There are a lot of comics out there, but some stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This,” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, we’re spotlighting “The Harbinger”, a deep and exciting superhero story that’s looking like the cornerstone of Valiant’s cinematic universe.
Who’s this by?
“The Harbinger” brings together a strong team of creatives. We start with Collin Kelly, who’s been prolific in the DC universe for a while. You may remember him from the 2016 to 2019 Green Arrow run, Nightwing, Grayson, and various batman runs, including the ongoing Batman Beyond: Neo-year. He’s been active on the Marvel side of things as well, and is currently working on Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty. There’s more stuff sprinkled in there, but the point is that Kelly is no stranger to the superhero genre, which is plus since “The Harbinger” is looking more and more like Valiant’s superhero universe centerpiece. We’d type out Jackson Lanzing’s credits as well, but it’s a lot of the same stuff as Kelly’s given that they’re consistent collaborators. You can tell by the text of the stories they work on, too: their comics are usually well written and narratively rich, clearly the work of two minds working as one. Some co-written comics are a little clunky, but that’s not the case for “The Harbinger.”
Robbi Rodriguez does the art for “The Harbinger,” and also has a long history working on high profile superhero stories, working on Spider Gwen, DC’s upcoming Teen Justice, and more. His work is exciting and flashy, which is everything you want for this genre — but we’ll get to that more in further sections. Just know that this team works well together, and keeps its eye on the prize: building a rich, well developed superhero comic.
What’s this all about?
Okay, now let’s get into the heart of it. What’s going on in “The Harbinger,” and what story is trying to tell? From what we’ve seen, Valiant is on the come-up in terms of hitting its connective universe’s critical mass of superheroes, and “The Harbinger,” like its namesake seems to be the vanguard story. In “The Harbinger” universe, psiots, akin to mutants from X-Men, wield tremendous amount of psychic powers that translate to enhanced abilities of all kinds. Of course, such powerful abilities are a heavy burden, are difficult to use, and lead to both praise and ostracization. “The Harbinger” zeroes in on Peter Stanchek, a powerful psiot telepath who also happens to be a maladjusted teenager trying to figure his life out. His powers may be strong, but addiction is stronger: he’s constantly high, anguished, and on the run from his demons and captors, imagined and real. Peter’s finds himself caught between halfway houses, squatting with other psiots as they navigate their powers and the city of Chicago. The world of “The Harbinger” is filled with strong personalities, and each issue builds on the last. This one’s got a strong cast of characters and with a lot of depth.
So why should I read this?
This is the question from the hour. From what you’ve read so far, you might be thinking that this is just another reskinned X-Men story — the psiots are burdened with power and anguish, factions form from among their ranks as they struggle with how to interact with wider society. Are they protectors, are they exiles, are they vigilantes? It’s a shtick for sure, but “The Harbinger” only treads slightly in this territory, and rises above because of its superb writing. Despite the superhero fare, this story is full of drama and intrigue, and the protagonists and villains have strong motivations. We also get narrative information and exposition from a lot of angles. What we mean is that we get characters talking on the page, but also some third person omniscient narration on the page as well. This means we’re constantly getting information about what’s going on, and you’ll see dramatic fight scenes on the page along with deep, introspective narration at the same time. It can take some getting used to, but once you’re primed to the style, the reading experience becomes a lot richer While it sometimes veers into the melodramatic, “The Harbinger” always manages to course-correct to the plot at hand, and besides, most of the characters are teenagers, so a little whining and pontificating is par for the course.Continued below
What really makes “The Harbinger” worth reading is the art. Robbi Rodriguez does not hold back, and we’re treated so some madcap action sequences full of close-ups, dynamic angles, and visual thrills of all kinds. There’s incredible energy and color in these pages that matches the mood. We often say that art serves a double function in superhero stories. The first function is the obvious one: make stuff look awesome! Explosions! Punches and crunches! The other function is to develop describe and enunciate hero and villain characterization through costume, stances, and all that. Rodriguez does this extremely well, and we get a great sense of what villains and the heroes act like through the visuals.
How can I read this?
“The Harbinger” #7, the penultimate issue of the current story, releases on April 27th wherever comics are sold.