Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger: Volume 1, Omega Rising

Peter Stanchek is gifted, and not necessarily in a good way: he’s able to make people do what he tells them, among other things, but there’s a downside to that: he’s a kid, one who has good impulses — as witness the energy he expends on caring for his best friend, Joe Irons, who’s a borderline schizophrenic, usually on the other side of the border — but being a kid, Peter’s judgment isn’t always rock solid, so he winds up using his powers to hold up pharmacies for meds for Joe.

You see, they’re being stalked, by the head of an organization called “Project Rising Spirit”, and he doesn’t seem to have the boys’ best interests as heart.

And then, during one particularly spectacular confrontation with the police, a representative of the Harbinger Foundation offers Peter refuge, and a promise that Joe will be taken care of. It seems that Peter is a Harbinger, a psiot as they are called by Toyo Harada, the head of not only the foundation, but of an international commercial empire. Harada was the first Harbinger, and he’s offering Peter training to learn to control his powers and use them for “the greater good.” It seems that Peter has a special talent, one that Harada wants to use. Peter’s somewhat less than willing, and his departure is spectacular.

Peter starts to put together his own team to fight Harada, activating psiots on his own, somewhat less brutally than Harada’s methods. That’s another of Peter’s gifts – he can bring nascent psiots into their full powers without damaging them.

In the meantime, it seems that Harada and Project Rising Spirit have been negotiating a merger. This is not a good thing.

It’s hard to characterize this one: we’re used to superhero stories, even those about teenage superheroes, in which the super powers are assumed — the kids might spend a frame or two learning to fly, but then, got it! Let’s get on with the story. The good guys and bad buys are usually fairly easy to tell apart. And the good guys really are “good,” which is to say that while they may have their quirks, none of them are really selfish or destructive. None of that really holds true here.

Writer Joshua Dysart has created some amazing characters here, if not always particularly admirable. As mentioned, Peter is a kid, pretty much lost and confused, and given to lashing out. He is stubbornly independent, and just as stubbornly loyal, to Joe and to Kris Hathaway, the girl he caused to fall in love with him by using his powers. When Peter sees the other side of Harada’s utopia, his reaction is no surprise – except, perhaps, to Harada. Harada is equally intriguing, a study in what makes a messiah.

The art, by Khari Evans, supported at various times by Lewis LaRosa, Matthew Clark, and Jim Muniz, is firmly in the Jim Cheung/John Cassaday vein, which guarantees that I’m going to like it. It’s a clean, open style, and the inkers have added just enough detail to bring it to the “realism” side of comic realism. Color is appealing, strongly modeled without approaching chiaroscuro. The narrative flow is clear and fluent.

The more I’ve been looking at this series, the more impressed I am. It’s got a knotty, even gritty story that’s never overdone; it runs on the characters, who come with warts as well as halos; and the art is as engaging as everything else.

(Valiant Entertainment, LLC, 2013)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

You may e-mail him, but include a reference to Green Man Review so you don’t get deleted with the spam.