Considering the popularity of the title during its initial run in the early 90’s, it is not surprising that Valiant Comics took a shot at bringing back one of its most successful series of all-time, Harbinger. In doing so, Valiant also took a risk by subjecting this “new” series to the same scrutiny and comparisons that every remake must undergo. And, as with many remakes, Harbinger also suffers in that ideas that were relatively fresh at the time have now been used over and over in any number of comics, movies, television shows, etc. It was a risky move on Valiant’s part and, luckily, it seems to be paying off.
The re-imagined story follows Peter Stanchek, a teenager with superpowers that is running from a sinister group. In Issue #1, he is accompanied by a schizophrenic friend that refuses to take his medication, who, of course, inevitably screws up. Joshua Dysart has chosen to use the original work as merely a backbone rather than a blueprint and while that may upset fans of the earlier series, it was a smart move on his part. In order to separate this book from the herd it was absolutely necessary that a) it improved on the original series; b) the story brings something fresh to the table; and 3) it entertained. Dysart has succeeded on all fronts.
Where the original seemed a bit cheesy at times, Dysart has chosen to give us strong dialogue and a solid story. The most well thought out and solidly executed moments come when Peter is absolutely overwhelmed by “hearing” the thoughts of the people around him all at once. The way that it is presented invokes an almost claustrophobic feeling in the reader and it is easy to see why his abilities would be considered much more of a burden than a gift. Dysart makes us ask ourselves “Are superpowers really worth it?” It adds another dimension to the story and for one of the very few times, many comic book readers may be sympathetic to our hero and his abilities rather than envious. The pace that he has given the story is just right and we are treated to what almost seems like a wonderful mystery novel. We aren’t given much information but what we are given makes us want more. In other words, while some readers know where this is all heading, we still want to come along for the ride just to see what has changed in the past 20 years.
Khari Evans definitely has his own style and whether it’s Carbon Grey, The Immortal Iron Fist or Thor: Ages of Thunder, his art is immediately recognizable. His dark, stylish work was the perfect pairing to Dysart’s dark story. While there are moments that the art does seem a bit uneven, for the most part it is wonderful to look at and draws the reader in as it should. Attention to detail is essential to bringing comics to life and Evan succeeds in that as well. It sounds like attention to detail should be Comic Book Art 101 but it is surprising how often artists tend to forget to do just that. Evans gives us deep backdrops and breathtaking landscape shots of a metropolitan city in addition to great close ups and action shots. Ian Hannin also gets to show off a bit and it’s wonderful to see. Hannin has been in the business for many years and has worked with on a multitude of titles so it was almost natural that he was chosen for this book. Readers are taken through the slums during the night, the suburbs during the day, a horrific fantasyland and even 1950’s Tibet. None of these locales seem to be a problem for Hannin and he takes on the challenges with ease. His colors are stunning and dark and set the tone of the work beautifully. When paired with Evans’ work it is easy to forgive the unevenness of some of the art.
Of course, there will be some who respond negatively to this series and that will constantly insist that the original was better. This is inevitable of any remake, reimagining, reboot, etc. However, just because these people tend to be the squeakiest wheel, it doesn’t mean that they are right. As a matter of fact, since it now seems fashionable to immediately hate remakes, many of the naysayers will probably never even give this book a chance, which is sad. Dysart is doing something great here by retelling the story in a different way and giving readers only a taste of the mystery at a time. This is definitely a book worth reading and I am sure there will be plenty of arguments in comic conventions across the globe as to which series is better: the original or the reboot. Grab this book not only because it’s worth the read (it absolutely is) but so that you can join in the argument intelligently and on the side of this successful reboot.