Review by Karl Verhoven
Two previous graphic novels chronicled the contact between the aged Toyo Harada, head of a global conglomerate, and teenager Peter Stanchek, with powerful, but unrefined psionic powers. Harada has gathered plenty of others with powers, believing a forthcoming battle will determine the fate of Earth, while Stanchek rapidly came to disagree with Harada’s ruthless methods in service of a greater ideal, and decided to bring him down. He gathered allies enabling him to do so in Renegades, and continues to follow up on leads for further potential friends.
Before that, however, we’re given Harada’s back story mixed with that of child with terrifying powers Harada has sent on a mission to Syria. Mico Suayan and Pere Pérez alternate on pages according to the period covered, with Suayan’s decorative delicacy stunning. Harada’s past exploits continue to be seeded through the remainder of the book, showing him in a new light. It’s clever and horrifying, tying in with other Valiant titles, Bloodshot in particular, and takes place in 1969, with Joshua Dysart making good use of the era’s social concerns in passing. These sections are nicely drawn by Khari Evans, with Trevor Hairsine (sample page) equally good on the present day material.
Dysart has put considerable effort into constructing a dysfunctional set of allies for Stanchek. They’re united only by their abilities and their outcast status, but in terms of personality they’re as distant as the young Miley Cyrus is from her present day self. “It’s like taking care of a big abused puppy” is Kris Hathaway’s astute summary. Alternatively there’s Faith’s angry outburst of “When are we going to stop being a bunch of selfish jerks and start helping others?”
Eventually at stake is the fate of a selection of previously imprisoned children with super powers, or Psiots as they are at Valiant. Harada has a greater awareness of a coming apocalypse than Stanchek, and both want these children as allies. Dysart provides an interesting contrast between opposing rationales. There’s the feint and deceit method of combat compared with direct action, and innocent belief matched against hard experience, with the dips into the past explaining Harada’s lessons learned, resulting in an act first and talk later policy. Perhaps aware that his finale might not meet expectations, Dysart has Faith comment on it via narrative caption, but he shouldn’t be concerned as the ending is neat enough for a continuity based series of graphic novels.
Bloodshot: Harbinger Wars is connected, showing a different set of events that tie in to the bigger picture, and so is the confusingly titled separate Harbinger Wars graphic novel. All are collected in the Harbinger Wars Deluxe Edition, but only this content features in the first hardback Harbinger Deluxe Edition. For the really keen all three also feature in the Harbinger Wars Compendium, along with the two previous Bloodshot and Harbinger collections. This series of Harbinger continues with Perfect Day.