By Rafer Roberts, Juan Jose Ryp, Andrew Dalhouse
Harbinger Renegade #6 is the lull before the storm.
A storm is coming. After the brutal events of Harbinger Renegade #5, fans were left reeling. This issue takes a step back – all the way back to the dark ages. The stand-alone tale might seem disconnected from the title’s main narrative, but that’s a misconception. The story beautifully sets the stage for what’s to come and heightens awareness of the magnitude of the danger.
This engrossing story is the tale of man leading an army against the Alpha, a powerful psiot also referred to as the Stormbringer. For spoiler purposes, we won’t reveal his abilities, but suffice to say that they are potentially devastating. In these dark times, psiots were unheard of, and the Alpha was believed to be a demon. This concept is reinforced by his behavior and his monstrous visage, which the story explains as it unfolds.
Of note is the new character of Sir Gerald, the protagonist of the piece and a knight in the Brotherhood of Cuth. There’s a name that harkens back to Legends of the Geomancer. Cuth was a companion and advisor to the first geomancer. It’s not an unreasonable assumption that this brotherhood may have evolved out of his work. “Cuth” also means “snake”, which is interesting in that the antagonist of the story, the Alpha, adorns himself in snake symbolism. That choice may be unrelated to Cuth and selected more for the ominous quality of snakes in myth as well as for their ability to shed their skin. One look at the Alpha, with his missing lips and facial cartilage, scarred and possibly peeling skin, and it’s easy to imagine why he chose a snake for his mascot.
The story is told from the perspective of Sir Gerald. For fans of the Harbinger stories, this book is the classic telling of the battle for superiority between man and power-hungry psiots, echoing bits of Imperium’s power struggle. For those new to Harbinger Renegade, this could superficially pass as an exciting knights versus demon crusade. Sir Gerald is a character who grows more complex as the story progresses. Here’s hoping he reappears by the tale’s end. While that’s unlikely in the current time continuum, he may be revisited in flashbacks. Alhough his story appears to be complete, the ending is open to interpretation, especially when considering the time that elapses between the events of the main portion of the story and the wrap-up.
One intriguing story aspect is the contrasting point of view subtly conveyed through the art. A prime example is the reactions of the villagers to the arrival of the Brotherhood of Cuth in their community. Their expressions are revealing and in sharp contrast to the notion that the crusaders are the countryside’s saviors. Sir Gerald himself, after his ordeal, believes that he is seeing the world anew, causing him to reexamine what he held to be true about the Brotherhood. The story art serves to “read between the lines”, and some readers may miss these subtle details while concentrating on the main narrative. Much of what Sir Gerald claims is his recounting of the tale is not cohesive with the truth being shown in the art. This mechanism is a fine example of the comic medium being used to its potential.
The book is illustrated by artist Juan Jose Ryp and colored by Andrew Dalhouse. Ryp has an innate, individualistic flair for depicting the physicality of battle. His storytelling is straightforward, with easy-to-follow panel layouts that enhance reading. His work telling the underlying truth behind some of the scenes is done well, never competing with the main narrative but subtly suggesting that all is not as it seems. While there’s plenty of action in each scene to focus on, don’t miss out on his keen details, such as in the throne room of the Alpha. Dalhouse’s delivers his usual high standards in using color to enhance the readers’ experience. For instance, reds and oranges turn up the heat and the tension of battle scenes while fair skies and earthy tones depict an idyllic farming life. Ryp and Dalhouse make a good team. The quality of the art is consistent throughout and makes for a polished book.
Harbinger Renegade #6 is a solid and engrossing story that lays the groundwork for the upcoming Harbinger Wars 2. Don’t miss out on this first look at the newest (and oldest) foe of the renegades.