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Harbinger #12 (Valiant): Peter and The Renegades finally engage with Cronos and the psiots holed up in The Bellagio in Las Vegas, in what is a rather tenuous gettin-ta-know-ya meeting. Not a whole lot happens in this issue since it’s smack dab in the middle of the crossover event and feels like something of a stall, but the thing I enjoy, which keeps me coming back to Harbinger amid all of the growing list of Valiant titles, is that it’s written really well. Not only do we get more of the super-entertaining Toyo Harada back story, but Joshua Dysart is able to infuse the script with enough casual humor (like the way Faith and Pete name their team “The Renegades” in a seriously impromptu fashion), enough genuine emotion, and the promise of real stakes danger, that the believability factor is actually pretty high. Man, I’d pay like 2x the cover price for this title if Clayton Crain was the regular series artist. He handles just one page of flashback in this issue (uncredited?) and it just sings. To me, that’s the caliber of artist that Dysart has earned on this book. The other art from Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine is serviceable, but doesn’t have the “wow” factor that Crain does. Grade B+.
Chin Music #1 (Image): Right off the bat, I enjoyed how Tony Harris was able to carry so much of this story visually. The last time I really paid attention to his art was when he was doing Ex Machina with Brian K. Vaughan. The needs of that story demanded a more superheroic sheen obviously. Here, the style is much darker and more muddy, which seems to suit the needs of the story. On the scripting end, Steve Niles has always been fairly hit and miss for me, and this issue a good example of that. At a high level, I really enjoy the odd mix of genres here that seems to be more than the sum of the parts flung against the script to see what will stick. There’s noir detective stuff mixed with Egyptian Indiana Jones stuff mixed with gangsters mixed with the whiff of superpowers mixed with heaping doses of the occult mixed with speculative fiction about Eliot Ness and Al Capone. It's all over the place and hasn't quite congealed yet. It’s sort of half muddled, but half unique enough that I’m interested to see where in the heck this is going to go. The problem with mushing all this stuff together is that there’s the potential for inconsistencies to occur. Much of that depends on when exactly this story occurs. Judging from the cars and clothes and appearances of Ness and Capone, it would seem this is during the late 1920’s/early 1930’s. There’s a gun that's a top-breaking revolver in one scene called a Webley (I’ve owned two) that was widely used in the 30’s and 40’s, manufactured from 1887 to 1923, but used all the way up until 1963, so that doesn’t help straighten things out. At one point, Ness says “I’m a police officer,” which a Federal Agent would never say. Trust me, Feds are quite proud of being Feds and not local cops and making the distinction. He then flashes a badge which says “Internal Revenue Service (IRS)” on it. One, Ness was never an IRS Agent. Two, the agency wasn’t actually called IRS until the 1950’s. Despite the Brian DePalma film The Untouchables, Ness was never really involved in the tax evasion part of the Capone investigation and subsequent prosecution, he was strictly working the violation of the Volstead Act angle. Ness was a generic Treasury Agent at the time, assigned to a unit that morphed over time and would have been considered more of an ATF Agent in modern parlance, though that agency wasn’t called that until 1968 (I worked for ATF as well, which is why all this annoys me, and probably only me). Ness was in Chicago from 1927 to 1931ish, then in Cleveland and DC from 1931 to 1957ish. To my knowledge he was never in Egypt, which I don't mind since it's clearly getting into speculative fiction, but I still don’t know what the hell is going on or when this story is supposed to take place. So, yeah, intriguing, but flawed. There’s a bold hook at the end, and I’m curious enough to give this wacky mash-up another issue or two. Grade B+.
Prophet #35 (Image): This will probably sound contrarian as hell, but man I’m really starting to lose my patience with this book. I enjoy the art of Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milonogiannis, but we’re not getting Graham’s art anymore on the book and the combined writing efforts of the trio leave something to be desired. The visual world-building is obviously very imaginative and unique, but for me there is some serious plotting lacking. It’s like it’s gone from being a crisp rendition of “Sci-Fi Conan” to just a Sci-Fi Brainstorming Session Gone Awry. It now feels like a never-ending succession of meandering oddities being introduced. So you can have all the ambulavit pod arc mother probes , mind mortar Johns, Parabalani Johns, Thauilu Vah spires, Hydathode slugs, and mucus lines of slaved schechus you want, but no matter how visually compelling and creative they are, if I don’t understand why anyone is doing anything they’re doing and what consequences it has to whatever their objective is, then you’ve kind of lost me. It was dope seeing Malachi Ward art on the backup story, but I feel like I'm going to end up just catching up on this series in trades. Grade B+.