First Impressions – HARBINGER WARS #1

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The first crossover event in Valiant’s new comics line, and it’s between Harbinger and Bloodshot. HARBINGER WARS #1 begins the battle royale. Toyo Harada, Peter Stanchek, Bloodshot, Project Rising Spirit, and a selection of various psychic children. Who will side with who? Are the Renegades ready to do battle with the Harbinger Foundation? What purpose does the Bleeding Monk have for the world’s greatest super minds? Who are these psychic children and what do they want? And how will the rogue super-soldier Bloodshot muck up everyone’s plans?

It was going to happen eventually. One cannot have a shared continuity amongst multiple titles without something giving and they start knocking on each others’ doors. “Oh hey, it’s me Superman. Can have borrow a cup of sugar? I can promote your obscure book by appearing in it.” Now Valiant is getting in on that action.

I hope you like both Harbinger and Bloodshot, because if you were only reading one or the other your summer just got ruined. Or made better, as the case may be.

But for those who did only read one of the series, a crash course. In Harbinger, a powerful young psionic man named Peter Stanchek broke off from the Harbinger Foundation after he found out its founder, Toyo Harada, had his best friend killed in a bid to ensure Peter’s loyalty. It didn’t take, and now Peter has assembled a group of newly activated psychics – and one non-powered girl with the greatest asset of all…being a rational human being – and formed his own group called the Renegades.

With black jack. And hookers. In fact, forget the Renegades.

Bloodshot, meanwhile, is a super-soldier created using nanomachines by Project Rising Spirit (a group that also hunts Peter). They used fake memories to motivate the big gray killing machine, that is until one mission when awry. With his programming scrambled and his true purpose revealed, Bloodshot rebelled against his masters. Now he acts against them in an effort to find out who he was before becoming Bloodshot.

Which is what he was busy doing before it turned out he was, once again, mislead about what he was doing. As revealed in the pages of Bloodshot and reiterated in HARBINGER WARS #1, Bloodshot was originally set free by one Doctor Kuretich, who was really working for Toyo Harada. Leading Bloodshot to believe he was breaking into a facility with his true identity on a file, he was really busting several psychic children out of PRS control, which Harada could then swoop in and recruit for his own well-meaning but evil army of psychics.

Did you get all that? Good.

HARBINGER WARS #1 starts, however, by giving us the perspective of those captured psychic children, including a team headed by a couple older children PRS uses for black ops stuff. The issue actually frames the story by having the acting PRS director being interrogated by the US National Intelligence Director. And we get to see the events after the fact, including an entire mission of these kids to quash a virus outbreak in a Chinese research prison co-opted by Project Rising Spirit.

You know how Resident Evil has the Umbrella Corporation, and how that company uses dangerous and unethical experiments in various fields? How they also can’t seem to avoid having their creations blow up in their faces, necessitating nukes being dropped on the problem to contain them? That’s basically how PRS runs all the time. Between Bloodshot, the psychic children, hive mind viruses, and gray goo, basically everything PRS tries to make turns around and tries to destroy them, and the world at large. The only thing they’ve been able to consistently hold onto is a man frequently mind wiped to nonfunction by a flying psychic junkie.

Worth noting is that the mission with the kids switches art styles from the rest of the book, courtesy of Clayton Crain. Long-time readers of Sequential Smart will remember his work on Carnage, USA, and the work is no less good here.

Finally, there’s the scenes with Peter and his crew. I personally got the variant cover to HARBINGER WARS #1 with Bloodshot killing the Renegades, but suffice it to say this doesn’t actually happen. Not really. The Renegades and Bloodshot don’t “actually” meet in this issue, and I use heavy emphasis on the quotation when I say actually. What does for real happen (kind of) is Peter meeting the enigmatic Bleeding Monk, a minor character in the Harbinger ongoing that acted as the adviser to Harada. But as of late, he’s left Harada high and dry, and in this issue he dispenses words of wisdom to the struggling rebel.

It goes without saying that I’m going to be reading the rest of HARBINGER WARS. It’s a story well-integrated into the plots of both series, so it would be just about criminal for me not to do so. But the real question will come to people who haven’t been reading both: should I read HARBINGER WARS? It definitely helps to be familiar with what’s already going on, so new readers might get lost. I was just lucky in that I had been reading both Harbinger and Bloodshot from the start.

It would be like if Bloodshot had a crossover event with XO Manawar, one of the other series published by Valiant. I don’t know thing one about XO Manawar, so I would be completely out of my depth. Thankfully, Valiant’s universe is still small, so there’s only so many crossovers that can happen. Unlike DC or Marvel, where dozens of books can suddenly tie in to each other at any time, or encounter any of the thousands of characters in their stables. And that’s not counting the fact that at any given time the publisher could decide to reboot or change a character or book, meaning you could have even less idea what’s going on. Valiant fans are getting off light.

So if you do plan to start reading HARBINGER WARS, remember that the story will also develop in each respective ongoing series. This is some really great stuff Valiant has going here, and trust me when I say you’ll want to see it.

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