In “Harbinger” #15 by Joshua Dysart and Barry Kitson, the Renegades recover from fighting in the Harbinger Wars by giving themselves an embarrassment of teenage social riches. They relax on the beach, ride a Ferris wheel, relax in a boat ride, go to a night club and live concert and fly under the stars and above city lights. Of course, such idyllic perfection cannot last. Dysart’s title is ironic, and more terror and burdens for our dysfunctional teenage heroes are just around the corner. “Perfect Day” concludes with a psychologically and physically intense cliffhanger.
Unfortunately, Dysart’s plotting feels forced as he hurries towards this endgame. Kris and Charlene began as foils to each other, with Kris’ brainy upper-middle class sarcasm clashing with Charlene’s sultry Southern-girl, working-class friendliness. The whole team became closer in the battle in Vegas, but Kris and Charlene’s sudden BFF status in “Harbinger” #15 feels too quick, since the reader hasn’t seen them care about each other that much before. Their equally sudden girl-on-girl kiss comes off as even more contrived and out of left field, especially when accompanied by the excuse, “I just got carried away.” The scene feels like LGBT tokenism or worse, audience fan service by having the two conventionally attractive girls swap saliva.
The other spontaneous pair-up is more ambiguous and natural-feeling. In the original incarnation of “Harbinger,” Faith was the one who didn’t pair up romantically with any of her teammates, left out as the fat kid. It’s charming to see her pair up with Peter in their maybe-date. Dysart’s dialogue goes over the top when Peter says, “You’ve brought a light to my life that nobody else ever really has,” but Faith’s buoyant personality makes the scene work.
It feels as if the cliffhanger is the first priority for “Harbinger” #15, with all the character development and action twisted to lead towards it. That said, Dysart’s dialogue between Kris and Torque is strong in its queasily psychological wrongness. Kitson’s panel composition emphasizes the cramped space and ominous shadows. In the happy Ferris wheel scene, Kitson’s outlines and Hannin’s colors were sweet and attractive, and thus the increase in moral disorder and tragedy is matched with an increase in visual discomfort.
Though it’s heavily foreshadowed, Dysart’s cliffhanger for “Harbinger” is shocking for its suddenness and brutality, and Kitson’s art plays up the gore. The ending is heavy-handed, but it does maximize shock value. Kris is the strategist of the Renegades and no moral purist, but other than Faith, she was the most mentally stable of the team. It’s disappointing to see her co-leadership role undermined. Her seeming psychotic break can be explained by PTSD, but it’s inconsistent with Dysart’s previous depiction of her as the one who stays the coolest under pressure.
Thus, while “Harbinger” #15 doesn’t lack for punch, it sacrifices too much character development and subtlety to achieve its effects.