With the first arc of "Harbinger Renegade," writer Rafer Roberts and artist Darick Robertson did the impossible: they somehow managed to get the cast of "Harbinger" to reunite, despite all they'd been through, mainly thanks to the effort of Faith, whose hopeful and optimistic attitude seems to finally be getting results.
With the team now reformed - and with new member Jay Tucker trying to come to terms with his role in the group - Valiant has announced that things are heading ominously towards a new storyline called "Massacre."
In teaser images for the next storyline, Valiant have shown not just the presence of new villain Alexander Solomon, but also the HARD Corps, making their return after a long time out of the limelight. That'd be enough for any comic, but there's an added twist: a major character from the Harbinger corner of the Valiant Universe could end up dead before "Massacre" concludes.
With everything heading towards outright chaos as the road stretches out towards 2018's "Harbinger Wars 2" event, we spoke with Roberts about everything that's coming, and just how scared we should be.
CBR: The first arc of "Harbinger Renegade" ended with the team, eventually, back together. After all they’ve been through, and the stresses they’ve been under, how important is it for them all - especially characters like Kris - to have finally reformed in an attempt to regain their hope for a better tomorrow?
Rafer Roberts: At the beginning of "Harbinger Renegade," we saw these characters struggling on their own. These were kids who only discovered who they really were when they joined forces to take down Toyo Harada. Once that mission went south, and once they no longer had each other to lean on, they lost their sense of purpose and of self. Even Faith, the embodiment of optimistic perseverance in the face of unending adversity, showed signs of cracking.
Torque is a manchild in need of friends to snap him out of his own inflated sense of self-worth and keep him on the path of righteousness. Peter’s self-destructive personality is a danger to himself and others. Kris tried in vain to convince herself that a calm and normal life is what she really wanted. Both Kris and Peter numbed themselves with drugs, though Peter did go a few steps further with pills and a sojourn to Saturn.
One of my favorite parts of the first arc is seeing the team reunited. Kris trades her weed for coffee, Peter cleans himself up, and even Torque seems to be having fun being with his friends. There are smiles, there is a renewed sense of purpose. They are all still very much dealing with some deep set personal issues, but together The Renegades might actually have a fighting chance.
In the midst of all the returning characters is Jay Tucker, a new psiot, and a new member of the team. What’s been your approaching to introducing Jay into the team - what does he bring to their team dynamic?
Jay has been the most fun and the most frustrating to write. I kept wanting to get him activated, to get him into the fight, but he kept refusing. Jay is the everyman. He sees that there are great injustices being committed and he wishes that he could do something to stop it. But, when given the opportunity to join in the fight at the cost of his comfortable life, he balks. I can’t say that most of us wouldn’t react similarly.
I look at what’s going on with the Dakota Pipeline, and wish I could help, but I’m also not going to quit my job and go join the protest -- and I feel stupidly guilty over that decision. Jay’s eventual choice to have his powers activated, and to join the Renegades, is not an easy one, but it is the only choice he had left to make.
Without giving too much away, Jay’s powerset (which was not revealed in the first arc) is going to be very beneficial to the team. He, and Kris’s girlfriend Tamara, are still kind of outsiders, though. Not that they are being sidelined, but as the newest members of the team they have not been through the same fights or have the same shared experiences of the original members. There are, however, more fights on the horizon upon which new bonds will be forged.
Along with everyone else, who we’ll mention below, Darick Robertson is returning for issue #5. What do you most enjoy about working with Darick, and seeing the characters through his eyes?
Darick is amazing, a joy to work with. He brings a sense of grimy realism, with a hint of cartooning, which grounds the fantastic super-hero action in a reality. His characters express so much emotion just through the use of body language and facial expressions which makes my job as a writer so much easier. Plus, there really isn’t anything I can write that Darick can’t draw--most times even better than I saw it in my head. Throw Richard Clark’s inks on top, and add in the colors of Diego Rodriguez and Brian Reber, and the lettering mastery of Dave Lanphear, and we’ve got one of the best looking comics on the shelves.
