Terrible mistakes have a tendency to permanently fuck up your personal reality. Not terrible mistakes as in "I shouldn't have dumped her," or "I wish I didn't eat that pizza all by myself," but true terrors — errors on the level of, say, accidentally killing your patient on the operating table. These are the kinds of mistakes that irrevocably divide your life's story into two distinct timelines, Pre-Mistake and Post-Mistake, each with completely different rules and standards. And the thing is, the Post-Mistake era? It's usually full of further mistakes, some more terrible than the Big Bang that began it all. Just ask Ben Dane, the anti-hero fuckup at the center of A.J. Lieberman and Colin Lorimer's new series Harvest.
We're introduced to Dane in a way that unsubtly introduces all the Post-Mistake flaws that make up his character. Flanked by two mostly nude women eager to get into his medicine cabinet, Dane is basically comatose, zoned out on a couch as CHER ("If I could hold back time…" remarks one scantily clad girl to the next), or County Hospital Emergency Room, frantically pages him. Dane is handsome, distraught, a beautiful waste of space with more talent than sense, eager to end the Post-Mistake era not with a whimper but a bang. Which is why he heads straight to the ER in his coked up stupor, in the process failing to save the life of a mother introduced earlier in the issue because he's too busy losing half his body's blood through his nose. Cue the inevitable termination, the verbal smack down from a lawyer, the rearing of the doctorly God complex ("God?! I'm better than God. I'm a surgeon!"). It's not the last terrible mistake Dane will make in the issue because like any good Post-Mistake denizen, Dane is attempting to eradicate any memory of the Pre-Mistake era by drowning himself in further falls from grace. Don't call it a survival tactic, just call it coping through chaos.
More importantly, it sets Dane on the path to his full embrace of darkness, something we as readers were privy to from the start thanks to the series' fractured timeline. But Breaking Bad this is not. Lacking the discipline and patience of that masterful program, Harvest instead goes visceral, drenching the reader in not-so-sterilized ER gore and drab filters, punctuated by a bit of the old ultra violence and salacious skin, of both the living and dead variety. In Colin Lorimer's hands, Dane's world is permanently coated in the fluorescent lighting of the hospital ward, the only bouts of color coming from the opening and exploding of bodies, of freshly laundered scrubs and the warm faces of people that just don't know they're broken yet.
The palette is obvious but it works, fitting the inevitability of Dane's Post-Mistake existence and the sickly nature of leading character and victims alike. Lorimer's storytelling skills are suitably cinematic, the panels well-framed and the perspectives interesting without being too flashy and that grants the debut more life than it may have had otherwise with Lieberman's often hammy and uncreative script. For Harvester to really stand out, the burden will be on Lieberman to create characters rather than walking plot devices, as is too often the case in this first issue. Dane in particular needs more depth, lest he become a morose criminal conglomeration of ER and Nip/Tuck leads and he could stand to gain a well rounded supporting cast, since the sneaky, sketchy mob duo courting him here are equally derivative.
But that's a small and potentially unfair complaint, given that the series is only an issue in and hasn't yet had the chance to fully flesh out its story and ambition. There's enough potential here to make Harvest worth closer examination and as long as Lieberman is willing to do the legwork and build the series into something more nuanced, it's likely only going to improve. Granted, that also means there's plenty of time for the series to make its own terrible mistakes, hopefully not of the coke and corpse variety, though.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.