Harbinger #0 ReviewFebruary 5, 2013
Harbinger pulls no punches with its storyline.
Comics have come a long way since I was a child. Seldom slapstick, the term ‘comic’ doesn’t often apply anymore, suggesting a genre these books have long-since outgrown. It’s not merely the artistry, but the subject matter that has changed- in my opinion, for the better. Artists and writers are now empowered enough to pursue storylines that are more mature and perhaps even taboo to some, clearing the way for comics like Harbinger to prosper.
If you’re anything like me, you subconsciously look for the thing most relateable, though a bit cliché, when beginning a new story; the hero and the villain. The instinct is to look for that battle between good and evil, where we as readers can draw a distinct line and know exactly who to root for. And for the (re)launch of Harbinger, that line may prove difficult to find.
Harbinger #0 pulls no punches with its story, recalling real life tragedies to set the stage for a fictional storyline. Beautifully drawn characters and scenes seem morbidly juxtaposed with the grotesque and uncomfortable imagery of people burning and dying from war and famine, merely the backstory to Harada, who’d grow to become the very definition of “grey area”.
It’s easy to sympathize with Harada. As the comic goes on however, my empathy became tinged with guilt over the actions of the man, as if by liking him I was somehow condoning his actions. For me, this is one of the most interesting elements of this story and this particular character, how easily he sets my conscience in turmoil as I try to reconcile his evil actions with the reasons he commits them. Harada is an immensely powerful man in his adulthood, and his charisma is evident in the way he sets his plans in motion, using men and even children as pawns so utterly in love with him that they willingly and happily put themselves in harm’s way on his whim. In one particular case, the driving moments of the comic, it was painful to read one particular character’s adoration for Harada, even as said character used his powers to force a weeping soldier to kill himself.
Harbinger #0 ends on an even darker note, potentially confusing the intentions of Harada for the reader. A world leader in a broken mental state is left to the devices of an angry mob. While his whimperings suggest he’s no angel, his at-first debateably karmic fate seems in the end to be merely a means of strengthening Harada’s power base. So, did the ends justify the means? Something tells me this will be a lingering question throughout the series.
In one particularly poignant moment, a child, one of Harada’s many chess pieces, asks him a question that seems as much targeted at the reader, “Why is the world so broken?” Why indeed, when Harada’s destroyed youth leaves lasting ripples of destruction in his adulthood passed on to others by his deeds, using the darkness of men to justify his own in a constant cycle even he is victim to. The scariest thing is how much of this mirrors our world, and how much of Harada exists within us.