Armor Hunters: Harbinger TPB
by Joshua Dysart, Robert Gill
Unlike the other Armor Hunters tie-ins, which attempt to fill the gaps in the main narrative, Armor Hunters: Harbinger almost completely removes itself, instead offering a stand-alone story which is only loosely related to the other books. While the story itself is quite good, the title is a bit misleading, something that may possibly become a bone of contention among readers. Otherwise, Armor Hunters: Harbinger comes recommended.
Armor Hunters: Harbinger follows “Generation Zero,” the group of psiot children last seen in Harbinger Wars, as they go to Mexico City to assist the relief effort alongside Faith and Torque in the wake of the city’s destruction after Armor Hunters #1. As it happened, GN-GR’s blast not only decimated the city, but also left behind a swarm of alien insects.
Essentially, the story itself is almost entirely self-contained, and, truthfully, could have been completely independent of Armor Hunters with only a few minor tweaks to the plot. While this might disappoint a few readers who had hoped for a story that was more close-tied to the main narrative, it is also refreshing to read a tie-in that told a complete story on its own. Further, while the various creative teams have been careful to avoid overlap, there is somewhat of a repetitious feeling when reading Unity and Armor Hunters: Harbinger, simply because the reader is witnessing the same battles (such as the final battle in Los Angeles) over and over even if they are different parts of those battles.
Given that Dysart had made his reputation as a writer who values characters over plot, it’s unsurprisingly that characterization features heavily in Armor Hunters: Harbinger. Since Generation Zero’s last appearance (aside from a brief cameo in Harbinger) was in Harbinger Wars, whose cast was so large that it was difficult to really get a feel for individuals, I appreciated that Dysart cast them as the leads and devoted the space to further fleshing them out. While Cronus is an anti-hero in the Peter Stanchek mode, he is depicted so that he comes across without being a copy of that character. The contrast between his power set (healing) and his personality (he says, “PEOPLE THINK THAT BECAUSE I’M A HEALER I’M COMPASSIONATE. THAT I TOOK AN OATH, LIKE A DOCTOR. I DIDN’T. I FIND CIVILIZATION RANCID AND WORTHY OF DISMANTLING”) is clever, and his idea of leadership (“[PETER STANCHEK] TOLD ME OF A FORM OF LEADERSHIP I’D NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE. HE CALLED IT DEMOCRACY. I DON’T TRUST IT. IT SOUNDS MESSY. LACKS DISCIPLINE. PANDERS TO THE WORST IN US…”) is obviously much closer to that of Toyo Harada than Stanchek. Although every member of the team is intriguing, Cronus makes the most compelling case for the case for the Generation Zero to be given its own ongoing title.
The inclusion of Congressman Serra was also a great idea. As a minor politician who has been thrust into the position of Mexican president by default, his lack of confidence and his approach towards the crisis makes for a good comparison with Cronus and Generation Zero. He also serves as a good POV character for the reader, as once alien bugs and demon dinosaurs begin to appear, it’s easy to sympathize with someone who feels completely over his head.
The only problem with the story is the resolution, which is essentially a deus ex machina ending. Through the first two and a half issues, Dysart had done an excellent job of building up the alien bugs as a difficult adversary; as a swarm they are nearly unstoppable and–in one of Gill’s creepiest visuals–have the ability to take over a human’s consciousness by invading through the mouth. However, they are defeated almost instantly in what basically amounts to flipping a psychic “off” switch. It’s a testament to how much goodwill that the series had earned prior to that that it only slight affected my opinion of Armor Hunters: Harbinger as a whole.
Robert Gill has been one of Valiant’s fastest rising artists since his debut on the second arc of Eternal Warrior. With hordes of insects and a demon, this story gives him a considerably greater challenge for him to draw, and the result is often stunning. Unlike some artists with a clean line, Gill draws with a great deal of detail. He assisted by Romulo Farajdo, whose color work in this book is fantastic. From a purely personal standpoint, the artwork in this might be my favorite of all the various “Armor Hunters” issues.
Like Armor Hunters: Bloodshot, this trade also includes another issue, Harbinger Wars #1, in order to round out the collection to four issues, and my feelings regarding this practice remain the same: I’d rather pay less for a trade that only contains three issues than have to pay for something that has already been collected elsewhere (in this case, the Harbinger Wars trade), and its rating is reduced from 4-stars to 3 to reflect this. Otherwise, this is a strong story that takes the idea of an event tie-in and really thinks outside the box to go in an interesting direction.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com