Harbinger 14 (July 2013)

Dysart has an interesting solution for returning the title to its characters. He manages to do it rather cleanly too, extricating it from the Harbinger Wars crossover. Dysart also wrote that crossover and, while this issue isn’t exactly hostile to being a crossover issue, it definitely returns the focus to what the series is about. It’s about the characters in this book–specifically about Faith and how her attitude binds the team together. Dysart takes his time revealing his structure; it reads like the expected crossover issue, then all of a sudden a narrator with personality shows up. Faith. In some … Continue reading Harbinger 14 (July 2013)

Harbinger Wars 4 (July 2013)

Dysart brings Harbinger Wars into the station and it’s entirely unclear why they bothered with the trip at all. Besides–apparently–cutting down on cast members, the crossover event did very little. Dysart doesn’t even seem to pretend it did anything. He leaves a lot unresolved so readers have to keep going with the main series (the point of a crossover book after all); it means there’s nothing to do the story itself. Dysart can’t fake it and make Wars seem worth it. There’s some decent art; it’s a whole lot of action. There’s not even time for character moments, especially since … Continue reading Harbinger Wars 4 (July 2013)

Harbinger 13 (June 2013)

Why is Dysart even doing this issue? It reads like a summary of an action scene, which suggests he or Swierczynski will cover the actual action in either Harbinger Wars or Bloodshot. Probably both, actually, given what doesn’t occur in this comic. What does occur, besides the flashback stuff, is the gang acting incompetent. I think Faith gave them a superhero team name, but I can’t remember. The Renegades, maybe? Anyway, Torque’s still a jerk and they’re no good at stopping a single moving vehicle. It’s sort of sad. The “interesting” stuff in the comic is the flashback to when … Continue reading Harbinger 13 (June 2013)

Harbinger Wars 3 (May 2013)

Why am I reading this comic book? I mean, Dysart does script a good issue. It’s a little light, he’s split between way too many things and the issue isn’t oversized, but why am I reading it? It’s not escapism. It’s painfully realistic superhero comics. Introduce this likable character to kill them–seeing terribly abused kids murdered by paramilitary, blood hungry goons–fun times. Dysart’s relentless with it too. He gets in one joke, from Bloodshot. Otherwise it’s all set up for something terrible to come, with the bad guys revealing in their badness, then showing it off as they kill kids. … Continue reading Harbinger Wars 3 (May 2013)

Harbinger 12 (May 2013)

Could this issue have uglier art? Maybe Evans and Hairsine split responsibilities? One was responsible for the heads, one for the bodies and poor Stefano Gaudiano got saddled with the task of trying to make everything seem seamless? He didn’t. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly art. Especially since they make the colorist do the perspective in some panels. Very unfortunate. Otherwise, it’s a decent issue. Dysart sends the regular Harbinger cast–calling themselves the Renegades now–in to meet the psiots holding the hostages in Las Vegas. There’s a nice sequence where all the regular cast meet someone knew; it’s like play dates … Continue reading Harbinger 12 (May 2013)

Harbinger Wars 2 (May 2013)

I love how Dysart makes sly jabs at the Valiant Universe (or whatever they call it), pointing out how bad ideas are from the nineties. It’s a weird thing, which doesn’t break the story–possibly because he’s already got the debriefing framing and it allows for a lot of colorful commentary. It’s pretty much an all action issue, only split between the two different groups. There are the New Mutants–or whatever the kid-lead group of escaped psiots should be called–and Bloodshot and his charges. There’s also the big fight scene with Harada, which proves more entertaining than one might expect. Maybe … Continue reading Harbinger Wars 2 (May 2013)

Harbinger 11 (April 2013)

Dysart sort of splits the issue between the kids and Harada. I say kids but I guess they’re all eighteen plus, right? Peter and the gang. Only the Harada stuff is mostly set in the past, with Dysart fleshing out the P.R.S. history with him. In the present, Peter and company are still recovering from their misadventure in Georgia. He then discovers his Harbinger War related destiny of saving the kids, which kicks off a lot of debate in the group. Dysart does something very interesting this issue with Torque–he’s not a particularly good guy and it remains to be … Continue reading Harbinger 11 (April 2013)

