Monday, March 24, 2014

Harbinger Wars

I’ve kept up with a lot of the Valiant titles since the modern relaunch, although I generally collect them when Comixology runs sales. I hadn’t been following Bloodshot or Harbinger, but I wanted to check out the new Hard Corps series, and that story supposedly started here, so I picked up Harbinger Wars to see what was going on.

Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski do a pretty solid job explaining a sort of complicated story. Basically, Project Rising Spirit is an evil company with super-powered child soldiers. They aren’t nice guys, because the kids are certainly the sympathetic characters when they are freed by Bloodshot. Bloodshot is a rogue PRS agent out to hurt his old company for wiping his memories and turning him into a killing machine. PRS also employs the Hard Corps team, made up of Gunslinger, Hammerhead, Shakespeare, and Maniac. Fans of the old series will remember these names, but surprisingly, these core characters don’t last anywhere near as long as I’d expected. Not that they are tremendously recognizable in their rebooted incarnations, but still…

On the other side of the conflict are Toyo Harada and his Eggbreakers. Still acting as a morally challenged messiah, Harada wants to save the world, his way. He sends his troops to rescue the PRS children so that he can mold them in his own image as new Eggbreakers. So basically, the kids are going to be used one way or another, it is just a question of which is worse.

The last faction is the Harbinger team, the Renegades. This is Pete Stanchek; Renegade, Flamingo, Zephyr, Torque and the gang from the Harbinger title. They are out for the kids’ welfare, but they find themselves sort of outranked by the self-elected leaders amongst the escapees.

Confusing, huh? Factor in the hatred that most of the characters have for their own bosses and things get complicated quickly. Spaced out over four issues, it does make sense, but man, I’ll be sort of glad when I’m only following one faction after this story arc.

Most importantly, the Hard Corps concept has been updated nicely, and the whole “calling for your next superpower” idea works just as well now as it did in the 90’s. I’ll definitely be transitioning over to the main Bloodshot title (where Hard Corps will live after this).

Clayton Henry has a clean, crisp style that works well both for acting and action. The kids are sort of hard to tell apart, but I really enjoyed his take on the Renegades and Bloodshot. Pretty much every character is sporting a modernized take on their original costume, so I didn’t have a hard time figuring out the players.

As an aside, how interesting is it that so many of Marvel and DC’s B-level talent are working for Valiant now? (I don’t mean that as an insult, most of my favorite artists are “B-level.”) Guys like Henry are solid, entertaining storytellers, and they’d be of great value on books from the big two, yet here they are delivering great work for an independent. It’s just interesting.

This is a FAIR comic, just because I feel like I walked in at the end of a film. But I’m excited to see the quality Valiant is putting out across the line. 

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