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Spoiler Free Review: Harbinger Renegade #5

HR_005_COVER-A_ROBERTSON“Toyo Harada’s former protege – Alexander Solomon, a “psiot” with the ability to predict and analyze potential futures – has been waiting for this moment. With the Harbinger Renegades – Peter Stanchek, Faith, Kris Hathaway, and Torque – now reunited as a result of his covert manipulations, his ultimate gambit can now begin. But he’s not the only one who has been watching. Major Charlie Palmer has just re-assigned a new division of the militarized psiot hunters codenamed H.A.R.D. Corps to active duty…and they’re about to bring a torrent of blood and calamity roaring into the streets of a major American metropolis for an all-out firefight.

The Harbinger Renegades. Livewire. Alexander Solomon. Generation Zero. Toyo Harada. Secret Weapons. Imperium. None of them are safe…and, when the smoke clears, a pivotal Valiant hero will become the first sacrifice of the massive Harbinger War that is to come.”

I will tell you right now: I was really excited to read this issue – so much so that I literally dropped the other features (because I frequently have multiple balls in the air at once) to read the comic. Understandably, Valiant are extremely cautious about spoilers for this issue, so I won’t reveal anything about the story itself beyond the preview text above. However, it will certainly help your enjoyment of the comic if you’re familiar with some, or all, of the comics and characters mentioned above (The Harbinger Renegades. Livewire. Alexander Solomon. Generation Zero. Toyo Harada. Secret Weapons. Imperium.)

HR_005_COVER_ADVISORY-OVERLAP

The comic comes with this as a wrap around cover to warn the audience as to the content inside.

So what can I say about this comic? Well it was perfectly okayRafer Roberts has written a story doesn’t quite live up to the hype generated by the machine Valiant set in motion for Harbinger Renegade #5, although it’s pretty solid, and honestly I needed multiple readings to really get the most out of it. Obviously I can’t tell you why without risking the spoilers – nor can I tell you some of the reasons I felt the issue didn’t work. Instead, I’ll move on. Artistically, the comic isn’t anything spectacular, but nor is it unremarkable; it’s just about good enough to serve the story without any major hiccups (but again I can’t discuss those). Essentially, where as a good story can lift a comic where the art struggles and vice versa, both story and art are on the same level here; they’re both just hovering between okay and good.

Out of respect for Valiant and their wishes I’ve avoided spoilers, probably far more than I needed to, so what I can say is limited. At the end of the day, this is the weakest of the five Renegade books that have been released thus far, which is a shame given the amount of push that Valiant have out behind it. Though I do wonder if that is a result of Harbinger Renegade #5 simply being a book that didn’t deliver verses it being a comic that just wasn’t able to live up to the hype. I’m edging toward the latter.

If you’re a Valiant fan, whether of the publisher in general or of this property, then you’re going to want to read this. Be prepared for it to be a little disappointing given all the buzz, but I also expect this to fly off the shelves because of the warning on the cover.

Story: Rafer Roberts Art: Darick Robertson
Inks: Richard Clark Colours: Diego Rodriguez
Story: 7.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 7.25 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.

Review: Harbinger Renegade #4

hr_004_variant_cheungFaith Herbert, the heart and soul of the Harbinger Renegades, has been captured! Now, Peter Stanchek, Kris Hathaway, and John Torkelson must put their powers to practice and rescue their beloved ally from a radicalized group of psiots bent on fraying the fabric of society. But as the rechristened Renegades make their move, their newfound rivals strike first by making Peter an offer he can’t refuse. As the clock ticks closer to tragedy, will the omega-level harbinger make a do-or-die decision to save his friends… or himself?

I’ve read three Valiant comics this week; this, Divinity III #3, and an advanced review copy of X-O Manowar #1. While I really quite enjoyed Harbinger Renegade #4, I did feel that it was the weakest of the three offerings from the publisher – although when that can be said about a comic this good, that’s more a statement of admiration for Valiant’s comics and the high standard they set for themselves.

Harbinger Renegade #4 concludes the first story arc that ends up feeling more like a new introduction to the Renegades (Peter, Torque, Faith and Kris) and their new companions than it does the epic return that many, myself included, were hoping for.

