For a story ostensibly about the world heading into a massive war, this comic sure did leave me feeling optimistic. I love a good (fictional) conflict as much as any fan of high-stakes narratives, but my optimism here bears a heavier connection to recent goings on at the publisher—Valiant Entertainment—than to this book itself. So, let’s dive into that before we consider to the BIG question of any review...is this comic good?
In January, Valiant was bought out by investors (learn more here). Almost immediately, its familiar leaders began to depart. This was bad. Last month, however, news broke that Joseph Illidge, a great veteran editor with an evident love of the medium, was taking the reins. This was good. I’d been looking at Harbinger Wars 2 as a last hurrah, but with Illidge coming in I now see it as an epic between eras, started under the old regime and shepherded into publication by the new. Thus, optimism.
Now for the review...while Harbinger Wars 2 Prelude #1 is inherently an intro for a big event, this book also feels like a triumphant ending to a story about growth started in Secret Weapons #1 last June, a story that has been expertly told by writer Eric Heisserer and primary collaborators Raul Allen and Patricia Martin (learn more here). Not to go too far into plot (a pet peeve of mine in reviews), but earlier Secret Weapons books detailed three main characters learning to understand/master powers, and this book shows them using said powers in cohesive and effective ways.
For those of us here from the start, it’s immensely satisfying to witness the end results of past struggles. There’s a lot that HAS TO get done plot-wise before Harbinger Wars 2, but this prelude is still character-driven on the strength of that groundwork laid in the past. Essentially, if you’ve enjoyed Secret Weapons, you’ll be at home here. But what If, conversely, this is your first exposure to the team? I think you’ll still grasp what’s happening—there’s some fine graphic storytelling and action to be found here.
Optimism wasn’t the only feeling coloring my reading of this book, though. There were also some pangs of regret. See, the initial concept for Harbinger Wars 2 was to use 48-page issues featuring two complete stories—one from Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello, and another from Heisserer, Allen, and Martin about the Secret Weapons. That ambitious format, unfortunately, disappeared. That’s bad. Thus my regret. My hope, however, is the summer event still incorporates the Secret Weapons characters heavily into the plot. Even without Heisserer and co. doing the storytelling, the track they’ve laid in books like this one is too good to ignore.
Overall: While this issue doesn’t have as many of the high-minded page designs and narrative concepts that made the Secret Weapons mini and one-shots such a visual feast, it is still heavy on character. It’s an exciting and above-average event lead-in, but more than that it serves as a kind of a reward for any reader who has followed this crew dating back to its humble start. 7.9/10
Government guy: “If you...step out that door...you’ll be...enemy of the state.”
Livewire: “Yeah, we were never friends.”
Just feel the pith in that dialogue.
Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.