Harbinger #8 Review
Men are never more evil than when they feel justified.
This is what comics used to be about. The freaks, the unloved and the unwanted rallying to fight against forces the world is too stupid to realize could be the real danger. Before ‘superheroes’ were romanticized and mainstream, they were outcasts, colored by every part of the human condition we in real life try to hide from and ignore; flaws we attempt to overcome, rather than accept as facets of a larger being. Harbinger is what comics and heroes used to be, and what they should strive to become once more.
When I first reviewed Harbinger back at issue #0, I pegged the major figure of the comic, Harada, as an ambiguous bad guy. As it turns out, I was on the money. Harada’s biggest failing is his power, described by one of his own as being too powerful to understand compassion. His ultimate goals and aims are tragically just, making him that much more dangerous. Men are never more evil than when they feel justified. It is his means that are in question, as he bulldozes through people and the world itself as if they were flowers in the path of war tanks.
Since then, we’ve been introduced to our protagonist ‘Peter’, a narcissistic drug addict with anger issues. You’d think he’d be the furthest thing from a hero, but that’s the beauty of it. One might find it most natural to err on the side of the unmarred, elegant and rich Harada versus a grungy, troubled addict like Peter. Who seems most like the bad guy? Those on the outside looking in might be lead astray by the former man’s charm while Peter continues the uphill battle, the world on his shoulders and unaware that he fights for them.
Or does he?
You see, Peter is not without his own troubles. One of the most powerful “psiots” in the world, he is already nearly a match for Harada’s own strength, a power that comes with responsibility Peter is neither ready nor mature enough to handle. Indeed, it is suggested he may at some point pose an even greater threat to the world, one Harada in his own way attempts to quell. This is part of Peter’s struggle, and part of what makes him such an interesting character. He’s not particularly smart, he doesn’t make the best decisions, the most he can do is try not to be too crappy a human being. Along the way, Peter’s picked up an unlikely lot, a supportive cast of equally scarred and troubled people aching to be more than what they are, in his war against the power-mad Harada.
There’s Kris, a girl who, for all intents and purposes, was raped by Peter yet ends up the mastermind of Peter’s plans. I know how this sounds, reading that sentence back even I feel like I should be offended. She’s a complex character with sarcasm as her armor, setting aside grudges to give her family a ‘way out’ from the life Peter inadvertently dragged her into. She’s complex and deep, seeing Peter for all the power he has and realizing she could have a hand in shaping him to be a better, wiser person, sensing what he might become without her.
Following Peter after his initial escape from Harada is my personal favorite, Faith, a rather rotund girl often oblivious to the dangers she’s gotten herself into. Seeking instead to be something other than ‘lonely and fat’, she leaps at the chance to be a hero. Ever-bubbly, she’s described by Kris as fitting of her name, a woman with unwavering faith in those around her. She’s powerful in her own way, and incredibly lovable, seeing in others the good they are oblivious to even as she fails to see her own self-worth. I can’t help but root for her.
Then there’s Charlene, the pyromaniac stripper full of regret and self-loathing over the decisions she’s made in her life, set free when Peter activates her powers and gives her the strength to stop being a victim. Then, we have who Harbinger #8 leads up to, John, the young paraplegic who lives inside a fantasy world where he is strong and powerful and loved instead of confined to a bed with ‘toothpick legs’. He rises to the occasion when Harada’s minions find and target the group, leaping from his bed in a heroic display of power with his imagination, literally, as his shield as he tears helicopters apart with bare hands.
It’s as if the writers went out of their way to find the weakest links, those with the least amount of worth in the eyes of society, and create in them the very heroes that could save it. Personally, I’ve always been partial to the outcasts, and seeing a return to comic roots in Harbinger, the classic “David vs. Goliath” story, pleases me to no end. With John, the ‘tank’ of Team Peter now joining the fray, the battle will get only more intense as two gray factions go to war, potentially setting into motion the very thing they wish to avoid.