The Renegades have their tank, but can even he save them from the forces of Project Rising Spirit? It’s HARBINGER #9. What’s the story behind Faith? What does Dull Tull have on his frequently brainwiped mind this time? And does the Harbinger Foundation have something to do with the PRS attack?
So before the series took time out to show Toyo Harada’s origin story, Peter Stanchek and his group of renegade psionics went to the backwoods, looking for their next recruit. They found just that with Torque, a paralyzed young man with dreams of being big and strong. His dreams were realized when Peter unlocked his latent psychic power: the ability to project his ideal self-image as a suit of protection and strength.
Good thing too, since Project Rising Spirit came in guns blazing and with all their psychic suppression weapons.
Elsewhere, Faith Herbert (alias Zephyr) got hit by a psionic scrambling device and took a fall from high up. Much to our collective relief, the poor girl did not become the second paralyzed member of the group as a result of falling right on her back, but instead just got banged up. And it’s here we’re treated to the rotund heroine’s origin. From the loss of her parents to her diving into their nerdy hobbies to her awakening as a flyer, we see things from Faith’s perspective. And it’s fun, given her jubilant and innocent attitude and her insistence that the current conflict can be boiled down to a superhero vs supervillain mentality. It’s certainly reductionist (though I’d chalk that up to her being ignorant of all the good and evil Harada does), but it’s also a refreshing counterweight to the pragmatism and ambigious morality of the rest of the heroes.
I think that’s what made me take a shining to Faith. At first I was put off by the fact that we had both a very fat woman (shallow, I know) and a shameless nerd added to the cast. Which shouldn’t alienate me, given my own physique and geek credentials (I maintain a comic review blog for crying out loud). But once the shock of it all wore off, I really took a liking to her earnestness. You rarely see overweight people or people with strong fringe interests in comic books, at least not outside minor or incidental characters (or charactures). Most artists in the industry draw close to a narrow physical ideal, especially when it comes to female characters. And for a medium supported by obsessive fans, few comics will speak in outright geeky terms.
Which in this case might actually be a problem. Faith refers to passages of time in terms of major blockbuster film releases, inadvertently dating HARBINGER. I wonder how this will look to readers five or ten years from now?
Moving on, HARBINGER #9 also contains the return of Agent Tull, a PRS flunky and nemesis to Peter. Or at least so far as one can be a nemesis to a person who keeps wiping one’s memory. Yes, “Dull Tull” is a character from earlier issues who was introduced as a shell of his former self, having taken the brunt of so many mind wipes that he’s lost touch with basically every aspect of life, including basic emotions. What he does have is Project Rising Spirit, which has taken Tull away each time he’s been “reset” and build him back up again. Now all he knows is that he’s a man who hunts Peter Stanchek, and is resigned to the idea of being “brand new”.
It’s funny, I almost forgot how rich character development can be while still moving the plot forward. And at a timely pace, to boot. Other publishers – or maybe it’s the fault of the writers or editors – will slowly advance characters in simple ways and in low numbers. Something that shouldn’t be the case given how much storylines get stretched to fill out trade paperbacks. I’ve found myself having more to say about this one book than I have for other major ones.
Hell, I think the last two issues I talked about (Daredevil #23 and Superior Spider-Man #4) were summed up in less time combined than I’ve rambled about this issue. If the books were this good back in classic Valiant days, it’s no wonder people remember the company with fondness.