Advance Review: Harbinger Wars #1 by Joshua Dysart, Duane Swierczynski, Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, & Mico Suavan

Harbinger Wars #1

Written by: Joshua Dysart & Duane Swierczynski
Art by: Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, & Mico Suavan
Colored by: Brian Reber
Lettering by: Dave Lanphear

Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

Summary (contains spoilers): Harbinger Wars starts nine days in the future. A group of high muckmucks in the United States government are chastising Project Rising Spirit about some of the problems with the Psiot Project. Psiot’s are Valiants versions of mutants, people born with superhero potential.

Project Rising Spirit has spent a lot of time capturing Psiots and forcing them to become soldiers. Bloodshot used to hunt these Psiots for Project Rising Spirit.

We flash back to a year before to see a group of Project Rising Spirit’s child soldiers who were sent in to China to clear up a biological weapon that Project Rising Spirit had created that had gone out of control. The children are forced into action because if they refuse, explosives set in their brains will go off. Sort of Suicide Squad meets Sesame Street. This mission inspires the children to start plotting how to escape Project Rising Spirit’s control.

The scene switches to now. The Renegades from the series Harbinger are hanging out in the outskirts of Nevada. They suddenly find their powers deactivated, and they are all killed by Bloodshot. This turns out to be a vision that was sent to the Renegades’ leader (Peter Stanchek) by a mysterious Psiot who seems to have some connection to both Peter and Peter’s former captor Toyo Harada. The mysterious Psiot is warning Peter that a great conflict is coming between Psiots. He reveals that if Psiots become public knowledge, it will lead to genocide. The last time something like this happened was 1755. Emperor Qianlong had heard of a monastery of Harbingers. As a result, he killed tens of thousands of Mongolians.

The action switches back to the kids at Project Rising Spirit. Just as they were planning their escape, Bloodshot had burst into the facility in order to try and unlock his lost memories. He had no idea that he once hunted these Psiots, who refer to him as “The Psiot Killer.” Several of the children escape in the confusion, and Bloodshot takes several more of them with him.  The issue ends with Toyo Harada arriving to confront Bloodshot. It is revealed that he had been manipulating events to help the children escape in order for him to be able to recruit them into his own plans.

Review: I actually first read this comic in black and white. My printer didn’t seem to want to do color today, so I did a quick black and white version so I would be able to read it on the bus ride home from work to prepare for this review. While this book looked fine in black and white, the art really needs to be seen in full color to appreciate it. Harbinger Wars 1 is definitely one of the best looking comics I’ve read in a long time.

I also thought this book’s variant covers were all pretty great too. I am not typically a fan of variant covers, but there is no denying Valiant went all out to get the best artists to put together covers for Harbinger Wars:

I did think this issue jumped around a little too much. The issue says it starts “nine days from now,” but some of the action happens during the last few issues of Bloodshot, so I am not exactly sure when exactly NOW was supposed to be. It sort of distracted me from enjoying this comic as much as I could have (especially since I was reading it as a black and white print out crammed into a bus seat) since I ended up having to spend more time trying to figure out when everything was happening. I think I am just getting too old to follow comics with a lot of time jumps these days. Give me a nice, simple straight forward narrative any day.

But all in all, I think this issue came together well. I am a regular reader of both Bloodshot and Harbinger, and it was great to see how all the threads of those two books came together. I definitely got some nice surprises while reading this book.

I also think that Harbinger Wars is set up to be accessible even to new readers. I actually am an issue behind on both Harbinger and Bloodshot (I read my comics digitally, and wait a month for most comics for the price to drop), but I never felt like I was playing catch up reading this issue. Everything you need to know about these characters and these pretty complex stories are laid out in a reader-friendly manner. Crossovers like this tend to be a great way to pick up casual readers, and I think there was plenty here for both old and new Valiant readers to enjoy.

As an added bonus, this book also came with a few pages from the new Quantum and Woody series launching from Valiant in July. To be honest, I haven’t read any of the second generation of Valiant, so I don’t know all that much about Quantum and Woody. If these pages were any indication, I think Valiant is going to have another great book on its hand come July.

Valiant has quickly gained a well-deserved reputation for putting out some of the best comics on the market. Harbinger Wars takes some of the best qualities of their books (political intrigue, gorgeous art, top notch action) and creates a real stand out event here.  At the same time, they didn’t seem to try and shoehorn all their books together in a way that didn’t fit.  This crossover focuses just on Harbinger and Bloodshot.  Too often, a crossover like this would like to find ways to incorporate other titles that just didn’t fit into the story.   HarbingerWars didn’t, and to me, that was a very smart choice.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Final Score: 8.5: This is an event done right! Tight pacing and gorgeous art come together in one pretty great package here. If you haven’t checked out Valiant yet (SHAME ON YOU), this is a good place to start!

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