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Harbinger #0 (Valiant): In short, this is the best issue of the series to date. It’s an in-your-face account of Toyo Harada’s origin story and the early beginnings of the Harbinger Foundation juxtaposed with a more current mission involving Darpan. I really enjoyed the procedural bits with the mission (I’m a sucker for crisp and authentic sounding ops center/protocol/radio traffic stuff), the underlying idea of the mind being the final frontier in Harada’s worldview, and the art from Mico Suayan and Pere Perez is, in my opinion, the most accomplished and stylish that the series has seen so far. Writers appeal to other writers though, and my favorite part was how Joshua Dysart captures a sense of moral complexity in this world. As in real life, there really aren’t any readily available simplistic stock archetypes of “good” people and “bad” people, there are just different people with different backgrounds, motivations, and intentions, which are frequently at odds with each other. If you read his work on Unknown Soldier over at Vertigo, you know that Dysart has a penchant for research and it comes across in the scripts in the way he’s able to use topics and locales that aren’t frequently seen in the pop media of our mass consumer culture. There’s really only one other writer I know who works like that, which is Brian Wood, and I’m tempted to put Dysart in that category. This is by far the strongest Valiant book in an already really popular line. Grade A.
Multiple Warheads #4 (Image): Man, I came in really wanting to like this book and being excited about an impending conclusion, but was largely disappointed that I didn’t find that. I did enjoy Graham’s trademark wordplay, stuff like “boom arm rang” literally being the thing it describes, and there are plenty of those examples running throughout the book. I still enjoy Graham’s art and coloring, purely as art, as something you can wander through and get lost in, distinct in the way he’s able to seamlessly integrate words and pictures, the line between the two fairly blurred at times. But, I feel like he really lost his way purely as a storyteller, lost the throughline of the story in terms of basic plotting. There have really always been two stories playing out here, the one with whatsherface and the other with Nik and Sexica. I’m partial to the latter, so to find the entire issue focusing on the former going down some narrative rabbit hole was disheartening, and it made me think that perhaps Graham should have segregated these stories and offered distinct mini-series featuring each set of characters. As is, it kind of feels like ad hoc scenes strung together, and a little self-indulgent, as if Graham was just enjoying crafting the art so much that he forgot he needed to deliver a complete story to his audience. By the end, I really had no idea what was going on and kind of just wanted it to be over. Yikes! The biggest problem is that for something labeled as issue 4 of 4, there’s no real resolution occurring here. I understand that Graham now intends to continue on in the Dark Horse/Hellboy tradition of “a series of mini-series,” but that almost feels like a last minute decision, abruptly ending at a seemingly random demarcation point. Grade B.