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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the early 1990s and explore a part of the Valiant Comics shared universe through the Harbinger monthly series.
For the newcomers reading this, Harbinger was created by former Marvel editor-in-chief and Valiant founder Jim Shooter (note: read my retro reviews of his works here, here, here, here and here) and artist David Lapham. Harbinger follows a few teenagers with unique abilities or powers who got involved with the Harbinger Foundation, an organization established by Toyo Harada who dreams to change the world as people know it.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Harbinger #1, published in 1992 by Valiant Comics with a story written by Jim Shooter and drawn by David Lapham.
The story begins at 2:35 PM of June 2, 1991. Pete and his companion Kris are riding a car floating high above the road being followed by a helicopter. After Pete manages to communicate with the helicopter’s operators, they even settle down by landing on a road with no traffic. As Pete and the helicopter people begin talking, three people – Weasel, Eel and Lump – quickly rushed in to subdue Pete and Kris. After Pete manages to free himself from Weasel and Lump, he uses his power to lift up the car Kris drove (note: Kris is no longer in the car) and uses it as a weapon to hit Lump.
Just as Kris hits Eel on the stomach, Pete notices that the gasoline was leaking out of the car which Eel ignites with her electricity causing a huge explosion. Pete and Kris managed to survive the blast and together they fly off to a motel to rest and reorganize themselves.
The next morning, they have a meal together and Kris examines a newspaper. She notices another one of the Harbinger Foundation’s print ads reaching out to people who find themselves different or notice strange things around them. The two fugitives realize that the said foundation somehow made involved youth become dangerous. Remembering that people write and send letters to the Harbinger Foundation, Pete comes up with the idea of intercepting letters…
This is one very engaging story to read. While story concepts about super-powered teenagers being desperate and struggling to realize their purpose while facing evil is not new, this comic book has a concept that remains unique even by today’s standards. Instead of seeing a group of powered teenage outcasts escaping society’s authorities or taking refuge in the home of a caring person, this comic book follows teenagers who are being targeted by a powerful organization as one of them – Pete – personally got involved with them before.
The story written by Jim Shooter is deliberately paced at a moderate level which allows readers to be able to absorb the details before moving from one chapter to the next. Along the way, Kris and Pete get to meet other powered characters like Faith, Flamingo and John. In between the introductions of the three mentioned characters, Shooter’s script managed to set up enough space for character development and interactions between the characters which have been executed to be believable. Even key elements of youth such as insecurity, fear, angst and the false sense of maturity are portrayed along the way. I should state that Shooter dramatized these characters like they were real people.
As for the Harbinger Foundation itself, it complete lacks visibility and its exposure was limited to the print ad and mentions. Still, the foundation is a clear and present danger to Pete and his companions as it has powered youth members who are dedicated to it and they also have heavily armed personnel working for them.
If you are fond of superhero spectacle, I can say that the action scenes were executed in accordance to the narrative. The spectacle of this comic book was clearly made to emphasize the plot elements and not serve as eye candy. That being said, this is a unique way of enjoying superhero spectacle.
Harbinges #1 (1992) is a pretty engaging comic book of Valiant and at the same time it is also one of the more unique portrayals of powered teenagers who are living with tremendous odds tilted at them. The tone of the story really felt grounded in reality (the early 1990s specifically) and the character moments, action and incidents were all executed in a believable fashion.
Overall, Harbinger #1 (1992) is highly recommended!
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