For my money the two most interesting characters in the Valiant Universe are Peter Stanchek and Toyo Harada. Granted the Valiant Universe is populated by plenty of characters that are deep with flaws and personality to boot, but there’s something just fascinating about the relationship between these two characters. I know that most people would think to compare them to Xavier and Magneto or Lex Luthor and Superman, but really they’re well beyond that. Those characters have had their relationship hammered and forged over the course of decades whereas Joshua Dysart has crafted the balance between Stanchek and Harada since the conclusion of the first story arc. The thing about them is that neither man is inherently good or evil. In fact where they differ from the other two sets of characters I listed is that they’re both trying their damndest at times to be really good men. They’re just at different points in their journey. Peter wants to help the people he cares about while Harada wants to help humanity so that the wars and battles he’s fought along the way don’t need to happen to anyone else. It’s just that they’re both so deeply flawed that they can’t see what they’re doing is hurting themselves and others.
This issue highlights all the things I’m talking about as it starts with both men underwater, thousands of miles apart, but still connected. They both do a double take thinking the other is right in front of them rather than the simple fact that water is a wonderful transmitter.
What’s interesting is that we begin to see that the President and his cabinet aren’t actually happy with Peter and his reveal, that they were actually kind of okay with the way things were going and that now that it’s out in the open they have to do something about it and what they feared all along is coming true… they can’t. They can’t stop Harada and so that anger is being directed at Peter.
Peter’s side of the story is actually really awesome as he’s found the perfect dose of drugs to allow him to use his powers, but to basically block out the world. After being discovered in the last issue he’s gone under water and is just walking where the current takes him. That is until his conscious reaches out to him in the form of a fish and begins taking the shape of his friends. One thing is clear though, he’s going to break Kris out of jail. I wish we could discuss that part because it’s amazing, but that’s a bit too much to reveal; it’s an awesome scene though.
What’s really wonderful about this issue and the conclusion of the story arc, is that it doesn’t end with a bang. It ends feeling as if something bigger is coming and yet this conclusion is every bit as satisfying as all the other issues that have come before it. Dysart knows this world and these characters so well that it’s effortless for him to tell stories with them and to convince the reader that this is real. His command over Harbinger is much like Robert Venditti’s command over X-O Manowar, which is equally impressive.
Personally I think some of the best artists at Valiant are always on the Harbinger books; case in point Rafa Sandoval, a name I didn’t know before this series, but now I’m a fan of his artwork. Sandoval’s style is at home with the Harbinger series as it looks similar to a lot of the other artists that have come before him. The thing is while similar he leaves his mark on the series. There’s a fantastic panel of Peter and Harada under water and the image really states everything that’s going on with both men. Harada’s image is a close up and it highlights his rage and quest for power, while Peter’s shows him walking away with his shoulders slouched. Sandoval marks this series with some powerful imagery and the storytelling is better because of it.
If you missed out on Omegas then you really should do yourself a favor and pick it up, especially if you haven’t read Harbinger yet. Dysart and company make sure that this world is approachable and understandable to new readers so take advantage of that. For the rest of us that have been reading the series since it’s return, well we won’t have to wait long to get our next installment though this time it’ll be known as Imperium. To put it plainly, this is still the best Valiant title out there.
Writer: Joshua Dysart Artist: Rafa Sandoval Publisher: Valiant Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/29/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital