REVIEW: Harbinger Wars 2 #2 by Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello, Diego Rodriguez, Renato Guedes, & Dave Sharpe

There is a level of novelty to  Harbinger Wars 2 #2  that  Marvel  and  DC  are no longer capable of reaching.

There is a level of novelty to Harbinger Wars 2 #2 that Marvel and DC are no longer capable of reaching.

By Zack QuaintanceHarbinger Wars is one of the first superhero events in a long while that feels totally justified, in large part because Valiant hasn’t overdone its crossovers. It's a luxury Marvel and DC no longer have, and it adds a level of relevance to this huge story, taking it to a significant place those larger publishers are perhaps not capable of reaching, not anymore. This all occurred to me about halfway through Harbinger Wars #2. Long-running characters were meeting/fighting on the page for the first time—what was this feeling? The story seemed...important? Maybe not quite that, but it at least seemed novel.

It was a feeling I remembered from when I was a much younger reader, and the Big 2 had a few relationships that weren’t quite as rote as they are nowadays. In recent years, event stories at those publishers have seen characters take self-aware, here we go again attitudes toward massive galactic threats. There are exceptions, of course (Hickman’s Avengers stands out), but for the most part, the major dangers of the galaxy or multiverse are met with a wink. As a younger publisher with less continuity, however, Valiant has the luxury of acting like they haven’t been here before, despite this all being a sequel to a previous event.

That to me is the single greatest strength of Matt Kindt and Tomas Giorello’s Harbinger Wars 2 #2. Not to give specific plot points away, but there were fights here that had me rooting for both sides with no idea what would happen, which is very rare for superhero comics. There were also character interactions that felt weighted and poignant, like the world depended on them, even if it was just two heads talking. That’s no easy feat, especially given one scene in particular that involved characters Kindt hasn’t recently been writing.

This issue works really well for the most part, even if Giorello’s hyper-realistic artwork felt a little out of place for characters that are usually depicted by less realistic artists, like Animalia and Faith. The range of emotions in this book is pretty stunning, though, specifically in a scene where Kindt uses a young psiot to remind us of something Marvel’s X-Men used to do better—that many of these abilities make lives worse, much much worse. It’s a brief scene of well-tread thematic space, but it’s well executed, reminding us of the human stakes behind the superhero war.

Overall: Harbinger Wars #2 has just enough action as it builds toward what is presumably a gigantic climax in the final two issues of this event. Kindt and Giorello especially excel here at giving character interactions and conflicts the weight an event story deserves. 8.0/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Harbinger Wars 2 #1 by Matt Kindt, Tomas Giorello, & Diego Rodriguez

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I’ve always thought of Harbinger as Valiant’s answer to X-Men, which is, admittedly, a fairly obvious comparison to draw. Harbinger Wars 2 #1, however, was actually a really nice reminder that this franchise’s significantly more under-the-radar status allows it a degree of agility the now-hulking X-Men behemoth no longer has, and it uses that degree expertly in this issue to play upon current societal woes and concerns. Essentially, the first part of this summer’s Harbinger Wars 2 event is a poignant and engaging story, involving nearly all of Valiant’s best characters (where’s the Eternal Warrior at these days, btw?).

As it should. The Harbinger concept to me is the center of Valiant’s universe (or was until Divinity showed up, anyway), and this event is poised to treat it as such. It’s yet another tale of superheros turning against each, and as common as that has become these days, doing it convincingly is still tricky business. Without giving anything away, I’ll say this book handles it better than most in recent memory, rich as it with solid and believable motivations for the involved heroes to take their respective sides. The action of the shadowy government types here are a little harder to fathom, as they almost always are, but I digress.

But let’s keep it abstract, seeing as this is an advanced review (this book drops May 30) and I don’t go in for spoilers. Let’s get away from details and talk about the commentary. In a sense, the themes in Matt Kindt’s script are nothing we haven’t seen done or attempted by X-Men several times over the years: an outcast population, children on the run because of who they are, a government acting out of fear, a debate over what constitutes proper methods of resistance.

Kindt, however, is an incredibly nuanced writer who doesn’t need to hit us over the end with any of that to make this story compelling. He puts all those questions and themes in here seemingly as a mechanism for understanding the reasons our characters have for fighting, then he gives them all plans that start to pull them together. Each page pulls our opposed characters closer, revealing more about their motivations as it does so and setting the stage for a massive rumble to come.

There’s a cinematic quality to this story, in both its structure and scope, as well as in the way characters from various Valiant franchises are introduced, presented in big splashy panels as if they were leaving room for an applause break. Tomas Giorello hits the artwork here out of the park, as he has during previous collaborations with Kindt in Valiant’s best ongoing right now, XO Manowar.

Overall: Come for the incredibly tense and entertaining story, stay for the subtle commentary on our times—exactly as a book about outcasts persecuted by vast governmental power structures should be. This issue is all rising action, bringing in power players and stopping just short of slamming together. I can’t wait for No. 2. 9.3/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.