Harbinger Wars 1 (April 2013)

I’m not sure what I should be getting out of Harbinger Wars. Dysart thinks things out–he structures the issue around some government types interrogating some bad corporation types. Some psiot kids got free or something, kind of has to do with Harbinger–oh, right, the good guys from Harbinger need to protect the kids from the bad guy. Bloodshot is in it too, working for the bad guy right now but I’ll bet he switches sides eventually. It’s all prologue to something, which is pretty much the problem. It’s all setup. The Bleeding Monk tells Peter to save the kids, there’s … Continue reading Harbinger Wars 1 (April 2013)

Harbinger 10 (March 2013)

Now here’s a great issue. Dysart manages to turn the all-action issue into something with some content, probably because he’s got enough characters doing different things it can be a rewarding reading experience. He opens with narration from Peter, but splits the issue between him and Faith. They have to do a rescue mission, only Faith’s the one who’s got to do the superhero stuff. The way Dysart splits the responsibility between them is part of the issue’s brilliance. His plotting here is exceptional. It’s so good, the issue can even withstand the awkward finish. Dysart tries hard to reestablish … Continue reading Harbinger 10 (March 2013)

Harbinger 9 (February 2013)

Really nice art from Pere Pérez. Probably the most consistently good art Harbinger has had so far. On to the story. While Dysart certainly left the cast in dire straits last issue, this issue he plays out the worst possible scenario. Not a lot of character moments–I don’t think Flamingo even has any lines–except for Faith. Well, Kris gets a good moment, but it’s Faith’s issue. One has to wonder if Dysart plotted the whole thing to get to that result–Faith as the series’s protagonist. He does the standard hero white guy, with a cute geeky girl, a stripper (it’s … Continue reading Harbinger 9 (February 2013)

Harbinger 8 (January 2013)

What a downer. Dysart opens with Harada mentally torturing a Harbinger he’s already exiled to a desert. Harada might be the comic’s biggest problem–he’s such an evil bastard, he’s not interesting. One could make the greater good argument, but there’s not enough material for it. Just sound-bytes. Then, when Dysart gets to the renegades–Kris gets the biggest scene, her and Flamingo the stripper–they’re activating some poor kid with a physical disability. Dysart doesn’t spend a lot of time establishing the kid, just his daydreams. It means he gets to do a reveal, but it also means the issue is less … Continue reading Harbinger 8 (January 2013)

Harbinger 7 (December 2012)

Barry Kitson on pencils makes for a better looking Harbinger overall, though inkers Lee Garbett and Khari Evans could’ve picked up the slack more when Kitson gets bored. He’s always got a rushed, unfinished feel to his faces in particular. This issue features the renegades trying to recruit more Harbingers. Dysart splits the story between Harada at the open and then this new character–Flamingo–for the rest of the issue. Flamingo’s a stripper and has had a bad life up until Peter, Faith and Kris find her. Oh, before I forget, it’s interesting how Dysart is positioning Kris against Harada–the two … Continue reading Harbinger 7 (December 2012)

Harbinger 6 (November 2012)

Very strange stuff. Not the issue itself, which turns Kris into the protagonist of the series–it remains to be seen if Dysart maintains that position for her–but how Dysart sells the idea. He does it very subtly, introducing all these details about Kris and her regular reading list. He establishes she’s smart, he establishes she’s informed, well-read, then sets her plan in motion. The issue’s from her perspective; Dysart does a pretty good job with it too. There are only two problems. First is the pacing. Once Kris’s plan becomes clear, Dysart gets reader anticipation going. It rises, rises, rises–wait, … Continue reading Harbinger 6 (November 2012)

Harbinger 5 (October 2012)

Dysart brings Harbinger’s first arc to an extremely strong finish. He had some sublime foreshadowing earlier (it read like long-term foreshadowing, but it turns out to be short) and he doesn’t waste time establishing the characters. Instead, he just lets the scenes play out fast. For example, there’s a returning character who finally gets a name, but Dysart then develops the character (a little) in his actions. No painful expository scene. There are also a bunch of unexpected plot twists. Three definitely surprised me; a couple more might be surprising to others. None of the surprises, even the second soft … Continue reading Harbinger 5 (October 2012)

