Ever since the finale of Valiant Entertainment's "Harbinger," the Renegades have been scattered, and - in the case of leader Peter Stanchek - have gone missing entirely. And in their absence, their nemesis Toyo Harada has taken the opportunity to build himself up an empire, whilst the world has struggled to stop him. That's not the only threat which has been cultivated over the last two years, though, as a completely new villain has primed himself to step up and stake his own claim over the Valiant Universe: a man called Alexander Solomon.
Whilst we don't know who Solomon is, we do know his agenda: to reunite the Renegades for reasons known only to him. And we also know that his plan is going to have huge ramifications for the rest of the Valiant Universe, following the news that this is all heading down an ominous path towards "Harbinger Wars 2," a sequel to Valiant's first crossover series of their relaunch. But things are still unclear. Who is Alexander Solomon? How is he connected to the Renegades? And how will this opening shot kick off the grand event of "Harbinger Wars 2?" To find out the answers to all these questions, CBR News spoke with CEO Dinesh Shamdasani and Editor in Chief Warren Simons about what's in store for the Valiant Universe.
CBR: I notice that “Harbinger: Renegades” has now been retitled to “Harbinger: Renegade” - so who exactly is the renegade of that title? Who is Alexander Solomon?
Dinesh Shamdasani: We were a little bit cheeky with the title on this one. The band of kids that the Harbinger books predominately follow are called the Renegades and, when we first announced the new book at last year’s Valiant Summit event, we announced it as "Harbinger Renegades." We wanted fans to get excited about the return of Pete, Kris, Faith and Torque, and while they play a central role in the new book we were also hiding the fact that we were secretly working on a major new antagonist, Alexander Solomon, whose introduction would have massive ramifications for the universe for months and years to come. We recently revealed that the series is as much about Alexander Solomon, who many will see as the primary villain, as it is the kids. He is the titular ‘renegade’ in the book’s true title - "Harbinger Renegade."
From the very beginning, "Harbinger" has always been a series that blurred the line between its heroes and villains, and it’s lead characters have always been fascinatingly morally ambiguous. So much so that the original run in 1992 was named "Harbinger" after the foundation run by Toyo Harada, a character that many would and have called a villain. When we launched Harbinger in 2012, we continued that tradition, making Toyo Harada a central component of the narrative. We wanted to continue that tradition here and set to work creating a character that was a worthy foil to both Harada and the Renegades. That foil is Alexander Solomon.
Warren Simons: Solomon is a psiot himself, gifted with the ability of probability analysis, which lets him predict future events with astonishing accuracy. He used to be one of Toyo Harada’s closest pupils and one of the Harbinger Foundation’s most trusted lieutenants. But, the two had a falling-out after Solomon betrayed Harada, who then ordered his execution. When that assassination attempt failed, Solomon went underground. Now that Toyo has fallen from his high perch, Solomon finally sees his opportunity to make his forecast for the future into a reality.
What does his arrival mean for the team, and for the Valiant Universe as a whole?
Simons: Nothing but bad news. Solomon isn’t just going to irrevocably change the lives of of the Harbinger Renegades team, but the entire Valiant Universe. Everything that Solomon does in this series will spill into the Valiant Universe and, little by little, those actions are going to build into Harbinger Wars 2, our massive story for 2018. The first "Harbinger Wars," Valiant’s inaugural crossover event, brought about enormous change for the Valiant Universe and its superheroes, so you can bet that "Harbinger Wars 2" will have monumental ramifications for our characters.
Shamdasani: The arrival of Alexander Solomon is going to create a whole new dynamic for Harbinger. He's a force who can go toe to toe with both Toyo Harada and Pete Stanchek. We’re incredibly excited to watch fans learn what he is planning…
As Warren mentioned, we've already teased "Harbinger Wars 2" in 2018 and I think many people are assuming that Solomon is the driving force behind that story. He plays a major role in the events leading up to and including "Harbinger Wars 2.".. but I think the fans will be interested to learn that he will not, in fact, be the central figure behind that event.
