“Harvest” #1, written by A. J. Lieberman with art by Colin Lorimer delivers on characterization and atmosphere, but suffers from poor pacing that obscures its compelling central premise. Nearly all of “Harvest” #1 is one long extended flashback from its mysterious, tantalizingly creepy opening scene, but with all that space for back story, the pieces don’t fit together neatly. There’s too much — or the wrong kind of — exposition.
In “Harvest” #1, Lieberman introduces ten significant characters in six groupings, not counting two unnamed prostitutes, random hospital staff and unnamed Yakuza minions. Antihero protagonist Dr. Benjamin Dane is the only thread of connection between these groups. There’s a lot to take in, and the time-jumps within the extended flashbacks are disorienting. “Harvest” #1 is well written enough that I trust Lieberman has all the connections planned out. As a result, it’s frustrating that he lays out large bricks of exposition while skimping on the mortar — especially when it comes to Dane’s connection to the Yakuza.
Future issues of “Harvest” will probably clear this up and connect the dots of characters and plot points. Any structural problems might be moot once “Harvest” is collected in one volume. However, judged as a single issue, “Harvest” #1 is overly fragmented and opaque. Despite that, it has some good hooks. Colin Lorimer’s art is a great fit for the creepy, gritty atmosphere. His backgrounds, such as the stunning city scene on the first page, have lovely depth and detail. The medical scenes have plenty of blood and guts, all rendered in squick-inducing detail. Lorimer colors his own work well, using gloomy but lovely neutrals for the city scenes and antiseptic pale fluorescent greens for the medical scenes. Mid-issue, there’s an especially beautiful panel in which lanterns are strung across buildings in a snowy cityscape, the red light bright against a blackened aqua sky.
Lieberman’s writing also has redeeming strengths with his compellingly complex character development of Benjamin Dane. Dane is a walking disaster and he knows it, but he also has an interesting streak of compassion even under coercion. His eventual self-redemption through bloody yet poetic vengeance is far and away the most original and suspenseful part of “Harvest.” It’s a pity Lieberman only shows the tiniest of peeks at this narrative cornerstone, but what we do see is skillfully revealed through action and dialogue instead of description. It’s another plus that Lieberman has a good ear for dialogue — the angry scene between Dane and his lawyer is especially satisfying in its emotional and verbal rhythms.
The issue ends on a truly creepy, confusing cliffhanger that appears to be a guilt-induced hallucination in Dane’s mind. “Harvest” #1 isn’t an evenly strong production, but it has a lot going for it. Given the choice, I’d rather be challenged rather than spoon-fed. Readers who enjoy a good horror story will find enough to whet their taste for blood and suspense.