Harbinger 4 (September 2012)

Even with the foreshadowing about the Harbinger foundation being nasty, nothing really prepares for this issue. Dysart shows an unexpected mean-streak, setting up a sympathetic new character and then attacking her. He also manages to get some real sympathy for his protagonist, who hallucinates he’s able to apologize to the girl he wronged. This issue of Harbinger is there first where all cylinders fired. Dysart isn’t really introducing a lot of new characters; the one he brings in is a big part of the plot. The characters from the last issue get better treatment too. Dysart takes the time to … Continue reading Harbinger 4 (September 2012)

Harbinger 3 (August 2012)

Now we discover the X-Men. Sorry, the Harbinger group. Or foundation. It’s all very futuristic–though it reminds of a lot of sci-fi–and the protagonist, Peter doesn’t quite know what to make of it all. I don’t know how much Dysart came up with, how much is from the original Harbinger series or how much is editorial… it’s not dynamic. I’ve seen everything in here before. Except the LaRosa illustrated flashback pages, which are easily the best thing in the issue. They make the protagonist sympathetic, something he’s not until the end when it seems like the Harbingers might be bad … Continue reading Harbinger 3 (August 2012)

Harbinger 2 (July 2012)

I don’t know if I’d say Evans’s art is better this issue–there’s more action and he can handle the action–but as for the faces… he still seems weak. But I wasn’t paying as much attention, there’s too much else going on. Dysart opens the issue with another flashback, this time to India (with nice Lewis LaRosa art). It works–showing other Harbingers has an immediate hook, something the main plot line doesn’t yet. For example, the lead brainwashed a teenage girl into having sex with him. Sure, he’s a teenager too, but even his schizophrenic friend knows that sort of behavior’s … Continue reading Harbinger 2 (July 2012)

Harbinger 1 (June 2012)

So the character in the first scene is a guy? Someone needs to sit Khari Evans down and have a walk with him about showing gender through facial characteristics. The second time I went back to the beginning of the issue, I noticed without Joshua Dysart identifies character’s genders maybe two would be immediately clear. Evans’s bad faces–it’s not just gender, but age–make Harbinger occasionally difficult and it shouldn’t be. I had no idea the protagonist is high school age based on the art. When there’s a scene between the lead and his unwilling love interest at her school, it’s … Continue reading Harbinger 1 (June 2012)

Unknown Soldier 25 (December 2010)

For a moment, I thought Dysart had lost his mind and was going to do some kind of Inglourious Basterds wish fulfillment kind of thing. Instead, I suppose… he makes Moses’s failure a success for his personal humanity. It’s hard to say. I estimate Dysart had about twenty more issues before coming to a conclusion like this one. The series ends with the lovely news Christian fundamentalists in the United States are bankrolling Uganda–I mean, Dysart never got around to the problems with anyone but Kony in Uganda… I imagine he would have. It is a depressingly real comic book … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 25 (December 2010)

Unknown Soldier 24 (November 2010)

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but it appears Dysart might take the series in a wholly different direction than I assumed to finish it off. Here, Moses (or whoever Moses was) meets the Unknown Soldier (I really didn’t expect the series to tie in to the original character, but Dysart does it nicely) and the series takes a sharp turn into the unexpected. Dysart’s filled the series with impending doom, for the protagonist, for the situation in general. Now, he’s introducing the idea of personal hopefulness… previously we just had Jack playing basketball and smiling or flirting with girls. … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 24 (November 2010)

Unknown Soldier 23 (October 2010)

Yeah, this is not going to end well. If for no other reason… Joseph Kony is still alive. Of course, whether Unknown Soldier went on as long as initially intended (I think all Vertigo series have a finite intention, don’t they?), Kony would still be alive. So, even though the series was cancelled prematurely, Dysart’s still got to be taking a different tact… it’s not action movie wish fulfillment, it’s going to be something else. It was always something else. This issue says goodbye to the three principals who have been with the series since the beginning. Sera gets her … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 23 (October 2010)

Unknown Soldier 22 (September 2010)