That being said, I understand why Rafer Roberts has framed the first arc as he did, as there would have been some readers new to the franchise that would have otherwise been lost (the same thing that happened to yours truly when picking up Imperium), and in order for any series to thrive you need to attract new readers. The first arc was successfully accessible to new readers, easing them into the characters while still providing long time fans something to enjoy.

Overall, this was a solidly entertaining book that left me wanting more. I can’t ask for more than that in a comic.

Story: Rafer Roberts  Penciler: Darick Robertson 
Inker: Richard Clark Colourist: Brian Reber
Story: 8.5 Art: 8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Harbinger Renegade #3

hr_003_cover-c_paloszReunited, but once again torn from the lives they’d carefully rebuilt, the Harbinger Renegades have found themselves attacked on all sides by a vicious new enemy – a radicalized army of psiot zealots determined to bring the system down by any means necessary. Can this band of former friends become the fighters they once were, or will they succumb to the temptation of a new power that’s more vicious than anything they’ve ever faced before? With Torque and Faith in mortal jeopardy, Peter Stanchek and Kris Hathaway must put the past behind them…and embrace their chosen destiny in what lies ahead.

Of all the comics Valiant released this week, this was the one that surprised me the most.

Rafer Roberts has the unenviable task of following the man who has been guiding the Harbinger story for 50 odd issues, Joshua Dysart, and although Roberts has been subject to some criticism simply because he’s a new writer taking on the property, I’ve been enjoying what he’s been doing with Harbinger Renegade thus far. And honestly? I think this is probably the best of the three issues so far.

Apologies for the minor spoilers to follow. If you don’t want to read past this point, then all you need to know that issue is worth buying.

Alright, so this issue we finally get to see Peter Stanchek arrive back on earth with a fresh new beard and hair style (that of the Unkempt Spaceman) that almost invokes a saviour like image when we first see him actually on earth, except… you can almost see the weight of the world on his shoulders in that first panel. It’s a brilliantly subtle piece of visual story telling from Darick Robertson, but it adds a lot to the rest of the comic as events unfold.

Harbinger Renegade is a departure in tone and style from the other book Roberts was writing for Valiant, the dearly departed A&A, but it’s every bit as good as you want it to be, and then some.

Story: Rafer Roberts Art: Darick Robertson Inks: Richard Clark
Colourists: Diego Rodriguez and Brian Reber
Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: Harbinger Renegade #2

hr_002_cover-a_robertsonKris Hathaway, Peter Stanchek, Faith Herbert, and John Torkelson thought they could go underground. They thought they could get their old lives back. They were wrong. As four psionically powered “psiots” that can defy the laws of physics with a thought alone, this extraordinarily dangerous team of renegades won’t be able to escape the fight that society has brought to their door. As a violent, new superpower movement spreads across the suburbs, America’s only hope will be the teenagers it wished it could forget.

Here’s the thing about Harbinger Renegade; it’s the third chapter in a longer story featuring the same characters (depending on how your reckoning is – I’m thinking of Harbinger and Imperium as the first two chapters), and while starting at the beginning is always ideal, it isn’t always financially feasible for every reader. It is therefore, fortunate that Renegade can be picked up without having read either of the previous chapters in the larger story.

Harbinger Renegade #2 lets us get a glimpse into what drove Peter Stanchek to meditate in Saturn’s rings, as seen last issue, and it’s a well-written part of the comic. Rafer Roberts utilizes a familiar, but no less effective, method of showing Peter’s struggle with his immense power; credit should also be given to letterer Dave Lanphear for placing so much text above Darick Robertson‘s artwork without losing any of the detail. It’s a nice throwback to the first issue’s cover that will remind long time readers of that iconic cover, and convey to new readers the amount of psychic noise that Stanchek has to deal with, and does help in explaining why he ends up meditating on Saturn.

Despite not having read Imperium the final actions of the Renegades in that series are playing a large part of the story here as certain members continue to deal with the repercussions of their actions. As such there’s a lot more story development here than action, and I’m very happy with that, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing interesting to look at. Lanphear is joined on art duties by Richard Clark (inks) and Diego Rodriguez (colours), and they deliver some utterly superb space scenes and layouts.

