I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who chuckled when I saw that Valiant was offering a “Harbinger” #0. I remember the scramble for the original “Harbinger” #0, which you got by collecting coupons from the incredibly-hard-to-find “Harbinger” #1-6 back in the day. Fortunately, the new Valiant is content to just solicit this issue like any other. As it genuinely is a prologue to the main events of “Harbinger,” it’s more than just a numbering gimmick. Instead, it gives Joshua Dysart, Mico Suayan and Pere Perez the chance to tell part of Toyo Harada’s early days.
Dysart chooses to tell this story by jumping back and forth between two different times and places; post-atom bomb Hiroshima in 1945, and Syria in 2012. It’s the Hiroshima section that I found ultimately the more interesting of the pair; we’ve already seen what Harada is like in the present day (and in many ways it’s just a framing device), so him as a young child is where the meat of the story is ultimately located. Young Harada is the ultimate example of someone who’s been given far too much power at too early an age; as he lashes out at those around him (even when they may deserve it), it’s with no finesse or control. In many ways it’s the super-powered version of a tantrum, as we end up with exploding heads and shouting galore.
What I thought was more interesting, though, was the single-mindedness that Dysart gives the young Harada. In many ways it ultimately informs us of the man that Harada’s going to become, and how he’s able to grain so much power even with his own special abilities. His determination to find his missing father — who fought in the Japanese military during World War II — is something that many other children would have dropped much earlier. Here, though, it feels like a very deliberate planting of a character trait. With the “Harbinger Wars” crossover about to begin, a reminder of Harada’s ruthless nature makes this issue comes at just the right time.
The artistic split between past and present is a smart one; Suayan’s art for the Hiroshima segments looks different enough from Perez’s in the present day that you can tell every time there’s a shift even if the dialogue and narration weren’t an immediate tip-off. Suayan’s pages are gruesome and full of fine detail. When people dying of radiation poisoning show up, Suayan (with the help of color artist Brian Reber) give eerie, almost shambling dead figures with radiation burns, sunken cheeks and dead eyes. It reminds me a great deal of artists like Lee Bemerjo, with those tight small lines to provide crosshatching and tight, pinched faces. He’s also not afraid to use a lot of blacks on his page; by blotting out the details in part of the panel, he makes the others stand out that much more. Perez’s art feels a little cleaner and more open as a result, and that’s a good thing. The young, idealistic Durpan wouldn’t feel right drawn in Suayan’s style, but Perez gives him an air of innocence that makes what he does in Damascus feel that much more contradictory as a result.
“Harbinger” #0 slots in perfectly to the ongoing narrative to date. It’s another look into what makes Harada tick, and with his upcoming prominence in the months to come, it’s a perfect time for that spotlight. It’s also well in keeping with the overall tone of the series, and Dysart does so in a way that makes you almost not even mind the lack of Pete Stanchek and the rest of the cast. The original “Harbinger” #0 may have been a near impossibility to find, but I’m glad this “Harbinger” #0 is more widely available. “Harbinger” has shaped up into a dark, mean, nasty little series, and that’s exactly the way I like it.