Thursday, 15 August 2013

Harbinger, Volume 1: Omega Rising by Joshua Dysart

Peter Stanchek is a teenager on the run from shadowy government types who want him because he can make people do what he wants with his mind! He’s a super-powerful psychic who’s also being head-hunted by the leader of a secret school for psychics, who’s also a powerful psychic himself, and neither groups are particularly friendly to poor Peter. But Peter’s powers are growing by the day and, according to a monk that continually bleeds, he is... the Harbinger! 

This is basically Valiant’s version of the X-Men. School for kids with remarkable powers, our hero is a conflicted “mutant” (though the word is never used), everyone in the school wears spacey uniforms and has nicknames like “Livewire” and “Hidden Moon”. Not that this is a bad thing, especially as the school could be argued as a good or bad entity based on this first volume - are they Xavier’s pupils or the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants? They’re a bit of both and its this ambiguity that makes the book stand apart from Marvel’s fare. 

Take Peter, our protagonist. We’re supposed to be rooting for him and his plight but right away in the first issue writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier) throws us a curveball by having Peter encounter his pre-teen crush, a girl called Kris who remembers him but wants nothing to do with him. Peter, who has been pining for her for years, is heartbroken that she doesn’t even want to talk to him, but then he remembers he has his powers - and makes her fall in love with him. As if that weren’t bad enough, it’s implied he then rapes her! Oof. That’s a tough sell to the reader. I’m supposed to like this dude after THAT? But again, it’s this ambiguity that Dysart gives to all of the characters that makes Harbinger an interesting read - nobody is totally blameless, nobody is a complete saint or devil, just like in real life. 

So why didn’t I like this book more? I think it was the constant angst that got to me in the end. Peter is certainly in tough situations throughout and under enormous stress, but his repeated efforts to push back against anyone and everyone, shouting and screaming at them while in private clutching his head in agony... it just got a bit overwhelming. At a certain point I couldn’t take the brattish attitude anymore, even though it’s in keeping with his character. That and the story went from mysterious to flat out superhero schtick by the end which was a tad disappointing. Though I like that one of the main characters is a chubby nerd girl called Faith who actually gets superpowers - if Dysart does this series right, he’s going to have legions of female fans with this title! 

Harbinger, Vol 1: Omega Rising definitely has its moments and is a fast-paced action story similar to the movie Chronicle with plenty of X-Men thrown in. The art is just ok, the writing is fine, but the main character is really hard to like - hell, most of the characters, bar Faith and Joe, are total dicks! One of the marks of good writing is that no matter how unlikeable a character is, the reader can’t help but keep reading because the story is too good - and I’m not too fussed if I read another Harbinger comic to see what Peter Stanchek does next, or not.

Harbinger Volume 1: Omega Rising

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