REVIEW: Harbinger #6

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Or – “Yeah, He’s Totally What We Thought He Would Be…”

Things aren’t looking too good for young Peter Stanchek.  After being outed as a supremely powerful psiot, his mentor and sugar-daddy has been revealed to be somewhat less than altruistic of intention.  Is there any hope for Peter’s survival?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

HARBINGER #6
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Penciler: Phil Briones
Inker(s): Andrew Hennessy with Phil Briones
Colorist: Ian Hannin
Letterer: Rob Steen
Editor: Warren Simons
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in Harbinger:  When Peter Stanchek discovered his psychic powers, things got really strange.  After all, hearing voices in your head is often a symptom of bigger issues (like with his drug-addled best pal Joe.)  When Toyo Harada offered him a place in the Harbinger Foundation, Pete thought he had it made, but it quickly became clear that things were NOT what they seemed.   A battle between Pete and Harada ended poorly for the younger psiot, but the intervention of a mysterious woman named Faith left Harada empty-handed.  But, are her motives any less sinister than Harada’s?

HEY, REMEMBER KRIS?

One of the things that has been quietly bugging me about this incarnation of Harbinger was the role of Kristine Hathaway.  In the original VH-1 version of the tale, Kris was the moral anchor of the team, the one with the brains and the restraint, and (not coincidentally) the one without Harbinger abilities.  The reveal that she had been mind-wiped by Sting/Stanchek came as a gut punch late in the book, whereas this tale had begun with that revelation, and left poor Kris out in the cold.  Until now, that is.  This issue is all ’bout Miss Hathaway, revealed to be a brilliant young honor student in the suburbs, whose life has been torn apart by her proximity to Peter Stanchek.  Joshua Dysart puts us right in the middle of her world, and makes her live and breathe in a way that many characters never do, even making her a believable teenage girl, albeit a very angry and ridiculously clever one.  When Faith/Zeppelin arrives at the behest of Peter, Kris is first enraged, then intrigued, and when Faith flies her over the city to find her lost “boyfriend,” completely overwhelmed by the wonder of the experience.  It’s an impressive display of character work by Dysart…

A TRULY IMPRESSIVE BATMAN GAMBIT…

Kris quickly realizes that Peter isn’t quite the bastard that she thought he was (although she still hasn’t forgiven him for making her love him with his powers) and when she finds out that the one trying to find Peter is multi-billionaire Toyo Harada, her anger turns to fear.  Of course, as anyone will tell you, a scared teenage girl is nothing to laugh at, and can often be the most dangerous thing around (especially in suburban parking lots.)  Kris quickly puts together a truly impressive improvised plan, and by the end of the issue, she has taken command of the situation, with Faith and Peter following her lead.  I’m fascinated by this issue’s treatment of the character, and her assessment of her new allies is spot-on from the reader’s perspective.  She ends the issue on the run from Harbinger, having pitted the two agencies hunting Peter against one another, and has a plan one what comes next.  (The next issue blurb promises ‘Flamingo’, which should tell you exactly where this is all headed, if you’re familiar with Harbinger history.)  The art is also well-done, with Kris looking like a vaguely alterna-chick young lady without ever veering off into over-exaggeration of either her youth or of the female form.  Nice work throughout the issue on the art front, actually, especially given a general lack of traditional comic book fighty-fighty…

THE BOTTOM LINE:  A GREAT SHOWCASE FOR THE CREATORS AND FOR KRIS.

There are some minor complaints that I have about this issue, that aren’t really undermining to the main story.  I feel that Faith’s characterization feels a little flat still (she refers to herself as “just another unloved fat girl”, which seems a little too on-the-nose) and Peter spends most of the issue feeling a little bit whiny for me, but the strength of Kris’ performance (and her sneaky power-play against Harada himself) overcome most of that.  Her parents also don’t seem to respond realistically to their teenage daughter going way off the rails, but that is a very minor quibble in an issue this strong.  Harbinger #6 surprises me, a long-time comic book fan knowledgable about previous Harbinger incarnations, and gives a very good accounting of itself, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  The Valiant relaunch has been full of good stuff, but this issue may be their best to date…

Rating: ★★★★½

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