By Eric Heisserer, Raul Allen, Patricia Martin
If the outstanding Harbinger Wars 2 Prelude #1 is any indication, Valiant Entertainment’s Harbinger Wars 2 event will be the hottest thing going this summer. Both stimulating and thought-provoking, Prelude serves an excellent lead-in to the event and should be considered one of their best single issues to date.
That’s high praise, and it is not misplaced. The creative team that gave us the superb Secret Weapons –Heisserer, Allen, and Martin – collaborated again on Prelude. Insightful and character-driven story writing coupled with beautiful art and colors make this book a standout.
A prelude serves as an introduction to something more important. Here, writer Eric Heisserer lays the groundwork for the forthcoming event, showing how the buildup of pressure from events of the last year (such as the slaughter in Rook and the attack in Oklahoma City) compounded with immediate actions cause a domino effect. The last domino to fall unleashes a jaw-dropping reaction. The anticipated repercussions will be severe and set us on the path to the second Harbinger Wars.
While it may serve as an introduction, this story stands on its own. With its substantial plot and attention to character, Prelude feels personal. Seeing the journey these characters take is moving. The story is more than the parts of a chain reaction; instead, we experience the personal side of the instances that lead to a larger, less-personal confrontation. In effect, we’re given a front-row seat to the precursors of war.
This personalization makes the action even more exhilarating. The dread you feel is real, as is the shock and surprise. This is accomplished in part by the excellent physical storytelling by Allen and Martin, but also by the focus put on the characters. Even amidst a story whose plot is crucial in its telling of the beginnings of war, Heisserer still manages to give us rich characters and add to their mythos. Without going into spoilers, an excellent example is his expansion upon Livewire. Readers are aware of her abilities, but how many have stopped to consider the effect that they have on her? The opening page of the story harkens back to the cover of Harbinger #1, when Pete Stanchek is besieged by voices due to his psiot ability. This time out, it’s Livewire in a similar instance. It’s a chilling page, marking the first time we realize how encumbered Livewire is, plus the foreboding of its situational parallels cannot be ignored. Pete was an agitator in the psiot world and central to the first Harbinger Wars; now Livewire finds herself in similar circumstances. Some of Heisserer’s character work is nuanced, told through the art in gestures or glances, but nothing is happenstance. His characters’ words and actions are purposeful.
The creative team doesn’t miss a beat. Details are everywhere in the narrative and the art. From the hat tip to Twin Peaks in the diner to Nikki’s blonde roots (she’s been on the run since dying her hair pink), the team shows thoughtfulness in their delivery. Prelude has the same signature look that set Secret Weapons apart. Artist Raul Allen and colorist Patricia Martin are responsible for creating this distinctive look and feel. Martin’s colors create the mood and emotion for the scenes while Allen’s line work is both attractive and emotive. His actors are natural, their poses incorporating the fluidity of movement. The unique panel layouts add to the effectiveness of the story telling. Examples of this are the grid patterns that illustrate a series of seconds in time, and the alternating panel widths during action scenes which change with the camera lens, which ups the excitement while making it easy to note the change in perspective. Allen’s flair for graphic design is reflected in the layout of the pages, where the panels themselves often become elements of a larger art piece.
Harbinger Wars 2 Prelude #1 is the best book on the shelves this week. This is an absolute must-read, even if you have never read a Valiant comic before. The brief introduction makes it new-reader-friendly. Engaging characters, dynamic plot, and beautiful art make this an outstanding book. War is coming, Prepare yourself with Harbinger Wars 2 Prelude #1.