Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pull List Review: Harbinger #2

As far as second issues go, Harbinger #2 hit all the right notes. Joshua Dysart has already found a solid pace for this story. After last month's strong debut, this issue is a logical but impressive next step. We get a chance to see the potential greatness of Peter, our protagonist, and the problems of him brainwashing the girl he loves and having an emotionally and mentally unstable best friend are dealt with in a way that feels believable. I'm sure we'll see both Kris and Joe again in the future, and the damage Peter has done to each of them certainly has yet to be undone (Kris especially), but for now they are satisfactorily set aside so that the main thrust of the story can continue to move forward.

The focus of the issue, though, takes place before Peter's departure from his peers, when he unleashes the full might of his psionic abilities against the soldiers from Project Rising Spirit, an organization whose motives are unknown but who don't appear to be the least bit friendly or good. Peter's mental attacks are awe-inspiring and frightening, and visually quite stunning as well. I especially enjoyed the van and, later, the helicopter which Peter mentally crashes. The force of their impacts is easy to feel in Khari Evans' art---the noise and heat and rubble and glass. Evans does this kind of detailed work for the entire scene, but really what makes it pop is the coloring from Ian Hannin and Moose Baumann. The harsh lighting of the fight adds significantly to the urgency and insanity, as does the strange fire in Peter's eyes. It's a superpowered action sequence through and through, but one which looks and feels distinct and strangely realistic.

Evans' greatest strength in this series, and Dysart's, too, is the portrayal of the various teenage characters and their broad emotions. These are flawed kids, thrown into an unthinkable situation, and their reactions fit with their supposed ages. Peter is incredibly well-intentioned underneath, but too inexperienced and immature to do the right thing right away. It's why he used his powers to force someone to love him, it's why he sticks by Joe in spite of everything, and it's why he can't regain control of himself once he starts to let his powers out. All of that makes sense, and paints the picture of a young man with enormous potential for good, but with the strong possibility that he might slip up on his journey and fall into the evil side of things.

Of course, exactly what "good" and "evil" mean in this title remain unclear. Harada is, at best, a shadowy figure, and while so far he's done nothing but assist Peter, his endgame remains unclear and his presence unsettling. Even in the opening sequence where he, essentially, saves a baby boy (I assume it's Harada in that scene though I could be mistaken) there's something undeniably strange and unnerving about the whole thing. When Harada asserts, forcefully, that he is more powerful than the child, it feels as much like a threat as a statement of fact. Not sure precisely why I get such a disturbing vibe off the character, but if, in the end, he is more morally skewed than he pretends, I won't be surprised.

That opening sequence, by the way, is what I assume constitutes Lewis LaRosa's artistic contribution to the issue, and damn if he doesn't do a fantastic job. Even the most messed up panels, in terms of content (e.g. young Harada pulling the baby out of a deteriorating body) were soft and enchanting. Really strong work, and it sucks you in right away, so by the time Peter becomes the focus, you're already enthralled and invested.

I continue to be hooked on Harbinger, and now that Peter has decided to pursue the study of his powers, it promises to only get better and more complex. Get on board now, before the inevitable madness fully kicks in.

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