Review: Harbinger #21

What the hell!!! That was pretty much my only thought after reading this issue. Whereas the previous issue didn’t spend a lot of time with the Renegades outside of showing up at the end, this issue dives right back into the group. While Harbinger as a whole is bigger than just the story of Peter Stancheck and his batch of Renegades, it’s these issues that are the most enjoyable. Does the plot progress? Sure, but it’s a baby step at best. Most of the issue is just spent with the team and while half of them are planning and stressing over their next move, the rest of them are doing what they do best… growing up. It’s easy to forget that most of them are still kids and instead of growing out of their awkward phase and entering adulthood, they’re living underground and hiding out from one of the most powerful psiots on the planet.

The issue kicks off with the team heading to their TMNT hideout which I thought was awesome and instantly made me jealous of their hideout. They bring @X in and frankly are way too trusting of him. We learn a bit of his backstory and the impression that we’re given is that his character would be more likely to be anti-psiot than pro. Chris, Peter and @X talk about their plan while Animalia avoids the team. Flamingo and Torque party and drink the night away until they end up kissing each other. You may think you know where that leads, but you’ll never see where it actually leads. The scene that results from this is one of the best in the entire series.

Joshua Dysart is incredibly talented when it comes to characters and dialogue, but his real strength is in the way he’s able to both please and annoy the reader within the same issue. There are some great scenes in this issue and really touching character moments that are the backbone of the series. Then there are moments that make you want to scream at the characters. For instance Peter. Why he’s just letting @X into their group and explaining their plan is beyond me; especially when there was a clue in the previous issue that if you caught it will reveal a lie that @X tells in this issue.

HAR_021_COVER_HENRYThe other character I wanted to yell at was Animalia; she’s stubborn and immature which is fitting for her age, but damn it makes it frustrating to read. When she tells Peter that he’s weak I wanted to kick her out of the group instantly. Generation Zero might be “tougher” than the Renegades, but it’s only because they’ve been disposable weapons sent into life or death battles all their lives. It’s simple math that isn’t worth explaining because it’s a fictional child character. If a writer can make you have a pretend argument with a character then you know that you just read some incredible character work.

Clayton Henry’s work on this series is always welcomed and this issue is no exception. With that said there was one page that bothered me in this otherwise outstanding issue. There’s a scene with @X in which he stares at Animalia as she’s taken the form of a giant humming-bird and his eyes are off centered. I think this is intentional since it’s repeated in three panels back to back, but in one of them it’s exaggerated too much making it look like a flaw in the art rather than an intentional imperfection for the character. I’m not sure which it is and while it didn’t kill the art, it caught my eye.

Otherwise Henry produces some of the best scenes in the series. The scene I want to talk about but can’t, is one of them. It’s incredibly powerful and yet humorous at the same time and would be nothing without Henry’s artwork. Henry also has a “you know they’re talented” moment in this issue and it’s the fact that 90% or more of the issue takes place in a brick sewer like area that all looks the same. It’s impressive when any artist can take a setting like that and make every panel and page interesting to read and look at.

I probably haven’t given Brian Reber enough credit for his coloring on this series. Something tells me he’s the artistic backbone of this series that’s had several talent artists come and go from the title. Reber’s coloring always manages to capture the beauty of the world and give it that untied look which is important when the art changes.

This story arc has been very impressive, but the fact that this issue takes a moment and touches base with our characters and peels back more layers of their psyche is one of the many reasons this is Valiant’s best series. This is the blue print to a great character based team book, which makes it required reading in my opinion.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Joshua Dysart Artist: Clayton Henry Colorist: Brian Reber Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 2/12/14