Everything heats up in Round Two of the Harbinger Wars as all trails lead through the torrid Nevada desert towards the general direction of smoldering Las Vegas. While there is still a good amount of panel space devoted to scene setting and exposition, as a group this second round of books is faster paced and contains a lot more action . I’ll try to cover the main story points for unfamiliar readers here (attempting to avoid spoilers) while also identifying what makes it noteworthy . . . . . . .
HARBINGER WARS #2 (Valiant Entertainment, May 2013) Written by: Joshua Dysart. Story by: Joshua Dysart & Duane Swierczynski. Art by: Clayton Henry with Pere Perez. Color Art by: Brian Reber. Letters by: Dave Lanphear
In the same way that HARBINGER WARS #1 pulled us immediately into the action via flashback, Issue #2 continues the same way with the ongoing interrogation of Project Rising Spirit (P.R.S) acting director Morris Kozol by federal defense directors . . . ..
“Regarding the Las Vegas incident, Mr. Kozol . . . Why don’t you tell us how a bunch of kids fly a military-grade helicopter into the most populous city in Nevada?”
The second group of young psiot escapees from the P.R.S. facility, led by Cronus and now calling themselves Generation Zero, decide to make a stand (and a statement to humanity) from the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas (where they haphazardly landed their escape craft). Used to a life of being treated like captive zoo animals, the group is appalled at the selfishness and hedonism on display at the hotel.
Meanwhile, the second group of children are led by Bloodshot to a desert ghost town, which he has fortified in advance against attacks. Issue #2 plays out in much greater detail the confrontation between Toyo Harada and Bloodshot that was introduced in Issue #1. Seems like P.R.S. did some advance planning as well, and some protocols that were programmed into Bloodshot years earlier take effect as a nightmarish face-ripping battle between the two ensues in exquisite detail provided by Clayton Henry’s great art. Through the ingenuity of the young psiots, the gravely wounded Bloodshot is salvaged during their flight from the town. Harada, also seriously damaged, reveals his true loyalty to Harbinger as he puts his salvation ahead of a team member. (All very brutal, and very bloody.)
Kozol re-activates the long-deactivated H.A.R.D. Corps (Harbinger Active Resistance Division) strike team and sends them to Vegas to return the escapees to their compound.
One of the most helpful assists provided by Valiant is the re-cap page which summarizes the story, and in this issue describes and lists the various members of all groups involved: The Renegades, The Harbinger Foundation, Bloodshot & his group of escaped psiots; and Generation Zero. I love the dark silhouettes of head and/or body that represent each team member. The cast of characters is definitely getting bigger, and this is a great scorecard.
HARBINGER #12 (Valiant Entertainment, May 2013) Writer: Joshua Dysart. Art: Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine. Inks: Khari Evans and Stefano Guadiano. Colors: Ian Hannin. Letters: Rob Steen.
There’s a nice bit of contrast in Issue #12 as the story moves back and forth between two different conflicts in different time periods. We learn about the early days of Harbinger in the late 60’s as they join in partnership negotiations with Rising Spirit Securities (a.k.a. P.R.S. later.) Then, we follow the present day first meeting of the Renegades (who get their official name this issue) and Generation Zero. Two uneasy alliances, and one or both likely to prove fatal.
Toyo Harada’s words to Leopold Carter, director of Rising Spirit Securities, at the end of the first round of negotiations in 1969 prove to be prophetic and make an ironic segue into the next page which jumps ahead to present day Peter Stanchek and company heading towards Las Vegas: “ . . . I don’t trust you or your company, Mr. Carter. So listen to me very, very closely . . . I will not allow a world run amuck with activated psiots.” Before the issue ends, Harada has a new plan for what he wants to accomplish in the next round of negotiations.
Back in the present day the Renegades encounter no obstacles to their entering the town, and waltz right through a military blockade thanks to the mental powers of Peter (dubbed Sting as his code name by Faith/Zephyr.) To keep events from becoming totally serious, some geek references are name dropped (a popular 1990’s alternative rock band and a famous line from a classic space opera - - thanks, Faith!) as they pass through the roadblock checkpoints.
They arrive in the hotel Bellagio lobby, and see right through the physical psychic projections being used to maintain a hostage situation inside the property. Peter gets a meeting with Cronus and learns that his team will stop at nothing to protect their interests, including killing several strike teams that try to break in. Cronus, in reflecting on the makeup of his team, has become determined to make a better, easier life for the children. All escapees from the P.R.S. facility had bombs implanted in their brains, and Cronus realizes that their time is short, as the explosives could be reactivated once P.R.S. restores all their data systems. He’s a bit like Harada in his determination to give his kin a needed break while making a point of killing as many adults as possible in their remaining time in Las Vegas. This makes Peter a little wary and guarded. Renegade members pair off and get acquainted with Generation Zero members, but this interaction breeds a little conflict and stirs the pot more, which is slowly coming to a boil. And, one of the psychics gets a premonition/vision that the “psiot killer” Bloodshot is on his way to Vegas.
BLOODSHOT #11 (Valiant Entertainment, May 2013) Writer: Duane Swierczynski. Penciler: Barry Kitson. Inkers: Stefano Gaudiano with Barry Kitson. Color Art: Brian Reber. Letters: Rob Steen.
The violent head-to-head battle between Bloodshot and Harada that was featured in HARBINGER WARS #2 is expanded here to occupy almost the entire issue - - and readers benefit from the extended version. All the skills that scripter Swierczynski brings to play in depicting the monthly exploits of a ruthless one-man vigilante against a city of gangsters (in X, for Dark Horse Comics) help make the battle here just as bloody, vicious and desperate. In addition, artist Kitson knows just what to focus on to make these scenes effective and memorable. The ruthlessness of Harada is matched by the extremes that Bloodshot is willing to go to protect a group of young psiots. (He does get some help from his programming).
The band of youngsters has also experienced a change in attitude. Formerly distrustful and in disagreement with Bloodshot on motives and subsequent actions - - they now rally behind him, look to his leadership, and more importantly are willing to step in and use their powers to assist and/or defend/save him. Member Katherine, who shares a telepathic link with her brother James, became separated from him during the P.R.S. breakout. James, now with the other group (Generation Zero) send a mental message to his sister, and she persuades her companions to change direction and head for Las Vegas.
Whatever happens next is sure to be exciting. And, true to their word/mission, the Valiant creative team has kept the crux of the HARBINGER WARS storyline in the main title, and provided us with these fascinating sidebars that just enhance the total story experience. However, you could also just read HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT solely and enjoy the story, and without feeling that the continuity has been disturbed or interrupted. That is no small task to accomplish. Bravo.