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“Harbinger Renegade” #4

By | February 23rd, 2017
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Alexander Solomon’s plans begin to be revealed as Rafer Roberts and Darick Robertson conclude their opening arc. With such a pedigree behind this franchise, does this first going make the landing? Let’s find out.

Written by Rafer Roberts
Illustrated by Darick Robertson & Juan Jose Ryp

Retaliation! Faith 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? Valiant’s latest smash-hit series fires back onto the frontline as multiple Harvey Award nominee Rafer Roberts (Plastic Farm) and superstar artist Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan, The Boys) present the final moment of truth!

Roberts and Robertson (trying saying that multiple times) have certainly got their work cut out for them. As I have stated before, the “Harbinger” series that preceded this one is considered the critical crown jewel in Valiant’s crown these last several years. A finely tuned look at power in the hands of people that are irresponsible and how far one is willing to go to make the world a better place. Now that they have a full arc under their belt, is this team up to the task before them?

Well, judging from this? Yeah. They certainly have the potential.

This issue focuses around the conversation between Alexander Solomon and Kris Hathaway while Peter, Faith and Co. are otherwise incapacitated by Solomon’s psiots. It is here that we learn of Solomon’s true goal. True he needs Kris, but more specifically, he needs Kris’ ability to guide Peter towards Solomon’s objective: activating every psiot on Earth. He cites several events -both fictional (the Armor Hunter invasion, the Bloodshot Nanite outbreak, Harada’s Foundation Zone) and real (the continuing strife in the U.S.)- and chastises his former teacher Harada for only activating an elite few psiots. He also appeals to Kris’ own nature, her desire to make the world a better place, in spite of how bad things have gotten.

But that’s not all. We go into further detail on Solomon’s psiot power: he can essentially calculate massive probabilities and be able to make highly accurate predictions, detect potential disasters and figure out ways to avoid them. I admit, I was nervous when we were told in interview that this was his ability. The big reason at the time is that comics was in the middle of Marvel’s “Civil War II”. It was an atrocious comic that had a character with a similar power set at the center of it. That being said, Ulysses was nothing more than a prop to justify one of the worst events Marvel has ever done. Here though, we do see a bit of a rundown of how Solomon’s mind works (in the prologue with Juan Jose Ryp on art), and, the most important part is, Solomon actually has some personality unlike Ulysses. My concern really still stands: that this power is essentially being able to read the comic’s plot. You have characters like Harada who are able to manipulate but not having read outcomes and make predictions as their main schtick. It does have the potential to make Solomon essentially “Harada-Lite”, but Rafer is doing some good things (like establishing his family life before Harada) to potentially make Solomon a worthy antagonist in the long run.

But it’s not just Kris and Solomon that take a focus. We get more insight into Peter Stanchek’s mental state right now (that is to say, being put into his own Lotus Eater Machine by one of Solomon’s psiots). Peter is a very polarizing character. Not unfounded, but I tend to see fans either love or hate him and I do get why. He has screwed up on many many occasions. Here, we see the guilt pile up and up near to bursting. It makes for a nice contrast to the epilogue with this arc, a little bit of tranquility before another storm approaches. A visual cue is Peter finally trimming away the haggard Jesus look. Peter is no messiah. He’s a very very very flawed individual.

Continued below

I have to be honest, now that we are four issues in, I am starting to become up-and-down with the artwork. While I don’t find it bad (Brian Reber’s coloring continues to be real good), I am not super into it. Robertson and Clark do a good job in terms of page construction, creating a good narrative flow to the work and provide some nice moments (some standouts being Torque getting out of the hospital and… err… “Torquing” up as well as most of the epilogue) there are some moments that come off as characters having a bad case of -as coined by the returning Mystery Science Theater 3000– “Dull Surprise”. Where characters should be conveying emotion but their faces look stiff. It isn’t everywhere, but it does feel like it hits big time in the conversation with Kris and Solomon, a big focus of the issue.

As I mentioned, the epilogue, only a couple of pages, are where this art team does gel together the best. It is a calm time before things get worse, but the art team does a great job of selling it. Reber’s colors work so well to produce a calm, tranquil day, as if there wasn’t a bunch of superpowered mad people ready to bring the world into the grip of chaos. It allows the reader to take a break with this new team.

“Harbinger Renegade” has shown it has the chops. It is putting the pieces -old and new- onto the board. The final page is a teaser for “Massacre”, the next arc that starts this July. If you are a fan of the much missed “Imperium” and sad about the ending of “Generation Zero” and really just a fan of the greater psiot side of the Valiant Universe, then like this first arc, it should prove to intrigue.

Final Verdict: 7.3- While the art has some rickets, the team is proving they can be a new force in the Valiant Universe.

Ken Godberson III

When he's not at his day job, Ken Godberson III is a guy that will not apologize for being born Post-Crisis. More of his word stuffs can be found on Twitter or Tumblr. Warning: He'll talk your ear off about why Impulse is the greatest superhero ever.