Harbinger #5

In "Harbinger" #5, Peter fights pretty much every major player in the Harbinger Foundation after he finds out what they did to his friend Joe. Writer Joshua Dysart continues to build a complex cast of characters, and while character development and plot take a backseat to action in this issue, the relentless cascade of confrontation is epic, and it feels like the inevitable, if earlier than expected, conclusion to the moment Peter first set his foot on Harada's doorstop. Series artist Khari Evans is assisted by Matthew Clark and Jim Muniz, and there are three inkers as well as three colorists, but somehow the art soup is remarkably cohesive despite all the cooks.

The issue opens with the mysterious Bleeding Monk observing everything within his mind, and the story picks up from the cliffhanger of "Harbinger" #4, at the peak of Peter's anguish. His interrogation of Ingrid segues into a series of nonstop battles, like a video game before a player levels up. Peter has two boss battles and then returns to the Foundation to find the big boss, Harada.

Peter's facial expressions and wild, thrashing fighting style are excellent at showing his grief, rage and his uncontrolled, impulsive nature. Evans, Peters and Muniz also illustrate the different kinds of power being thrown about in a clear way within the fluid fight sequences. The male characters all still have very similar cheekbones, heads and body structure, but they are still easily distinguished from each other.

All the action doesn't leave much room for further character development of our heroes Peter or Faith, but Dysart manages to squeeze in a tantalizing short scene between lovebirds Amanda (Livewire) and Edward (Stronghold) when they're in private. The schism revealed by that conversation and Amanda's actions in "Harbinger" #4 spiral further outward in the second half of "Harbinger" #5. Harada's confrontation of Livewire yields the interesting detail that Harada doesn't mind-scan or coerce his people, "because loyalty must be a choice."

It's satisfying how quickly Dysart picks up early plot hooks and character interactions while "Harbinger" is still in its beginning arc. Just as he followed up immediately on Livewire's choices, he also gives Ion a cameo. Ion and Sting immediately loathed each other at first sight/mindscan in "Harbinger" #3, and their rematch yields another interesting glimpse at Harada's moral code.

Each major player on Harada's side -- The Bleeding Monk, Ingrid, Hidden Moon, Livewire, Stronghold, and Ion -- all have distinct voices, personalities and motivations for allying themselves with Harada, and Dysart's attention to the antagonists gives "Harbinger" even richer complexity.

The dialogue is vivid and fun, and Peter in particular is as cheekily witty as ever, with lines like, "you totally boned the structural integrity of that ceiling." Faith's dialogue is adorably fun and happy, and her exuberant arrival near the end of the issue, followed by a silent, ominous last-page sequence featuring the Bleeding Monk, make for a great one-two punch of dramatic contrast for the end of "Harbinger" #5 and also neatly bookends a strong if fight-heavy issue.

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