There’s plenty of death and destruction in Valiant’s Harbinger #25, but ignore the standard cover on store shelves – the fight between billionaire world manipulator Toyo Harada and rebel psiot Peter Stanchek is pretty much over (for now). In fact, writer Joshua Dysart spends more time with the outed Harada – whose secret plots are now up on the internet thanks to the hacker “@x” and the writer has really tilted the book into a fascinating direction.
When we talked about some of the ramifications for the book following the Renegades’ attack on the Harbinger Foundation, series writer Dysart promised a kind of “reset” for the Valiant Universe – and it’s easy to see how that might come into play. With this issue, Harada is effectively a power unto himself – dangerous, angry, and pretty sure he’s the smartest person in (any) room.
The standout scene this issue involves Harada confronting some of the U.S. power brokers in a secret bunker in order to discuss how they might clandestinely work with the now notorious psiot even as the population of the world is starting to realize that he’s been bending the arc of the last century to his own designs. It tells you everything you need to know about the character: he’s affable, he’s determined, and he’s possibly insane. This is a man who’s decided to go to war against the world because he doesn’t have the patience or the time to deal with humans and their “rights” or “free will.”
About the time thing: by the end of this issue, it’s clear that Harada’s up against his own clock, explaining how he’s been able to look like a dapper 50-something for over 30 years.
It’s not wall-to-wall Harada, though – the character is just the axis around which most of the events of this issue occur. There are the Generation Zero Harbingers on the loose now that his empire’s been blown wide open, the Renegades on the run now that they’ve wounded the most dangerous man on Earth and Peter MIA after seeing one of his teammates die and using his brain powers against his worst enemy.
There’s a thread about Kris wanting to leave the group now that Peter is gone, but it’s really more about how Zephyr has grown as a character than anything else. Likewise, Harada becoming a full-on supervillain offers us some insight into the ultra-loyal Stronghold who finds his role will change now that his boss is probably thinking about bases under volcanoes and toppling world leaders just because.
Dysart is responsible for some very smart writing here, showing us the divide between Peter’s people (a mismatched family that loves each other in its own messed up way) and Harada’s who fear and worship him and might be the only thing keeping him from destroying himself and the world.
The backup stories in this 48-page issue feel a little less vital: both “Into Memory” and “Cold Brains” as somewhat maudlin messes that make a big deal out of Peter’s non-psiot pal, Joe (in different, too-flowery ways), while “Fan Fiction” and “A Hero’s Mission” showcase in cute ways how truly nerdy Zephyr is. Also, I kind of wish Rafar Roberts was illustrating backups for Valiant more often.
Valiant’s Harbinger #25 is on shelves now. What did you think of the issue? Let us know in the comments below.