The fifth and final volume of Harbinger closes the door on Valiant’s first team book and it goes out with a bang. Someone has leaked classified documents belonging to Project Rising Spirit to the public en masse and by doing so, has captured Toyo Harada’s eye and great displeasure. Sending teams out to try and retrieve the person known only as @X, he manages to elude them and winds up hiding out with the Renegades. It is then that Peter and the team decide it is time to finally take out Harada and the Harbinger Corporation once and for all and it is with Ax’s help they hope to accomplish that. So while Peter feints one way and then another, Harada falls into the traps set for him so that the Renegades might accomplish their task. But Harada is not a stupid man and he will not go down without a fight and so it is that he and Peter finally meet, perhaps for the last time, in a battle to decide once and for all who will remain standing.
Joshua Dysart really knows how to pack a wallop and he does so with this volume of Harbinger. The book has everything needed to make it successful including drama, suspense, thrills, chills and a whole lot of action. The pace is relentless as the book moves forward towards what will be a confrontation of epic proportions. After every page, after every issue, the suspense builds and builds until you think it cannot go any farther and yet it does. And while doing all of this, Dysart continues with the character building, adding depth to each of our heroes, not to mention our villain, making them people you love or love to hate. It is that connection to the reader that Dysart really drives home with his writing, making it personal and letting you empathize with the characters and what they are going through. While the book might have a lot of action and suspense, it is the character study that Dysart, Clayton Henry and Khari Evans paint that keeps you coming back for more.
It is this volume, more than any of the previous four that really delineates the line between Peter and Toyo. Peter has gone from being a selfish child to a selfless man whereas Toyo who always thought himself as so is completely the opposite and as selfish as they come. Where Harada fell off the rails in his long life is unknown, but he went from a man wanting to help the world, and in some ways he still does, to only wanting to help himself. At this point in the story, Harada wants nothing more than to see Peter defeated or dead, perhaps because he sees something of himself in Peter and it scares him knowing that there is a younger, more pure version of him out in the world. When the two clash at the end, it is frightening to see just how much rage Harada has been holding in, whether it is all for Peter, for himself, the world or everything combined. The fight is brutal and neither one walks away unscarred, though Peter seems to get the worst of it.
The book has a lot of dramatic moments in it, giving equal time to all of the other Renegades as much as it does to Peter and Harada. There are some great scenes that play out like Faith and Torque getting together and becoming a couple or Kris coming to terms with her sexuality. Ax is an interesting new character, who will hopefully appear in some form should the book be relaunched at a later date. There is a point in the book that becomes the most memorable one perhaps as it features one of the Renegades sacrificing themselves to save another at the cost to their life. It is shocking and sad and you are literally beside yourself because you cannot believe that it just happened. It is a powerful juncture in the book from Dysart and company and for a comic to make you feel as such, is quite amazing. It is also the turning point for our heroes when they realize that everything they are doing is real and has consequences, and that Harada will not hold back to protect what is his.
The book does eventually wind down, with our heroes scattering to the four winds when they realize that there is nothing more they can do. They have done their best and taken their losses and now they need to heal. When they eventually do come together, the only person who does not meet up with them is Peter. Peter, more than the others, is broken in both mind and body, and simply wants to fade away and be forgotten by the world. He loves his friends and they love him, but it is not enough to make him stay. The book also leaves us on a giant cliff-hanger which has to be seen to be believed. You cannot keep a good villain down and it looks like Toyo Harada will shake up in the Valiant Universe to the core. What is a certainty is that whatever the future holds for our heroes, with Dysart at the helm, it might be bad, but it will be good.
5 out of 5