Review by Karl Verhoven
This oversize hardcover compilation gathers all three graphic novels telling the entire story of Harbinger Wars, which unites the plotlines running through Harbinger and Bloodshot. Both involve sinister corporations with a benign public face, although at this point in Valiant’s continuity the jury is still out on whether Toyo Harada’s ends justify the means principles are in humanity’s best interests.
Many years previously Harada saw the future and determined that a form of chaos was coming, and only he could prevent a disaster for humanity. To this end he’s built a global corporation and has been covertly gathering and training those with inherent super powers, Psiots in Valiant’s world. He’s very interested to learn that an American corporation, Project Rising Spirit, has also been collecting Psiots, but not treating them as humanely. It’s much the same treatment they’ve been meting out to their killing machine, Bloodshot, who begins Harbinger Wars by freeing those children from their captors.
Valiant have chosen to present the stories in original publication order. An issue of Harbinger precedes one of Bloodshot before one of Harbinger Wars, and in order that the readers of an individual title could follow the story when issued as comics, matters needed to be explained in each. This leads to considerable duplication of events, to an annoying degree. At other times there’s a different perspective on the same event, which is more interesting, and other events are exclusive to individual titles. There are lots of nice small touches on the part of writers Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierzcynzki, particularly the interaction between what are essentially a very mismatched small group of Psiots who’ve escaped from Harada. Both writers also take the opportunity to investigate the pasts of their primary characters, much of which has been shrouded in mystery. Harada especially is revealed as a far more frightening individual: “Here’s what’s about to happen. We’re going to tear this place down brick by brick, and there’s simply nowhere for you to run”. The most impressive aspect overall is that needed to introduce a lot of teenagers with super powers, the level of originality is extremely high.
The sample page is drawn by Khari Evans, but it could equally be by Trevor Hairsine, Barry Kitson or Pere Pérez all of whom produce decent action art suiting the fast pace of the stories. Clayton Henry’s figures are a little stiffer, and Mico Suayan spectacular, but only contributing a small number of pages overall.
Valiant don’t consider this adult material, but an entire chapter of Bloodshot running around with the skin peeled back from his face showing the musculature beneath is gruesome even if not dripping with blood, and some greater sensitivity would have been preferable.
For all the quibbles about presentation, hacking away at the story for a smoother presentation wouldn’t have been ideal either, so put up with the repetition to enjoy what’s a good action thriller overall.