(Joshua Dysart / Barry Kitson with Brian Level and Riley Rossmo / Ian Hannin / Dave Sharpe; Valiant)
The Valiant line of comics continues to wander into previously unknown red poppy-laden fields that offer thick and wavy stupor inducing questions like, “So, what do you get when you cross two imploding psionic dreamscapes and a super-powered psiot going through a mind squall?
The answer to this question happens to be Harbinger #19.
As if you didn't know that already.
I haven't visited the Harbinger field for quite some time. A matter of fact, the last time I Kubla Kahn-ed any of this Xanadu, it was the zero issue. “But oh! That deep romantic chasm” seems like so long ago, for all sorts of things have occurred since then. Luckily (and pluckily, I might add), Valiant books all seem to feature a nifty little “Our Story So Far...” on their inside front cover, and so, as every comic may be someone's first, I quickly was able to drink “the milk of Paradise” and hop right into the story.
Peter Stanchek has powerful psionic abilities. He also recruited a bunch of other psiots to try to dismantle Toyo Harada's Harbinger Foundation. These “Renegades,” recently been captured by Harada, have been “trapped in Torque's mental manifestation of his dream world, Torquehalla” (of course), and Harada has been keeping Stanchek sedated in a psychic “Perfect Day Experiment”
I realize this all sounds kind of hokey, or the result of awakening from an opiate fevered dream too soon, but bear with me. There is much more going on here.
The key to what makes Harbinger #19 more than the puerile smatterings of a too-much Sci-fi TV junkie is one line, a throwaway from the character Monica Jim (Codename: Animalia) who has just been informed that the world in which she has been existing is actually a “separate virtual construct built solely to pacify her.” There is almost a resignation to her reaction to this information. She says, “I was just too happy for it to be...you know, anything lasting.”
And therein writer Joshua Dysart unloads on us and plays the Abyssinian maid. We know perfect moments are fleeting. We construct and we strive, and sometimes we find something good. But all the while we know that its power lies in its inevitable disappearance. We cling tighter to those things bound to escape our grasp: life, love, joy, youth – all these are sweetened by their fragility. In a way, they are our dulcet prisons into which we constantly try to escape.
What Dysart and his team of artists are able to do in Harbinger #19 is help us understand this through subtly and juxtaposition. There is as much hard ruthlessness and barbarity in these pages as there are dreams of salvation. The idea of neutralizing an enemy by putting them in a facsimile of their perfect place resonates as strongly in this book as in a Coleridge poem. The anger it must breed when the illusion is lost must fertilize gardens bright with sinuous rills.
Ultimately Harbinger #19 is about control and the lengths people are willing to go to maintain it. It's also about how this colors the dreams of a morally relativistic world. Oh yea, and it's also a pretty damn fine comic book.
Finally, I couldn't complete a review of Harbinger #19 without mentioning the “UNEXPECTED GUEST APPEARANCE BY THE KARDASHIAN MERMAIDS!” There's that aspect to this book as well.
Go buy it. Read it. See for yourself. It's a miracle of rare device.