But, even before that, we'll first see the Harbinger team joined by several characters from other books in the second arc of "Harbinger Renegade" for a story we’ll be calling ‘Massacre’ – and with good reason. This series’ second arc will not be for the faint of heart! Stay tuned – we've got lots of surprises coming in this book!
You say his goal is to reunite the original team - Peter, Faith, Kris and Torque. What kind of place are they in as the series begins? Are they interested in reteaming... or even speaking to one another?
Simons: When the series begins, we’ll see the Renegades in a pretty rough place following their takedown of Toyo Harada. That fallout from their efforts fractured the team, and left scars on every member. Torque quit the superhero business and became a C-list reality TV star. Kris was just recently released from prison, and is struggling to get her life back. Peter, burdened with the depths of his failure and a drug addiction, took off to the stars. Only Faith stayed in the hero business, but after months of fighting crime solo, she realizes that she desperately needs help.
While Faith wants to get the band back together, the rest of the Renegades — who are not in communication with each other — definitely do not. But once they see that innocents are paying the price for their war against Toyo Harada, they realize that they have to face their responsibilities.
Shamdasani: Yes, as the story ramps us, we learn that innocent children are being dying horrifying deaths after being subjected to at-home psiot activation attempts to try and give them abilities. What's worse, it's the Renegades fault. Despite their current problems and their psychological scars, they must find a way to get the band back together if they are going to able to right the wrongs of their past.
Since Peter was taken off the table two years ago, Valiant have focused on Faith and Toyo Harada in particular. What kind of an environment is Peter walking back into, and how do you view the last two years of Valiant in relation to the finale of "Harbinger?"
Shamdasani: Much like the world that we all live in today, Pete is heading back to a very turbulent environment. When he and the Renegades leaked the Harbinger Foundation’s files to the world, dozens of underground organizations began using that data to build crude psiot activation machines in hopes of unlocking potential abilities. These DIY machines have resulted in the very violent death of a number of innocent children, sending the world into a panic. Not only are they terrified of their own kids killing themselves, but they’re also scarred of the potential raw power that could be unlocked should someone have a successful activation. Pete’s going to be tackling all of this— the mistrust, the paranoia, the violence — head on when he returns and it isn’t going to pretty.
Simons: As you rightly notice, the time following the finale of Harbinger has been a fairly dark one for the Valiant Universe. Toyo Harada declared war on humanity and wrangled a sovereign nation in East Africa — sending the world’s superpowers into a tailspin and instigating several international incidents. Things are pretty bleak in the world right now and, honestly, there hasn’t been a greater need than now for heroes who can step up and wrangle some control back.
Rafer Roberts - who has really picked up a lot of momentum at Valiant over the last few months with "Archer and Armstrong" - will be writing the series. What kind of approach can we expect from him on "Harbinger Renegade?"
Simons: Rafer has been a welcome addition to the Valiant family, and we love the approach he’s taken with our characters. In "Harbinger Renegade," Rafer’s going to take a much more subversive tone than he did in "A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong"… but not one without hope.
Like we said, things are pretty dark in the Renegades’ corner of the Valiant Universe, but there’s still plenty of potential to change course and make things right again. Rafer is setting up some pretty dire stakes, but none that are impossible to overcome.
The progression of this story will also be extremely methodical. Remember, we’re dealing with a villain who has the ability of probability analysis and accurate forecasting, so everything that happens in Harbinger Renegade happens for a reason, and most likely serves Alexander Solomon’s long-term agenda.
Shamdasani: Rafer and Darick Robertson are a match made in heaven. Their take is a darker, but also funnier approach to the characters that keeps the series’ strong focus on character, grounded storytelling and distaste for settling for genre conventions. They are building a book like nothing else in comics – one that is also keeping the heart of "Harbinger" beating strong.
