Omen Enterprises’ special strike team, the Harbinger Active Resistance Division Corps, has recently returned in fine form to the pages of modern Valiant Comics, but not everyone knows how they got their start… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The H.A.R.D. Corps #1 awaits!
Writer: David Michelinie, Bob Layton
Penciler: David Lapham
Inker: Bob Layton
Colorist: David Chlystek
Letterer: Jade Moede
Editor: Bob Layton
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Cover Price: 20 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $20.00
Previously in The H.A.R.D. Corps: Initially arriving to attack the kids called Harbinger, the H.A.R.D. Corps turned out to not be quite the jerks that they seemed to be. Although not superhuman psiot/Harbingers themselves, the members of the Corps have the ability to download one superhuman Harbinger power at a time from Omen Enterprises’ servers, enabling them to go head-to-head with Toyo Harada’s Eggbreakers.
Case in point:
As first-issue first pages go, this one is pretty solid, showing off the Jim Shooter editorial aesthetic of “show the action, show the characters, make sure that their names are said on-panel.” In this case, it doesn’t make for the crowded lunacy of, say, Secret Wars #1, but instead gives us a quick sketch of the H.A.R.D. Corps and their interactions.
Unfortunately for Gunslinger, Hammerhead, Shakespeare, Maniac and Superstar (not a bad bunch of noms de guerre, I might add), the aforementioned Toyo Harada isn’t keen on having his interests attacked by a cadre of cool mercenaries. And when Harada gets upset, things get fighty, really quick…
Aaaand, they ruined it. Still, Big Boy (UGH) proves that, no matter how awesome the team’s computerized pseudo-Harbinger abilities may be, they still pale in comparison to a sufficiently powerful specimen of the real thing. Maniac is compromised, which reveals the next secret of Omen’s strikeforce: It’s proprietary technology.
Softcore transmits orders for the team to leave their fallen member behind and evac, but Gunslinger refuses to leave his man behind. Maniac, in his last act, musters the strength to spit in his murderer’s face, causing Big Boy (UGH) to finish the job and crush his ribcage, leading Gunslinger to finally follow orders…
As the team evacuates, Shakespeare leaves behind a charge that blows a MASSIVE hole in the facility in retribution, leading to a dressing-down from the higher-ups (and a reveal that, while Omen ramrods treat the team as expendable resources, their “operator”, Softcore, is more sympathetic.) Speaking of the corporate overlords and disposable resources, meet Sam Yoon Kim, soon to be code-named Flatline!
One thing that original Valiant books (sometimes referred to by fans as the “VH1” comics) did really well was the plotting and clear establishing of story points. Sam’s indoctrination not only gives us his entry to the program, but fleshes out the remainder of the core team members…
As an aside, that first panel shows clearly my theory that Gunslinger, Hammerhead and Shakespeare are visually modeled on the classic Three Stooges lineup. As Mr. Kim is informed that he has been implanted with Omen wetware, it becomes clear that he has no choice in joining the Corps, if he wants to remain out of his coma and upright, adding to the tension between the company and the team. It all may be moot, though, as Softcore boots up the CD that the Corps managed to steal from Harada and they are (but absolutely shouldn’t be) shocked that the whole thing is… A TRAP!
Their systems compromised, their location made public, the remaining four Corpsmen quickly engage, taking on a small force of choppers, ground troops and two of Harada’s pet Harbingers. They make short work of the attack, but then the other shoe drops…
Superstar (who gets his name from being a high-profile movie action star who was injured on the job, and has to hide his face during all public outings, a clever little character touch) makes the movie reference, proving that Valiant was meta before meta was all the rage and also sets up the cliffhanger…
Four men with computerized cyborg powers versus an entire army? Should be fun. I have to admit, this book reads a lot more entertaining that I expected it to be back in ’92. The death of Maniac actually feels like a pointed shot at the proliferation of grimdark murder heroes, the plotting is clever and well-done, and the art is solid-but-never-showoffy throughout. The H.A.R.D. Corps #1 is entertaining and can’t be judged by the sketchy Jim Lee cover, making for 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. Given that they’re poised to be a force with which to be reckoned in new-style Valiant, this might be a series to pick up from your local back-issue bins…