Written by Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Art by Robbi Rodriguez
Colouring by Rico Renzi
Lettering by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou
Okay, so much of this issue won’t make much sense unless you are familiar with what has previously happened in Harbinger. So to recap Peter Stanchek (the actual worst) split himself into two parts because reasons. One of these Peters became The Renegade, an evil dude, and the other became The Harbinger, the good dude. I mean it’s not quite as clean cut as that but you get the idea. The Harbinger is also carrying around Peter’s many, many issues which is not entirely healthy but he does remain much more sympathetic than Peter was for me. Harbinger Peter is nearly likeable for me.
As someone intimately familiar with all that has gone before I am not in a great position to be wondering how first time readers will find this issue. The previous four issues I think probably worked quite well if you have not read about Peter before, it felt new enough and the amnesia plot and discovery of the Renegade didn’t feel like you needed to have background knowledge. I do, however, have background knowledge that did pay off in this issue.
I miss Generation Zero a lot (never forgive, never forget) so it was nice to see that at least one of them was alive and not imprisoned. Admittedly it was third tier Generation Zero member Baxter but, still, there’s still hope that not everyone got wiped out. Although Baxter was kind of off grid anyway but still. He lives! That little detail is explained in this issue for those not familiar, or at least there’s a hint there but for those of us who have been following those kids since Bloodshot busted them out of Project Rising Spirit it was a nice glimmer of hope.
Speaking of hope, or perhaps Faith, I knew she was going to appear this issue because well… I do look at covers. Those expecting a lot of Faith will be disappointed. Her appearance starts quite late on but it packs a punch. Literally. For those unfamiliar with Faith she is one of Valliant’s best characters and has headlined her own series in the past (are we going to get a new Faith book? Here’s hoping). It is good to see her and her introduction probably works for newer readers but if you are a big Faith fan don’t expect too much just yet (but come on, Baxter lives!).
However, that’s the only slight disappointment for me because the rest of the issue is really strong. We see Harbinger Peter coming to terms with the revelations of the last issue and facing up to his role as The Harbinger. The first part of the issue really nicely lays this out with individual panels telling individual tales of people who have ben touched by The Renegade. Each panel giving a glimpse into the result. There’s a guy who’s just murdered someone, a cop with his finger on the trigger, a girl with wings stealing money. Each one is accompanied by what look like hand written notes ripped form a journal. It’s a very effective way of marking the passage of time and what’s going on. It’s really well put together.
Peter’s Harbinger design remains recognisable. He’s starting to look more like a costumed superhero and some things he’s taking on underlines that connection. There’s an almost old school superhero feel to parts which contrast nicely with the pain Peter is going through as The Renegade wreaks havoc. For The Renegade is activating Psiots who turn bad. Some kinda evil bad. Harbinger Peter isn’t exactly having a fun time stopping said havoc. Although the art of him fighting remains sharp and full of action. It also feels distinct, giving Peter his own identity through his actions as well as his character design.
The supporting characters continue to grow on me. Both Ago and Cici tell Peter how it is. They don’t sugar-coat things but they are also really supportive. Cici insights are perhaps more psychological but they both care about Peter and about what he’s doing. As someone who over the years has struggled to find Peter anything more than annoying I find Ago and Cici are helping me to empathise with a character I have never been a big fan of so that’s really successful.
The art is also successful is showing brooding Peter. The shadows, the dark apartment where Cici confronts him. The couple of twelve panel pages focussing on their faces really gives that conversation a real back and forth, and the way The Renegade bleeds into Peter briefly is very effective. It stands out as it probably is one of the more exposition-y conversations but it’s interesting and feels real. I think a lot of that is helped by the art.
So The Harbinger #5 turns out to be building strongly on the first arc. Long time fans will enjoy the cameos/appearances. It’s also always nice to play ‘I understood that reference!’. Plus it makes this book feels closer to other strands of the Valiant universe. It’s nice to see things tie into each other. Plus, I actually felt for Peter at one point and as that’s a remarkably rare event I’d say it’s a pretty strong book.