What a trip

Written by Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Art by Robbi Rodriguez
Colouring by Rico Renzi
Lettering by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou

Okay, so remember in my X-O Manowar review when I said Aric was not my favourite Valiant character? Well my least favourite is in fact Peter Stancheck, The Harbinger, the supposed leader of the Renegades, the guy who made me root for Toyo Harada on several occasions because he’s just that annoying. As a result I approached his ‘solo title’ with some… trepidation.

I’m happy to say this issue was better than I expected. I had some reservations but can safely say that it’s clear a lot of effort has been put into bringing Peter’s story to life. I actually cared about Peter’s actions for once.

When last we saw Peter it was Harbinger Wars 2 and he’d been freed by the young Geomancer from the ‘Loveboat’ where he was held following a showdown with X-O Manowar. I mention this as backstory but the truth is you don’t actually need to know it as The Harbinger launches straight into things and starts off with a mystery for Peter doesn’t know much beyond his name.

Luckily for him, and also the uninitiated reader, we get narration as Peter’s story is told by Peter to some unseen party who questions the events that occur in the book. As they unfold before us as readers we get narration seemingly from the future. It’s a useful device that allows the story to unfold at the same time as drip feeding information and intriguing the reader.

There is a gap in this method when we meet Cici who works as a real life bit of exposition filling Peter and the reader in on his past, who he is and what he can do. Again it’s a good way to get a lot of exposition in to get new readers up to speed. I’m not overly fond of this device myself but I can see the benefits for those unfamiliar with this world and it works as a shorthand. It’s possibly the weakest part of the book for me but that’s personal preference. I prefer the exposition with the voices from the future as I find that more intriguing as a concept.

I will say Peter as a character works here. He’s still recognisably Peter but with a vulnerability we’ve not seen in some time. Stripped of most of what he was he’s closer to the Peter we met years ago. That means that I felt genuine emotion at his plight. I actually rooted for him because this is a Peter who has been put back a few steps and has a slightly cleaner slate to work off.

The art is stylised and I like that Valiant have been trying different art styles lately. It definitely gives the book it’s own feel and that is a definite strength. Personal preference I am not a huge fan of the character design but I can admire doing something different with it and it does fit the general story and tone. It’s certainly interesting and different.

For me the best part of the art is the action. When characters are moving it’s got a real dynamism and there are some really interesting choices in panel design. When Peter is falling from a building that moment is really nicely composed. There are a few other really nice examples too, from Peter stopping bullets with the ‘ghosts’ of his fellow Renegades in the background, to the aftermath of an explosion. Really good art choices are made.

This is really aided by the colouring which is really nice. From the dark shadows to the blues, purples and yellows, the colouring really makes the panels pop and the art stand out. It gives the backgrounds a really fresh feel.

The lettering and onomatopoeia are also really nice. The lettering has to get across a lot of exposition but manages to do it nicely without overwhelming the art. The onomatopoeia is really effective and gives an almost audible element. I will also say that the colouring of the speech bubbles in the conversation from the future really helps and we can quickly establish who Peter is, even if we don’t know who he is talking to.

I would like to know what happened to the other Renegades, there are hints about Faith but what about Torque? Animalia? @x? Kris? All characters I prefer over Peter. I really hope that we get to see more than their appearance here as there are still loose threads from Harbinger Wars 2. I hope that The Harbinger will at least answer some of them.

Overall this is a strong first issue for The Harbinger. I think it is relatively newbie friendly and doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of Peter’s previous adventures. Plus, for those die hard fan who may not be as a big a fan of the character, such as me, I did actually sympathise with Peter at points so emotionally that’s hitting the right beat.

If you want to explore the world of Psiots in the Valiant Universe I would say The Harbinger is a pretty decent place to start. The art is interesting, the setup is interesting and I actually want to read more of a book starring Peter as the central character. So good job there Valiant, it’s been a long time coming but this pulls it off. For once Peter Stancheck is not the worst and for me that’s the sign of a good book with him as the main character. I hope The Harbinger continues this interesting look at the character.

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