Valiant Comics is a publisher I’ve, up to a few days ago, known nothing of. They started in 1990, created a cohesive and realistic superhero universe amongst their characters, and after selling their rights down the line, it all fell apart. Recently (as in 2012), Valiant has been given a rebirth, as fans and creators bought the line and restarted it. Harbinger was one of their first titles to see the revamp. A friend introduced the first volume to me a few days back. Suffice it to say, I think I’ve been hooked.
Harbinger takes a lot of influence from elsewhere. Most notable would be the X-Men comparisons. NBC’s Heroes also feels to have influenced it a bit. Psiots are essentially a next evolutionary step in mankind according to the series, particularly with the psionic powers they develop. There’s a school for these gifted youngsters called the Harbinger Foundation where they go to hone their skills, and its owned by a very powerful Psiot known as Harada.
The major difference with the X-Men here would be the extreme realism, and level of character depth. If a kid really had these abilities to read others thoughts, hurt others with their mind, and so on, the kid would end up pretty messed up. Peter Stanchek, a psiot on the run is depressed, scared, confused, lonely and highly powerful. It makes sense he’s a bit of a junkie and one heck of a delinquent. And he does do a lot of pretty messed up stuff, including getting a girl he used to be close with to fall in love with him through mental manipulation. But you do feel truly bad for the character. You can see his outward badness is a reflection of the turmoil trapped within, and that’s frighteningly realistic. Scary even.
Other characters make for interesting, realistic choices also. So often in DC or Marvel comics we find that the only guys who ever get super powers are those that hit the gym with juice, and the girls always seem to be models stuffed with silicone. By contrast we get a heavy set girl, addicted to video games, and online chat rooms who has the ability to fly hidden within her. It’s quite invigorating in it’s nondiscriminatory choices. This goes throughout the entire introduced cast.
One of the main concerns I have with this volume was the lack of development of certain characters that ended up rebelling against the Harbinger Foundation. Poorly developed characters led to highly confusing motives. Why were they doing this? Whose side were they actually on? Who the heck are the good guys? And so on. I’m sure these are questions to be answered at another time.
There’s some very cool ideas for powers within these pages, and as they’re hidden in such a realistic and creative world? Excellent. Some scenes are a little graphic, and some particularly traumatic things happen to main characters – things I considered quite shocking. This is a series worth checking out, and I have it on good repute that it only gets better from here. The art, by Khari Evans, is gorgeous. Every panel pops. The story, by Joshua Dysart, is one of the most captivating things I’ve read in a comic in a long while. And guess what? Sony is producing it as a new multi-film franchise. Be sure to check this out.
Grab this in Paperback