Review: The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #1
The Atomic Age.
Eisner Award-nominated writer Joshua Dysart returns to the Valiant Universe to continue crafting Toyo Harada’s controversial mission to save humanity from itself. Presented in an oversized format and featuring a lineup of all-star artists, including Mico Suayan, CAFU, and more, The Life and Death of Toyo Harada will place the planet’s most powerful man in the spotlight as he strives to control the course of history. But with the menacing mastermind’s resources dwindling after the downfall of the Harbinger Foundation and a target on his head, will the formidable psiot re-emerge as humanity’s greatest hero…or its most dangerous villain?
There are moments in a comics reviewer’s life when he must remember that he’s supposed to think critically about a comic. One of those moments came about five minutes after finishing this book and after staring at the screen digesting the pages that had just been read, and the only possible thing that can be held against The Life and Death of Toyo Harada #1 is that if you aren’t slightly familiar with the character’s story, specifically the events of Harbinger and Imperium then this book may not have the same impact on you. I say “slightly familiar” because I haven’t finished Imperium myself, and it has been far too long since I read Harbinger (though the collected editions are next to me waiting to be read for an upcoming, or old because it will have already been published, Underrated column), and I was still able to get lost in the first issue.
Toyo Harada is the kind of character that doesn’t come around often. He was often framed as the villain in Harbinger, though one can argue that was simply because of the side of the story we were following, rather than the character being evil. Indeed, the more I read about and the more I read that featured Harada, the more I began to question whether he was really a villain verses a hero with questionable methods. During the opening of this comic you’re able to make the same determination as we get glimpses of Harada’s life in the moments and years after the bombing of Hiroshima, so if you’re unfamiliar with the character you’re able to get a good feel for who he is and what he’s capable of without spending days reading back issues (although I would recommend you do this if you’re able).
That said, the review copy I read didn’t have a recap page, but the full print issue may very well have one, in which case bump the final score up a little.
This is a complicated character who lives in the moral and ethical grey area, and Joshua Dysart doesn’t tell you how to feel about Harada; allowing the reader to come to their own determination as to whether he’s the hero, villain or somewhere in between. It’s this decision to allow you to form your own opinion, or to reinforce an already formed opinion, that’s a personal highlight.
Artistically, to borrow a baseball term, the book is a four run homer. Or something – baseball was never really my jam (hockey, however, is another story). When Cafu‘s name is attached to a comic, you know the art will be fantastic – the same is also true for Mico Suayan. Between the two artists, there’s a dynamic visual one-two punch that will leave you reeling as we move from Hiroshima before and after the bomb to the far reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a visually impressive book that doesn’t let your eyes rest for a moment. There are details in the comic that may take a second read to discover (the subtle nod to a certain Marvelous metal manipulator, a character with whom Harada shares some moral similarities, springs to mind), and some page layouts that are really fun to behold.
Although it’s still too early to call this series a masterpiece, if the quality remains consistent for the next five issues, then I won’t have any hesitation in doing so. Is it the best place to start reading about Toyo Harada? Probably not, but this is a shining light on 2019 the comic book landscape, and firmly establishes the miniseries as a solid early contender for this reviewer’s Best of 2019 list.
Story: Joshua Dysart Art: Cafu and Mico Suayan
Colours: Andrew Dalhouse Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
Valiant provided a FREE copy for review, but this is a book I’ll be buying when it hits the racks.