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 cliffhanger, feel forced. Dysart does a great job. One wonders if he had this issue in mind and just had to write to it.
He also brings in compelling supporting characters, which the book has been lacking.
The writing’s so strong, I didn’t notice if Evans messed anything up.
Omega Rising, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Khari Evans, Matthew Clark and Jim Muniz; inkers, Evans, Matt Ryan and Sean Parsons; colorists, Ian Hannin, Jeromy Cox and Chris Sotomayor; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.
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 let them have a natural conversation.
The ending surprises. There’s a great reveal and then a big cliffhanger, but Dysart nicely separates the two. He puts the reader a little off-guard and delivers the finish.
It seems like all Harbinger needed was not to be an origin story.
Omega Rising, Part 4; writer, Joshua Dysart; artists, Khari Evans, Matthew Clark and Lewis LaRosa; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Josh Johns, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.
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 guys. I mean, they sort of encourage jocks to bully.
No one’s got a personality besides the lead’s doctor so far. Everyone else just performs in their scene. And then there’s the awkward moment the lead misses the girl he brainwashed.
It’s an unfortunately underwhelming issue.
Omega Rising, Part 3; writer, Joshua Dysart; artists, Khari Evans and Lewis LaRosa; colorists, Ian Hannin and Moose Baumann; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Josh Johns, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.
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 inappropriate. The lead’s not likable, which on one hand I applaud, but on the other… Harbinger‘s a little too glossy for Dysart to take that approach. It’s not mean, except that one act.
Still, the issue assuages most of my Evans fears; it’s fine, if problematic.
Omega Rising, Part 2; writer, Joshua Dysart; artists, Khari Evans and Lewis LaRosa; colorists, Ian Hannin and Moose Baumann; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Josh Johns, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.
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 weird. And it had my expectations of the characters’ dialogue out of whack. I thought Dysart had a weak moment in a conversation, but he didn’t… the characters are just kids. And Evans’s art didn’t get me there.
With Evans’s involvement, it’s too soon to tell about it.
Omega Rising, Part 1; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Khari Evans; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Josh Johns, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.
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 and I write this response with teary eyes.
Dysart and Ponticelli haven’t just succeeded overall, they also but together a really nice cap to the series. There are small measures of happiness and of hope, which is about all anyone can ever get.
Unknown Soldier is a major accomplishment.
Beautiful World, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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. Here there’s the idea, whether it’s fulfilled or not, even Moses might be able to have hopefulness–what’s interesting is how Dysart introduces that idea in the same issue he reveals the reader has never and will never know Moses. Moses also will never know Moses.
It’s a bold close.
Beautiful World, Chapter Three; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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 last scene with Moses, though hopefully not her last scene because, in a lot of ways, she’s Dysart’s strongest character. Jack gets his farewell scene. And it says goodbye to Moses too, even though he doesn’t get a farewell. Though, hopefully, we’ll find out enough about him he will eventually.
Beautiful World, Chapter Two; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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, he’s able to do it closer–Sera, being native to a different region than a wedding party, brings the Western reader to that celebration. It’s a nice move, since it also informs the reader about her.
It’s a touching, sad issue; I’m going to miss this comic.
Beautiful World, Chapter One; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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. Where this particular weapon came from and where it goes. Dysart’s able to tell jokes, to show horrific events, to give a history lesson, all in twenty-two pages, all without leaving the context of a commercial comic book.
It’s not even anti-war really, just matter-of-fact.
A Gun In Africa; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Rick Veitch; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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 sell well. It’s way too smart.
The end of the issue, which returns to Moses and the voice, is somewhat jarring. The last page might be the biggest “action” moment the series has ever had.
Ponticelli’s art is simply wonderful here, giving the story a mystical feel.
A Battle of Little Note, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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 there?)–walking the reader through not just the battle, but the way arms trading works in Uganda.
Necessary or not, Dysart jump-starts the series’s tone a little bit. There’s a concentration the action, but without jeopardizing the political discussion. Not to mention the readers finds out about Moses experiencing suicidal urges.
A Battle of Little Note, Chapter One; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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 not ones running enough issues for a trade of their own. Dysart basically took six issues to tell a story about what happens when Moses and Paul go to Paul’s old village.
It’s bold and artistically solid and great.
I can’t believe Vertigo let them make the trip.
Dry Season, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.
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 comic as a seen presence, Paul’s making decisions contrary to Moses’s orders. I never think of the series as having a cast, but it does.
This story–especially after this issue–is shaping to be a lot more important than the first issue suggested.
Dry Season, Chapter Three; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.