As a fan, I'm so excited for what they've got coming up. When I did my final read-through of the first issue before we sent it to the printer I literally had to get up from my chair and take a minute when Kris and Faith meet because the book was giving me the feels. And I've read every version of the issue several times! That is as rare as it is rewarding.
When did Darick Robertson come onboard as artist? What was it about his style which made him the right fit for this storyline?
Simons: Darick’s work on "Harbinger: Renegade" has been extraordinary. We couldn’t imagine the series without his distinct style. Darick is one of the medium’s best storytellers, and as we’ve all seen in his past works like "Transmetropolitan" or "The Boys," his art is fantastically detailed. The intensity he’s putting into this series is a perfect compliment to the story Rafer as crafted, and will really push people’s expectations for a Valiant comic can be.
Shamdasani: Darick is a master storyteller. His art has an incredible ability to combine intense emotional acting with visionary composition and subversive humor, and he's bringing all those skills to bear here. His tremendous body of work speaks for itself. We couldn't be more honored to have him on "Harbinger Renegade."
Juan Jose Ryp and Raul Allen are both credited on the first issue as well - does that mean there’ll be bonus content in each issue of the series?
Shamdasani: Absolutely. The first issue of "Harbinger Renegade" clocks in at 40 pages, and will have two bonus lead-in stories that Rafer wrote for us. The first, beautifully illustrated by Raul Allen, is a primer into the world of "Harbinger Renegade," its characters, and its history to this point. Then we have a brutal prelude drawn by Juan Jose Ryp that tells the secret origin of Alexander Solomon. From the activation of his powers to his eventual falling-out with Toyo Harada, you’ll see what really makes this guy tick. This particular story is so important, in fact, that we’re spreading it out across "Harbinger Renegade" #1-4 as a four-part prelude.
From an editorial standpoint, how do you approach the idea of introducing new characters like Solomon? Like Divinity before him, what’s the trick to making this introduction feel meaningful for readers?
Simons: Like everything we do at Valiant, it boils down to a compelling story. If the character has a good story worth telling, then everything else naturally fall into place. We don’t introduce characters without any rhyme or reason – we bring them in because their history, their personality, and their actions all serve to create a terrific story that readers have never seen before.
As teased, this’ll all be leading towards "Harbinger Wars 2," coming in 2018. How long has "Harbinger Wars 2" been in the works for? When did it first start being pieced together?
Shamdasani: As we plotted out "Harbinger Renegade" with Rafer, we quickly saw how big this story was getting, and how it would affect more than just the characters of "Harbinger." Once we realized that the entire Valiant Universe would get involved in the conflicts of "Harbinger Renegade," we leaned into that scope and created "Harbinger Wars 2." It's a story that may well have the largest stakes and consequences of any in Valiant history.
Annnnd….. can you tell us anything about "Harbinger Wars 2" itself….?
Simons: I’m afraid not! But, I can tell you that the story officially kicks off with "Harbinger Wars 2" #0. As a tribute to the classic "Harbinger" #0 from back in the day, we’re making this special prelude chapter available only through a series of mail-away coupons that will be included in "Harbinger Renegade" #1-4, which can be redeemed for a copy of "Harbinger Wars 2" #0 at a later date. Fans can collect and mail away all four coupons to receive an exclusive prelude issue that won’t be found anywhere else until the final hardcover collection of "Harbinger Wars 2" in late 2018.
Shamdasani: The first issue of "Harbinger Renegade" will include the full set of instructions on how to obtain a copy of "Harbinger Wars 2" #0 – which include that pretty provocative cover by the one and only Clayton Crain…
"Harbinger: Renegade" #1 will go on sale this November, which'll set the Valiant Universe off on the path to "Harbinger Wars 2" in 2018. To catch readers up, Valiant provided CBR News with an exclusive look at Raul Allen's pages from the first issue of "Harbinger: Renegade."