You may think that nothing much happens in this issue, I did the first time I read it, but there’s a lot of character exploration here, which allow us to get into the minds of Kris, Tamara, and to a certain extent Peter. We also get a glimpse at the man who will more than likely be the “villain” in the story as the series progresses. I use quotation marks, because even Toyo Harada wasn’t as evil as you’d think, so I’m curious how Roberts will set the new guy up.

If you’re a Harbinger fan this is pretty much essential.

Story: Rafer Roberts Pencils: Darick Robertson
Inks: Richard Clark Colours: Diego Rodriguez Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Story: 8.75 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Advanced Review: Harbinger Renegade #1

hr_001_cover-a_robertsonAnyone you know could become a psionically powered “harbinger” with the potential to reshape the course of human history. Your neighbor. Your boss. Your best friend. Your kids.

Six months ago, a secret team of renegade whistleblowers leaked the existence of these extraordinarily dangerous individuals to a stunned world. Today, all across the country, crude, DIY psiot activation attempts have left hundreds brain damaged…or worse. The emergence of a new psiot in a community often leads to riots and mass violence. Gun sales are through the roof.

America is terrified of what could happen next.

With this revolutionary upheaval now in motion, Kris Hathaway, John “Torque” Torkelson, Faith “Zephyr” Herbert, and Peter Stanchek are about to discover their calling. Together, the HARBINGER RENEGADES are moving from town to town, building their ranks, and subverting authority one mind at a time…and setting out to prove once and for all that behind their power, there has always been a purpose.

Alright, so let’s get something out the way right away. I have only read one issue of Harbinger, so I have only the slightest familiarity with the characters involved in the comic – aside from Faith, that is. One of the questions I’ll be asking with this review, is whether new readers can enjoy Valiant‘s newest series, or if you need to read the thirty plus issues of Harbinger and Imperium before picking this comic up, which is a feat I intend to undertake after reading this issue. Which brings up another question: if you read this before the other related series, are you spoiling those for yourself?

Obviously, if you do read Harbinger Renegade #1 before either Harbinger or Imperium then there will be some spoilers; but if you’ve been reading Faith then you’ll already have a pretty good idea about what’s happened (or rather what will be revealed to you) in the other series, but aside from a very general overview, this issue alone doesn’t delve too much into the past other than a two page what has gone before type recap.

So, in answer to my earlier question, despite the rich history of these characters, this comic is absolutely accessible to new readers. Especially those who have found their way here from Faith, which I’m sure Valiant are hoping will happen.

But is the comic actually worth reading?

The short answer is absolutely. The way that Rafer Roberts has written the introductory pages is fantastic; everything a person unfamiliar with the Harbinger story so far will need to understand what follows will be a story about people taking responsibility for their actions. Roberts sets the story very well, showing a different side to his writing than he does with A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong‘s far more comedic slant, with Harbinger Renegade already feeling much different in tone than that series. Make no mistake, this is going to be a darker series than A&A, and as far as my understanding of the Harbinger story goes, that’s going to be a very good thing for fans.

Another good thing for fans is the artwork in the issue.

There’s three different teams contributing to the first issue, and they read like a who’s who of Valiant’s artistic talent. Raul Allen and Patricia Martin handle the art and lettering on the introduction pages, Juan Jose Ryp and Frankie D’Armata provide the art and colour art respectively for the prologue, with the main story featuring Darick Robertson on pencils, Richard Clark on inks and colourist Diego RodriguezDave Lanphear is the letter for the prologue and the main story, tying those two teams together.

The three art teams do a fantastic job overall, but it’s in the final pages that we find a brilliant sequence where the there’s no need for too much expository dialogue, and Rafer Roberts allows his artists to depict a superb sequence.

Harbinger Renegade #1 does two things; it gets you thoroughly invested in the series (which is exactly what you want), but it also tells a complete story. If this was a one-shot, I’d be happy with the comic, but as the first issue on the journey to Harbinger Wars 2, I’m as happy as a pig in shit with this comic.

Story: Rafer Roberts
Artists: Raul Allen & Patricia Martin, Juan Jose Ryp, Darick Robertson (P) and Richard Clark (I)
Colourists Frankie D’Armata, Diego Rodriguez
Story: 8.75 Art: 9 Overall: 9 Recommendation: Buy

 

Valiant provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review