For all the talk of hope, the next story arc is called “Massacre.” What can readers expect - is it really going to be as bad as it sounds?
I don’t want to give too much away, but folks are probably gonna want to have a drink or seven after reading "Harbinger Renegade" #5.
The teaser image for “Massacre” shows a lot of familiar faces standing around with the Renegades, but one of the more notable presences was that of Alexander Solomon, one of the new power-players in the Valiant Universe. What’s his mindset, and how is his prophetic plan for the team holding together?
Solomon is a fascinating character to write. He has the power to see all possible futures, and has trained himself to manipulate events in such a way as to ensure one future over another. He claims to be acting for the benefit of humankind, but we’ve already seen him lie to get what he wants, so it remains to be seen how trustworthy he really is or what his true motives might be.
So far, Solomon has used that ability to reunite The Renegades under Kris’s leadership, and has given them a secret base of operations. But this is only one phase of Solomon’s ultimate goal. In "Massacre," we will see Solomon move towards adding another weapon to his arsenal, something referred to in the first arc as The Stormbringer.
Toyo Harada is there too, which is especially ominous. He’s been focusing on his own concerns recently in comics like Imperium, but it looks as though he’s now switching back to the Renegades. What’s your take on the character, and what makes Harada so compelling?
Harada is such a boss, so sure of himself and his superiority over everyone else. He knows what he wants and will stop at nothing to get it, no matter who he uses or runs over on the way to his goals.
We’ve already seen how he and Solomon used to be friends, or as close to friends as either two men choose to have. They both share a similar dream, the dawning of a new age of peace and prosperity, but differ in their methods for achieving this dream. We’ll see in "Massacre" how these methods might pit the two men against each other once again.
Also present are the HARD Corps, making a return after being away for quite a while. Where do they fit into the picture - and why is now the time for their return?
HARD Corps were the mercenary arm of Project Rising Spirit, rivals to Harada’s Harbinger Foundation. Following the events of "Bloodshot U.S.A.," Project Rising Spirit is rebranding and working towards a much more capitalist agenda. They aren’t out to save the world; they are out to make a ton of money supplying soldiers and weapons to the highest bidder.
Regardless of one’s politics, I think it’s safe to say that there is a lot of fear and uncertainty going around. HARD Corps, and their actions within this series, could be seen as showing what happens when we let that fear dictate our actions, when we allow the ends to justify the means.
Who are the new HARD Corps? Will there be any familiar faces amongst their number, or will you be unveiling an all-new team?
HARD Corps has a fairly high mortality rate amongst team members and, when given a list of currently alive team members by my editor, I was surprised by how many were actually still above ground! That may not be the case by the end of issue #5 though. I am adding at least one new member of the team, a recent recruit who signed up following Harada’s invasion of the Middle East. She’s a believer, a patriot, which puts her at odds with the more mercenary philosophies of Major Palmer and the rest of the team.
One interesting thing about HARD Corps is that they were a part of the first "Harbinger Wars" storyline - so is this yet another part of the puzzle being put together for "Harbinger Wars 2"?
It is. Everything we’ve already done in "Harbinger Renegade" and everything we are going to do is akin to placing bricks along a path. We are building a road; a road that leads to war.
Finally, I believe there is still one major part of that puzzle still hidden from the readers. What else can we - and The Renegades - expect from the next few months, as the road to "Harbinger Wars 2" starts to speed up?
There is indeed one additional, and fairly major piece still hidden from view. We will learn more about that in issue #6, an issue that I don’t believe a single Harbinger reader will see coming. I’m very hesitant to reveal much more than that… though, I will say, the character designs that I’ve seen from Lewis LaRosa are breathtaking.
'Massacre' will begin in "Harbinger Renegades" #5, publishing this July from Valiant Comics.