(w) Rafer Roberts, (p) Darick Robertson, (i) Richard Clark, (c) Diego Rodriguez
The comics industry is a competitive marketplace, with dozens of new titles competing each week for limited funds of a limited readership. When Rafer Roberts took on the writing of Valiant’s odd couple, Archer and Armstrong, it didn’t grab readers right away. Even though the book has since found its footing, many readers have already written it off. The same happened to the soon-to-be-ending Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, who’s slow start couldn’t overcome slower sales despite a positive critical reception. Thankfully, Harbinger Renegade #1 does not stumble out of the gate, as Roberts and artist Darick Robertson deliver an opening issue that with an engrossing hook and quality to back it up.
Aside from Toyo Harada’s scheming in Imperium and Faith’s solo work in Faith, psiots (the Valiant equivalent of Marvel’s mutants) have been kept largely to the perimeter – specifically the Renegades. The rebellious group that tackled Harada in the previous Harbinger title (including the “Harbinger Wars” event) has disbanded, only to find their final actions put untold numbers of people in jeopardy. With that as the backdrop, Roberts’ script gets to work in “putting the band back together.” While that undoubtedly is a main plot point of this issue, it is not the central focus, but rather a potential psiot named Jay.
Roberts picks up the threads left dangling from Harbinger: Omegas, as the names of potential psiots (compiled by Harada’s organizations) have been made available to the public. As a result, a group of teens have taken it upon themselves to awaken the latent psiot abilities of others, only they lack the skill to do it successfully. Both the writing by Roberts and the art by Robertson convey the outright brutality and callousness of these people – led by a hotheaded psiot named Enfuego. For those unfamiliar with psiots, Roberts tactfully conveys to readers necessary information without bogging down the script with needless exposition (and while injecting a bit of macabre humor).
But the real star here is Robertson, whose art conveys the horrific aftermath of psiot activation gone wrong. Not only are the visuals sickening, but they are supplemented with reactions from those nearby. The begrudging support of Enfuego’s followers is perfectly captured by their pained expressions. With just a few images, it’s evident that they give their support in fear for their own lives. This comes to a head when Enfuego and his troupe attempt a home-invasion/kidnapping at Jay’s residence. Robertson’s ability to craft a scene is just as impressive as his character renderings. The images of Peter Stanchek floating in space (as seen in the preview pages released by Valiant) are stunning.
Harbinger Renegade #1 is a welcoming reintroduction of Valiant’s misfits. Roberts’ ability to tap into these characters’ personalities exceeds expectations. Furthermore, the narrative itself plays with the coming-of-age tropes associated with Harbinger from a fresh and exciting perspective. Add to it one hell of an effort from the art team, and Harbinger Renegade #1 is an easy recommendation.
Note: Harbinger Renegade #1 is available November 16th both digitally and in your local comic shops.