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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.
In my previous review, the team led by Sting daringly broke into the Harbinger Foundation’s New York facility and freed the pretty blonde Natalie Toynbee (codename: Stunner) who happened to have a big ego and was not comfortable with the organization’s rules. While Sting and his team secured Natalie as their newest member, a sinister force from Iran arrives in America.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Harbinger #20, published in 1993 by Valiant Comics with a story written by Maurice Fontenot and illustrated by Howard Simpson.
The story begins deep in the nation of Iran on February 1, 1993. Thanks to the tremendous help of Screen, the Harbinger renegades composed of Flamingo, Kris, Shatiqua and Faith/Zephyr make their way through the busy section of Mashad, carefully communicating with each other while disguised in cultural clothing. Their mission is to find the hideout of Kaliph and rescue Sting and Natalie/Stunner knowing they only have ten hours left.
Inside Kaliph’s fortress, a very weak and uneasy Sting finds himself alone in a dark room while Natalie is being treated nicely by the servants of Kaliph in preparation for dinner with the sinister master himself…
In terms of storytelling, this is a very solid continuation to the events that happened in the previous issue and it was a clever move by the creators to have the story set in enemy territory which easily raised the stakes for Sting’s team. While this is not the first time that the group went out on dangerous missions going into the turf of the opposition, having Iran as the setting and Kaliph as the powerful villain really made things fresh for this particular comic book series.
It should be noted that having Sting being very vulnerable added a nice layer of depth in this tale given the fact that he is still living with a false sense of maturity as well as traces of arrogance on his part believing that he could make positive changes by fighting powerful enemies and freeing powered youth from captivity without vast amounts of resources. For the newcomers reading this, Sting and his companions do not have much money to live with nor do they have technologies or connections to be powerful as a team. They simply have their own super powers and the will to move on and make things happen which makes them different compared to many other superhero teams in comics.
There are also signs of suicidal thoughts on Sting’s part as he recklessly moved to get to Kaliph even though the villain’s men were armed. By contrast, his teammates moved cautiously into Kaliph’s fortress and the way they handled the armed Iranians was believably presented. Not to be outdone here in Natalie who got a good share of the spotlight.
This comic book’s evil Iranian Kaliph was presented to be not only powerful but also talented as a business negotiator (which makes him somewhat similar with this comic book series’ super villain Toyo Harada) and even as a host of special guests. His evil nature here got emphasized further through his treatment of people as pawns of negotiations backed by his power of manipulation.
Harbinger #20 (1993) is both engaging and intriguing to read from start to finish. Having Sting’s team on a high-risk rescue mission in Iran made for a great setting and Kaliph turned out to be a more significant figure of evil. Through Kaliph and his violence-oriented servants, you will see the symbolism of the evil of Iran in real-life even though this comic book does not show any links between him and the regime that took power in 1979. Geopolitics are pretty much absent in the story but the evil presented through Kaliph make this old comic book highly relevant in relation to the evil of Iran today (for reference, click here, here, here, here, here and here). It should be noted that within the comic book, the Iranian people in general are not condemned and in real life, there are Iranians standing up against their government which itself has been sponsoring terrorists and organizing terrorism for a long time now. The brutality committed by Iran’s regime made several Iranians escape their country to be free.
Considering the very sensitive matter of Iran and other issues related with contemporary geopolitics, Harbinger #20 (1993) not only aged well but is also a living reminder that people whose minds got poisoned with wickedness, political correctness and wokeness would not dare make a comic book showing the evil of Iran. The Leftist-oriented people prefer to make deals with terrorists (for examples, click here and here).
Overall, Harbinger #20 (1993) is highly recommended!
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