A strange issue. It’s Sera’s issue, maybe the one I’ve been waiting for since she showed up again a few issues back. It’s also the first issue of the series’s final arc, so it’s interesting to see how Dysart’s going to handle it. Ponticelli takes a new approach, mixing his old and new styles of artwork–the countryside is more lush, the towns are the old, hard reality. But even though Dysart is wrapping things up–prematurely–he still manages to make the book operate on a few levels. It’s still a look at modern Africa through the outsider’s eyes, though this issue, … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 22 (September 2010)

Unknown Soldier 21 (August 2010)

This issue, which Dysart tells from an omniscient first person point of view of an AK-47, might be the perfect example of the comic book medium’s narrative potential. I cannot think of any other medium where such a story could be told. Without the visuals, it would not work, so prose is out. As a narrated film, it would not work because there’s the problem with the narrator. In writing, the reader can give the piece some leeway, but I cannot think of a single film narrated by an inanimate object. What Dysart does is tell a focused history lesson. … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 21 (August 2010)

Unknown Soldier 20 (July 2010)

It’s sort of a mellow issue. It’s an all action issue, with Moses on the run from some cattle raiders. He meets up with this family also on the run from them and the family gets stuck helping Moses try to fend them off. What’s mellow about the issue is Dysart’s approach–it’s told from the disabled son’s point of view, like a folk tale. Dysart even works in a traditional folk tale disguise element, which is really neat–he’s able to produce an action-packed issue, but told in a really creative way. In other words, it’s no such Unknown Soldier didn’t … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 20 (July 2010)

Unknown Soldier 19 (June 2010)

Once again, Dysart does the unexpected. This issue picks up exactly where the last one left off, only the last issue made it seem like he wasn’t going to concentrate on showing the big battle scene. But he does. In fact, there are three two page spreads in this issue. It’s the most action I can remember the series ever having; there are explosions everyone. But the reader also gets some back story on Moses in regards to the Unknown Soldier, the voice. Dysart’s narration is a CIA report–referring to Moses as “Subject 9″ (a little V for Vendetta homage … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 19 (June 2010)

Unknown Soldier 18 (May 2010)

Huh. Dysart finishes the arc without giving the action payoff I was expecting (I was also expecting another issue of the arc). It seems he’s saying goodbye to Paul too, after giving the kid a really rough lesson or two this issue in futility. Moses learns a similar lesson and ends the story in a far worse place than he started it. Sera doesn’t make an appearance here, which confused me a little bit. What’s most interesting about the story is the time Dysart took with it. In modern series, with their trade-ready arcs, there aren’t as many asides anymore–certainly … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 18 (May 2010)

Unknown Soldier 17 (April 2010)

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that ending. I think this arc runs five issues and Dysart is three in–and wrapping up some of the revelations–so I was wondering how he was going to keep it going. He’s keeping it going by turning the entire comic on its head. Turning Moses into an unreliable narrator–who isn’t reliable to himself either–isn’t an unprecedented narrative move, but it’s completely unexpected. For sixteen issues, Moses has been utterly reliable. This issue has a little of the return to action, but it also has a bunch more character stuff. Dysart’s bringing Sera–Moses’s wife–back into the … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 17 (April 2010)

Unknown Soldier 16 (March 2010)

It’s kind of a mystery story and kind of not. Moses is very active this issue, but not in his usual way. Instead, he’s back to being a doctor, back to letting his concern for people effect his actions. I know this arc isn’t the last one, but it feels like Dysart is trying to get the character to a new place. So while there’s the mystery and the character development–not to mention the continuing question of what’s going to happen to Paul–Dysart is implying things aren’t going to go well. There’s the direct foreshadowing of Moses realizing he’s probably … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 16 (March 2010)

Unknown Soldier 15 (February 2010)

I’d heard about this arc. I’d heard it’s gradual and deliberate. Ponticelli changes his style a little. His lines are muted. Coupled with Moses’s narration, Unknown Soldier feels very far away, very dreamlike. Moses’s narration brings the reader up to speed (it’s possibly a letter to his wife) and, basically, he’s loitered around the village where he found Paul a home. Bad things happen, big and small, without getting much reaction from Moses. He’s dejected. Dysart and Ponticelli soften the focus on the grim realities of Uganda this issue… it’s grimmer because it’s about Moses. He’s running out of energy–there’s … Continue reading Unknown Soldier 15 (February 2010)