That looks painful

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

Okay there’s no way for me to discuss and review this book without spoilers. So here’s your spoiler warning. Spoilers herein. Also many pop culture references.

This books reminds me of a very specific scene in that famous Tolkien film – The Two Towers. Said scene is where Gollum is arguing with Smeagol. Imagine that scene but played out over a whole issue. That’s at the crux of the issue. It’s basically two Peters arguing with each other. For there are two Peters, the one we have been following, the amnesiac one who appears to want to do good and the evil one, who we only really find out about at the end of the book reminding me quite a bit of Emperor Palpatine.

To throw in another pop culture thing it reminded of – that episode of Star Trek where Kirk gets split up into two people – one good and one bad. There is the question of which of these is the real Peter. The evil one assumes it’s him but who knows. Are they in fact two Peters that were originally one? Did Peter fall to earth and end up as two people somehow? There are a lot of questions and very few answers here.

This took me a coupe of re-reads to work things out. It’s not an easy read particularly. It’s interesting to set up two Peters, especially as Peter is the worst. I have never been a big fan but there is some sympathy for the ‘good Peter’ because he at least seems more well intentioned and carrying guilt.

The way both are portrayed in the art does reflect the characterisation. As I’ve already mentioned the evil Peter reminded me of Emperor Palpatine, just that decayed, scarred, unkempt evil look. With the good Peter though there are several panels that invoke the Peter we are used to. A panel with ‘good’ Peter silhouetted against the moon with his legs crossed is very similar to a classic Peter pose. It’s a nice little art reference for those already familiar with the character.

I don’t know how familiar with the character you need to be to really get something out of this. There’s still plenty of exposition by both Peter and Peter but even I found it confusing. I would be interested to know how a newbie finds it.

I am sure for the most part they would find the art impressive. The colouring is really consistent and each scene is very clearly divided by colour with pinks, blues and purples featuring heavily, making each scene flow into the the other. There are some really nice standout panels and pages. The one with Peter and Peter fighting each other at the beginning is really nice with the lines and colours giving a real sense of a clash of power.

There’s also some more resonate panels with faceless law enforcement looking threatening as a young psiot speaks. The way they stand and the way they move is very reminiscent of scenes we’ve seen in the news the last few years. The fact the young psiot is black gives it an extra layer of relevance. It’s a bit odd in some ways to have that scene in this sort of book and I am not sure the analogy at play quite pays off but I appreciate the effort.

I have to be honest I also didn’t really enjoy Cici’s depiction, a shame since she’s the only speaking female character of note. As a character I am still not sold on her. She doesn’t do much here other than be Peter’s support, but the emphasis on her long legs in the art does make me feel a tad uncomfortable. It’s a minor gripe however but I did want to mention it.

Overall I think the art is strong. It’s a very distinct style and I think that it fit with the weird tone of the book. I don’t say weird in a bad way. It’s just a new direction and I always appreciate a new direction with an old established character. This a book that needs re-reading to really get what’s going on and for me that was fun to do. I realise it might not be for everyone.

Special shout out as well to Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou’s lettering which works really well, especially with the two Peters thing going on. It feels like a conversation and the choices help show the different voices well.

The Harbinger #2 is a pretty strong second issue. As it takes Peter in a new direction and it looks like it will explore him more as a character, which I think is well worth doing. There are plenty of other questions which will hopefully be answered but in the meantime we are seeing Peter in a new light and that’s well worth it.

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