarding story, but he also gives new readers the Cliffsnotes of everything they’ve missed. If you’ve been curious about this franchise, don’t be afraid of this issue.
Book of Death: The Fall of Harbinger #1 Writer: Joshua Dysart Artist: Kano Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/30/15 Format: One-Shot; Print/Digital