Beware the giant finger

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

This isn’t so much of a review as me just typing out words as I struggle to contain my inner fangirl. I feel that Faith would appreciate this approach. Honestly her appearance has given a real boost to this book. It was already good but Faith brings in all the history, the baggage, the superhero trope references. She really lifts this to another level. She’s known Peter for a long time and unlike Cici and Ago she’s truly seen the worst of Peter so her opinion of the current situation is something new for this book.

Faith recalls that Peter is the worst. I mean basically he was the worst thing that ever happened to her in a lot of ways. When he compares unfavourably with super villains you know he was pretty damn awful. Yet despite that Peter gave Faith the role of a superhero and even though trusting new good Peter is not the wisest move Faith does remember that Peter helped give her a purpose (and superpowers).

The Faith we see here is well written in that she feels like the character we’ve seen before. In my opinion Jody Houser’s run, that began back in 2016, is the definitive Faith and reading of the character. This Faith feels like she has come from that run. I was concerned about whether this would feel like Faith and I am delighted that it absolutely did. That’s a real testament to good writing, and a sign that there can be continuity here with past runs. This acknowledgement of continuity is something that The Harbinger has been strong with from the first issue, and it’s particularly showcased here.

The art also gets Faith right. For me the best Faith art is where she’s hovering over the young Psiots, That was very Faith. The way she’s posed, the way she seems to float, all very much fit with the Faith that we know and love. Her hair flying back and up as she descends is really lovely and it shows her movement so well. It works. Of course there are changes to fit her in with the general aesthetic of The Harbinger and its distinct style but these work on the whole.

Generally the art is good, as usual. The panel of Faith and Peter flying employs some really nice perspectives to give some believable movement as the two of fly through a city. The way the panels frame them as they are having their confrontations or discussions really work well for showcasing the two of them. Faith holding her hand out to Peter is another example of really nice framing reinforcing the writing.

I’m also impressed with the panels that show the Renegade attacking and kidnapping the young Psiots that Harbinger Peter has rescued. The swirling pinkish smoke like effect, with the Renegade a cloaked and hooded figure at the centre, shows a real threat. Colour is definitely important and that’s further underlined with the pink cityscapes, the green of the safe place, and the blue when we see another threat aiming at The Harbinger at the end of the issue. Throughout it weaves through the story adding atmosphere.

There is a lot of atmosphere in this. It nicely segues between the lightness and the darkness. There’s a nice balance. Faith is traditionally one of the Valiant characters with a bit more optimism and a very geeky sense of humour so it’s nice to have that. Harbinger Peter has been very serious, and rightly so, but it’s also nice to have a bit of a breather with some humour as well. I especially liked the young Psiots’ reactions to Faith with their cheering and shouting about how Chris Chriswell sucks (a nice bit of continuity from Jody Houser’s Faith run).

There is a lot of bad stuff that happens though and the tone of the issue toward the end is pretty dark. Bad things happen again and to characters we like. I did enjoy seeing Baxter again. Having him as a focus with struggles, explaining how the Renegade is inside his head gave a perspective I appreciated. I never had much of an attachment to Baxter in the past but as a Gen Zero survivor and a character who has appeared in The Harbinger before he’s taken on an importance and I am a lot more attached. I need more Baxter.

I would also be quite happy to see more Faith. The Harbinger is Peter’s book so I don’t expect her to stick around forever but her presence here just works. I will say though this issue did also forward Peter’s story. We see some introspection from Peter as he has to tell Faith about everything that’s happened so far. That also helps more casual readers who might have jumped on because Faith (and why wouldn’t you) it’s not a natural jumping on point but it works well enough.

The Renegade makes his presence felt. He’s still a real threat and as he is Peter he also knows how best to hit where it hurts. The Renegade has a plan, a tested plan, that mirrors what original Peter did when he activated psiots and went up against Harada (hey we got an alpha/omega reference from Faith and that took me back in the best of ways). Only The Renegade is going up against The Harbinger, Peter himself, and all the good that Peter wants to do. Yet the way all this has come about makes perfect sense. As Faith points out ‘Another brilliant Peter Stanchek plan’. I did enjoy the references to the past that clearly reflect how Peter has ended up at this point. As a long time reader it’s was really good to have those references but I don’t think they would alienate a new reader.

I haven’t even begun to mention how much I appreciated the lettering too. The way the narration is like scraps from a notebook, scribbled and torn. Then there’s the way The Renegade’s speech is portrayed, almost violent in the way it’s written, heavily reflecting the character. It’s all really good work and nicely weaves through the story.

I also haven’t touched on the rather ominous ending as we see a new foe take aim at Peter. We don’t really know much about William Cromley yet but we know enough to be concerned.

Overall this was probably my favourite issue of The Harbinger so far. It brought back one of my favourite characters and used her really well. It upped the stakes for Peter in a number of ways, it also didn’t neglect characters introduced previously. It was really well balanced. I wouldn’t say this is a jumping on point but this is an issue that should be read and anyone who is a fan of Peter’s past exploits will definitely enjoy.

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