Comic Bento said the theme for this month was “Fan Power”. I was pleasantly surprised to see that what that meant was four trades from Valiant Comics. I’ve found I tend to really enjoy whatever Valiant stuff Comic Bento sends me, but the one problem is I always feel like I’d appreciate it more if I knew a bit more about the universe the stories are set in. And the box came with a “volume two” instead of a one, so I figured there was only one way to fix that.
Yup, I got the first volume of Harbinger to cover whatever I missed before I grab the first trade from the box. Most of the stuff there seems to be Harbinger related anyway, so best to start at the beginning.
Harbinger opens with a young Japanese man visiting a Tibetan temple that isn’t on any maps about the time the Chinese took Tibet over. Though he finds the building swarming with Chinese soldiers looking to keep the place, the man, Toyo Harada, mentally orders the men to protect him from them. What results is the soldiers all start attacking each other. Harada then walks past to a room where the Bleeding Monk is. Who is the Bleeding Monk? Well, he bleeds nonstop without dying and he makes for a great visual element.
Fast forward a few decades and we see Peter Stanchek. Peter’s on the run with his best buddy Joe, and Peter has all kinds of mental powers. He’s been in and out of mental hospitals for as long as he can remember and doesn’t really trust anybody aside from Joe. The two young men are back in their hometown of Pittsburgh, and after securing some un-prescripted medication and a wad of cash from a pharmacy for himself and Joe, Peter moves to an abandoned house and looks up a former neighbor named Kris Hathaway. Though Kris wants nothing to do with him, Peter makes her fall in love with him.
Meanwhile, Harada is looking for Peter himself. Harada is a billionaire philanthropist with a lot of psychic powers himself. He runs a secret organization that trains people he calls Psiots to do…something.
Here’s where the book is interesting. As powerful as Harada and Peter are, it’s hard to say who the good guy is here. It could be neither of them. Yes, Peter mind-whammies Kris into loving him, but he fixes her later and feels bad about it. He’s got a temper, lashes out frequently, and doesn’t do well with others.
On the other hand, Harada is training super humans for…something. It’s hard to say, and he’s definitely an end-justifies-the-means type. The Bleeding Monk can see the future, and something bad is coming involving Peter. Why does Harada do what he does? Is he Xavier or Magneto?
Writer Joshua Dysart puts the players in motion rather well, and in the Valiant tradition, the trade has a complete story arc while still containing an ongoing series. I wasn’t too crazy about Khari Evans’ artwork, seeing as how Peter and Joe were almost interchangeable, but the Bleeding Monk makes a fantastic visual element whenever he appears.
As an added bonus, the volume introduces one of Valiant’s new break-out characters, Faith. Faith is a latent with potential for superpowers, and those powers are activated in this volume (flight for now, maybe more). What makes Faith different from, oh, every Valiant protagonist I’ve seen so far is she’s actually a happy-go-lucky type. A plus-sized fangirl, Faith loves having superpowers, and aside from a few mentions, her weight rarely comes into play. Most overweight super humans tend to have powers linked to being very fat, but not Faith.
Her inclusion gets this volume eight out of ten mystery agendas.
NEXT BOOK: Going back to what Comic Bento actually sent me, their first book is…ta da!…Volume One of Faith! Let’s see how she does on her own.