Harbinger: Faith 0 (December 2014)

Harbinger: Faith #0

A lot of Faith, the comic, not the character, comes down to her boyfriend, Torque. Being majorly behind on Harbinger, I had no idea they were dating. I never liked the character and they seem like a questionable fit, which is what the comic turns out to be–Faith realizing her place in the world.

Writer Joshua Dysart takes it seriously too. He puts enough work in so the dumb boyfriend moments like Torque feel like natural dumb boyfriend moments and not artificial ones engineered to move the plot along. They do look like those types of moments, but they aren’t. Dysart keeps the comic sincere.

Artist Robert Gill does a good job too. He doesn’t have a lot of action to do, but he handles it well when it does come up.

Dysart uses a Twitter device. It’s distracting… if only because I couldn’t stop thinking about character count.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Robert Gill; colorist, Jose Villarrubia; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editor, Kyle Andrukiewicz; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

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Harbinger 14 (July 2013)

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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 ways, she’s actually the easiest character just because the others aren’t as developed or real–but Dysart always does amazing work with her. Just amazing. He sells it sentiment with her.

Sadly, the Evans and Hairsine art gets occasionally lazy. Especially when they’re drawing faces.

Otherwise, a fine issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artists, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger Wars 4 (July 2013)

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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 Dysart only gives his regular Harbinger cast the slightest attention. Even the idiotic H.A.R.D Corps guys get more attention and they’re indistinguishable, despite codenames and different physical characteristics.

Dysart tries hard to keep the battlefronts clear, but it still doesn’t work.

I’m just glad the series’s finally over.

CREDITS

The Battle for Las Vegas; writers, Duane Swierczynski and Joshua Dysart; artists, Clayton Henry, Pere Perez and Mico Suayan; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Josh Johns Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 13 (June 2013)

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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 Toyo goes up against P.R.S. back in the late sixties. Dysart is vaguely interested in these scenes and they don’t read like rote. Sadly, he seems most interested into the idea of a harbinger during the Civil Rights movement–one page.

This crossover event is strangling Dysart at this point.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artists, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger Wars 3 (May 2013)

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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. Then there’s the regular Harbinger duped into attacking Bloodshot and his gang of kids. Awesome.

But there isn’t an inherent seriousness to the series. It’s still kind of an X-Men knockoff, just a desperately upsetting one. Bad corporations killing dumb teenagers. Rock on.

It’s just too much.

CREDITS

Writers, Duane Swierczynski and Joshua Dysart; artists, Clayton Henry and Pere Perez; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editor, Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 12 (May 2013)

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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 for the psiots, even though the regular cast eventually disappears into the action. How Peter got through such an enormous hotel to stop Torque….

But it’s a decent enough issue. The flashback stuff is… well, it’s still a big company crossover. There’s only so much anyone can do.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; inkers, Evans, Stefano Gaudiano and Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger Wars 2 (May 2013)

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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 I’m just not familiar enough with Bloodshot to know his powers are specifically designed to provide for awesome comic book action scenes. Odd science that.

The stuff with the renegade kids has more depth, but only a little.

Good stuff; Dysart ably handles a huge cast.

CREDITS

Writers, Duane Swierczynski and Joshua Dysart; artists, Clayton Henry and Pere Perez; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editor, Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 11 (April 2013)

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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 seen if the altruistic adventuring will stick.

I almost think not, just because he’s so shallow. The former exotic dancer is kind of shallow too, but in a completely different way.

Dysart doesn’t spend a lot of time on character development, but the few nods are enough.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Khari Evans and Trevor Hairsine; inkers, Evans, Stefano Gaudiano and Hairsine; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger Wars 1 (April 2013)

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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 a lot of flashbacks with the kids being mistreated, Harada pops in, but it’s mostly exposition scenes. Exposition scenes under an already expository structure.

Dysart’s writing is good, the art’s all generally fine, but there’s nothing going on yet. The first issue grabber is missing, which is unfortunate.

CREDITS

Writers, Duane Swierczynski and Joshua Dysart; artists, Clayton Crain, Clayton Henry and Mico Suayan; colorist, Brian Reber; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Josh Johns and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 10 (March 2013)

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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 Peter as the lead in the comic and he only partially succeeds. He still hasn’t made Peter function on his own, he always needs to be playing off someone. And the character works great with that constraint.

The art’s okay (credit should go to M. Hands).

Great, great issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; pencillers, Matthew Clark, Álvaro López, Dimi Macheras and Brian Thies; inkers, Clark, López, Macheras, Thies and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Mouse Baumann; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 9 (February 2013)

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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 still a superhero comic book after all), but the real center of the comic is Faith. The overweight nerd.

Dysart doesn’t spend an eighth as much time on anyone but Kris. She and Faith run Harbinger… to great result too.

It’s utterly fantastic work, start to finish.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Pere Perez; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 8 (January 2013)

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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 effective.

The finale, with everyone in some kind of danger, comes after a big fight scene. It’s rather depressing, since the cast fights and fights yet still loses.

Realism’s unsatisfying.

Nice enough art from Lee Garbett. He’s occasionally loose but always competent.

It’s another good issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Lee Garbett; colorist, Mouse Baumann; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 7 (December 2012)

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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 masterminds.

Back to the stripper. Dysart does a good job telling her history, though the ending seems off. Faith shows up and Faith’s so naive, it’s hard to determine if people are taking advantage of her. Good or bad.

So, besides the last couple pages… great issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; penciller, Barry Kitson; inkers, Lee Garbett and Khari Evans; colorists, Ian Hannin and Dan Brown; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 6 (November 2012)

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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, then the issue ends. Doing well backfires a little.

And Phil Briones’s pencils. The art in the issue is good half the time. The other half people look totally different from panel to panel.

Harbinger is undoubtedly compelling. Dysart probably has five good twists this issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Joshua Dysart; penciller, Phil Briones; inkers, Andrew Hennessy and Briones; colorist, Ian Hannin; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Jody LeHeup and Warren Simons; publisher, Valiant Entertainment.

Harbinger 5 (October 2012)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Harbinger 4 (September 2012)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Harbinger 3 (August 2012)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Harbinger 2 (July 2012)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Harbinger 1 (June 2012)

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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.

CREDITS

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.

Unknown Soldier 25 (December 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

Beautiful World, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 24 (November 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

Beautiful World, Chapter Three; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 23 (October 2010)

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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.

A 

CREDITS

Beautiful World, Chapter Two; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 22 (September 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

Beautiful World, Chapter One; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 21 (August 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

A Gun In Africa; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Rick Veitch; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 20 (July 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

A Battle of Little Note, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 19 (June 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

A Battle of Little Note, Chapter One; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 18 (May 2010)

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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 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.

CREDITS

Dry Season, Conclusion; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 17 (April 2010)

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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.

CREDITS

Dry Season, Chapter Three; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 16 (March 2010)

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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 going to kill the local army commander and a dying man telling Moses his redemption ritual didn’t work… but there’s also the voice.

The voice in Moses’s head can’t be gone–even though it’s not present this issue–and so it must return sometime.

Again, the most traditional arc in the series.

CREDITS

Dry Season, Chapter Two; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier 15 (February 2010)

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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 not a single action sequence in the entire issue–his quest has reached a lull.

In some ways, it’s the most traditional issue of Unknown Soldier–anyone could be experiencing the same mindset. It left me depressed in a different way than usual. Even Jack’s new life outlook depresses.

CREDITS

Dry Season, Chapter One; writer, Joshua Dysart; artist, Alberto Ponticelli; colorist, Oscar Celestini; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Pornsak Pichetshote; publisher, Vertigo.

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