I don't know anything about the Valiant Comics Universe except for that issue ofRai and the Future Force I stumbled upon for my Cheap Thrills column back in July of 2011. Needless to say, it was with some trepidation that I volunteered to review Harbinger#0 for this column. I'd heard some good things about the relaunch, though, so I figured I owed it to myself to give it a go.
And I'm damn glad that I did. This book is chock full of awesome, from soup to nuts.
Team Dysart/Suayan/Perez have put together quite the Zero Issue here. Ostensibly it gives the background of Toyo Harada, the "most powerful psionic mind on the planet" and founder of the Harbinger Foundation, an organization which appears to be like the Xavier School run by bloodless venture capitalists. This is, for all extents and purposes, another one of those origin stories born out of tragedy -- in Harada's case he discovers his powers in the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing -- but in the hands of Team Dysart/Suayan/Perez this well-worn groove plays an entirely different melody.
To begin with, the art in this book is fantastic. Suayan and Perez have created images of devastation and human suffering in this book which are nearly palpable. Their panels are enough to allow a reader to understand why a character like Toyo Harada becomes the man he is -- cruel to be kind, compassion with a veiled threat of violence, a man to be wary of even in the midst of his warmth. Their pages of Harada as a boy trying to find his father intensely capture both his innocence and his power; Dysart's words become almost an afterthought because of this.
"Almost" being the key word.
Because Dysart is doing some pretty amazing things in this book as well, exploring questions such as "Why did the war come" and "Why is the world so broken." The answers he provides are not the ones you want to tell your children as they snuggle into their beds at night. These are brutal times and brutal men and Dysart tells it in such a matter-of-fact way that you just have to nod your head in agreement.
Dysart juxtaposes Harada's origin story with a young Harbinger under his tutelage, Darpan. Harada tells Darpan his story in order to comfort him. Meanwhile, Darpan is using his power to "induce violent trauma-related memories" in others. The juxtaposition of Harada telling his story of horror to comfort this child who is engaged in creating his own horror is the kind of trick that really build this book into something great. And Harbinger#0 is full of these sorts of tricks.
Do yourself a favor. Hop on board this book. There's some powerful things going on here.