Various characters. Various Plots.

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

Apologies for the lateness of this review. The reason is because, well, Valiant books tend to send me into an analysis mode that requires a small essay. This is a good issue but there is a flaw for me personally and that is that it feels like it could be a couple of issues. There are some big ideas here and it feels like they could have been really deeply explored except for the fact that wouldn’t have kept them within a single issue. It’s all good stuff and when my biggest criticism is that there should have been more well, that’s not a huge criticism.

Last issue a mysterious someone took aim at Peter and well…shot him in the head. This issue picks up in the aftermath of the shooting. Faith is going after the shooter, Ago and Cici are trying to get through to Peter who is dying, the Renegade is still being evil and pushing forward his plans. There’s a lot going on. For me just Faith confronting the shooter and Peter recovering from being shot would have been enough. To be honest I didn’t need the Renegade and his evil plans. Though given where we are in the general run it makes sense as we’re building up to the big battle.

Peter’s recovery does happen (spoilers) but I found it a bit lacking. I get his brains have been blown out so we’re hardly likely to get his point of view but at the same time in previous issues we’ve had some really cool insights into Peter’s psyche that we were just missing a bit here. The art of the immediate aftermath works really well. Peter’s broken body on the ground with the pink behind his head. It doesn’t need to be graphic, we understand exactly what the art is conveying – Peter’s brains on the pavement.

The two pages which just show Peter, the first his head and the blood dripping from his wound and then the second with figures looking like ghostly spectres covered in the same pink blood are very effective. It does feel though like this is an ideal moment for some reflection. We see Peter flashing back to being a child and wanting a normal life but nothing beyond that. Cici and then Ago are narrating, talking to him to try and get him back and that’s present in the art as well as the lettering but it still feels like this is an ideal opportunity for Pete to reflect again on something, like his own mortality.

I think what we do get is very effective. This Peter is tied to Cici and Ago because that’s who he met when he was reborn in a way. At the same time it feels like we’re skipping over the fact that Peter Stanchek killed himself, or what he was, which created the good Peter, the Harbinger, and the evil Peter, the Renegade. It would have been fascinating to see some reflection of that sacrifice in this Peter’s struggle to survive. Instead it only really takes a pep talk for Peter to recover and mainly because the Renegade is on his way so there’s an urgent reason for Peter to heal and wake up. Again this fits with previous issues as Harbinger Peter is driven by the need to defeat the Renegade but it did seem overly convenient.

Faith’s confrontation with the attempted assassin, Blam, was interesting. We rarely see Faith so angry but her friend has been hurt and she’s after revenge. She tracks down and defeats Blam pretty easily. I don’t think we needed too much of the confrontation in terms of violence. Faith is very Faith and that’s really wonderful. Her phrases, how she fights, what she does reminded me of why I love Faith, she is a superhero. Her angry expression as framed in the sniper scope of Blam is very effective and gets across her speed and anger very well. The whole confrontation really shows off Faith’s abilities, her intelligence, flying ability, strength.

I like how the confrontation ended, it felt very in keeping with Faith’s character. However it felt a bit like something of a loose end as we don’t ultimately know what happened to Blam. Blam was also a bit of a disappointment in terms of motive: Just an angry person who hates Psiots, that’s basically the depth we get with the character. That confrontation plot also means that Faith seems to sort of disappear for a bit until we see her at the end for the classic Superhero team-up. This is Peter’s book but given Faith is such a big part of Peter’s past again it would have been interesting to see her reactions to a dying Peter more up close than just her revenge mission. Not that it wasn’t well written and arted. Again it’s just me being greedy and wanting more.

As a result of those pretty large and interesting plot threads for me the Renegade stuff falls a bit flat. Of course we’re building up to the big confrontation next issue but at the same time it doesn’t feel like there’s much new. We get another rundown on the poor souls the Renegade is using to wage war on the city (Baxter!) but we already had sympathy for them. The Renegade is still his evil self and he’s still plotting. I await the inevitable showdown.

I did really enjoy this issue. I thought the art was clever and the style really helped get across the trauma of poor Peter being shot in the head. The different elements were all really strongly done. As before my main complaint is I feel we could have more. It’s at least set things up ready for the finale, where I suspect we’ll get something of a major showdown. A solid issue that I think anyone who has read The Harbinger up to this point will appreciate.

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