By Dylan Hicks
It seems like only yesterday that Valiant rebooted their comic book universe back in 2012. Their line-up was small and only consisted of X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Archer and Armstrong, and Harbinger. The former three, while amazing, started off with a lot of action, which is something that is usually to be expected from the industry. Harbinger, however, was vibrant and far different from anything I had seen up until that point. Joshua Dysart and Khari Evans exploded out of the gates with Harbinger #1 and tackled deep issues such as rape culture and drug abuse. From there, Joshua, along with several other co-creators, took these five kids on one a hell of a ride, which ended with the three-issue miniseries, Harbinger Omegas. Now, this did spin-off into the amazing book Imperium, but it was so different from Harbinger that there was still this giant hole in my monthly pull list.That was until Valiant announced that they were bringing the crew back together for Harbinger Renegades. At first, I was ecstatic about the possibility of more Joshua and Khari stories, but then I looked closely to see some new names on the cover: Rafer Roberts, Darick Robertson, Richard Clark, and Diego Rodriguez. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed. Then I opened up the first page. Wow.
As a writer, Rafer Roberts has had no fear coming into Valiant and following up some of the hardest acts of this decade. First, he comes in after Fred Van Lente on Archer and Armstrong and kills it! Then, since that wasn’t enough, he decides to follow the best talent at the company, Joshua Dysart, on Harbinger. Against all odds, Rafer absolutely nailed the feel of this story, these characters, and the overarching theme. He opened the issue up perfectly, not pulling any punches. The grit and grime that he dove into definitely meets the incredible standard that Joshua left for this series. There was a bit of a lull in the middle of the book, however. Rafer introduces a couple of NSA agents that were all too stereotypical, and he slowed the pace down considerably. Past that point, when Faith dives in the scene, he picks things back up. Overall, I was quite impressed.
What was even more impressive, though, was the art. The pencils from Darick were perfectly matched by Richard’s inks, and then with Diego on color, I… I couldn’t ask for anything more. As a big fan of not only the 2012 run of Harbinger, but also the 1992 series, this team captured my heart with the way they chose to render this book. Together Darick and Richard managed to pay some serious homage to the original artist David Lapham. The hatch shading, the crisp lines, the wide-open panels, it all screamed of old 1990’s Valiant! Then Diego comes in with some incredibly vintage coloring, pulling the entire issue together. The palette that he chose accented the line work well and also paid homage to the original Valiant emblem. For those that may not know this, when Valiant first started, every colorist had to follow a very strict palette, in order to keep the same style throughout every book. But it wasn’t all nostalgia that drove my love for the art, together these three managed to work in their own style that really stands out amongst everything else on the shelves right now. It came off that they all had a lot of fun working on this script together and, for me, that is why I think the art for this issue is what stole the show.
It’s been about two years since we have seen Peter Stanchek and his Renegades, and the expectations that Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans, and Clayton Henry left behind were daunting to say the least. In spite of all that, though, this creative team prevailed, and nicely I might add. Rafer not only respected the continuity left behind for him, but also is building a universe of his own. Well… Not of his own. He was greatly aided by his co-creators Darick Robertson on pencils, Richard Clark on ink, and Diego Rodriguez on colors; all of whom captured the story perfectly, along with keeping a deeper respect the original Harbinger line from the Shooter days. I cannot wait to see what these guys have in store for us, and I give their Harbinger Renegades a 5 out of 5!
By Robert Anderegg
In contrast to my review partner Dylan, I have very little history with Harbinger, the Renegades, or the Valiant Universe in general. Of course, with the Ninjak project by Bat in the Sun coming up, I’ve been brushing up and consuming more and more (Bloodshot in particular because of Jason David Frank is attached). I have also been reading the Faith series (mini and ongoing) because she seems like a very relatable character, but her background has always been hazy to me. So, I decided to take on this comic for both research and a new beginning. I was not disappointed in either category.
After such a long break, I was dreading the possibility of jumping in the shallow end head first and getting a massive headache. Luckily, Valiant is dependable about accommodating new readers and I don’t have to google an extensive backstory because this issue provides a full three page recap of the history of Harada, the Harbinger Foundation, previous membership, and the downfall of all these institutions. Raúl Allén and Patricia Martin do the art and lettering for this introduction and it’s arguably my favorite part of the comic. The prologue, however, did next to nothing for me. There was nothing necessarily wrong with the writing and the art by Juan José Ryp was full of action and technology, but I think I must not have appreciated this because I had next to no idea what was going on. Well executed, but over this reviewer’s head.
For the main event, we’re treated to a classic “getting the band back together” comic about young superheroes whose last mission ended with numerous unfortunate consequences, the worst of which is currently getting young people with potential for superhuman abilities killed in botched activation procedures. The scandalous circumstances are responsible for the destruction of a young man’s home because he is an unrealized psiot under pressure from various rival organizations. Enter Faith Herbert (aka Zephyr), the only truly active hero remaining from the Renegades. She is working nonstop to atone for the tragedies she feels the Renegades are responsible for. She cannot do it alone however, and every single teammate is either unable or unwilling to help, other than hacker extraordinaire @x who has been working behind the scenes since the collapse of HGC. The Renegades are far from a reformed team by the end of issue one, but this is only the first domino in what could be a long and impressive series.
Rafer Roberts writes the whole issue and has no problems relaying what he is trying to say, whether it be dialogue, narration, or subtext. Faith doesn’t exude the optimistic, nerdy persona in this series like she does in her solo title, but I feel this is a much more serious situation and she reacts appropriately. While not every hero sees time in the spotlight, everyone does get recognized in ways that reflect their personalities and struggles. An excellent job by Rafer on every level. Darick Robertson, on the other hand, I have mixed feeling about. He brings a great style and vivacity to the story, but some characters and scenes just look funny to me. He seems to struggle with Faith’s facial structure, sometimes nailing it and other times getting the proportions all wrong. His forte is not overweight characters, so she often looks like a small face drawn on a chubby head. He conveys the gore and the action perfectly though. Despite the criticism, I do love his work, having collected his full run on Happy and Nightcrawler (2003). He’s a great guy too; I met him in Cincinnati last year and he made insightful conversation while putting free sketches on my comics.
To sum it all up, I really enjoyed this comic. I felt like I got a full story with sufficient introduction and a true atmosphere of crisis for Faith and the Renegades. The last few pages create demand to continue reading as the plot thickens and more avenues open up for the story to move in. Loved the art, writing, and overall story development, despite a few hiccups. Long awaited and highly anticipated, the return of Harbinger Renegade is a success! 4 out of 5 Stars
Written by RAFER ROBERTS
Art by DARICK ROBERTSON with JUAN JOSE RYP
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
$3.99 | 40 pgs. | T+ | On Sale NOVEMBER 16+