One year following the 2012 re-launch of Valiant Entertainment, the publisher released its first large scale crossover event titled Harbinger Wars written by Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski, and featuring artwork by Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, and Mico Suayan. The four issue miniseries told the from two different perspectives as different factions within the Valiant Universe entered a war without sides. The result was a critically acclaimed series with an average rating of 4.5 of out 5.0 stars.
Fast-forward several years to 2018, and Valiant has released its long awaited Harbinger Wars II event. Artistically, as will be discussed later, each issue has been nothing short of incredible. Writer Matt Kindt is no stranger to the Valiant Universe and the characters that exist within it. Kindt should be able to to make this story work, as he has the talent and the background to do so. However, while Harbinger Wars II possesses strong potential and will no doubt stand as a pivot-point for the Valiant Universe moving forward, it is not without its share of plot holes, logical inconsistencies, and departures from reality.
To start, Peter Stancheck (one of the absolute most powerful characters in the Valiant Universe) is constantly depicted as running on foot all over the place as he randomly activated the latent psiot powers in different people; and then leaves them with only directions to a distant location to meet again should they choose to do so. Peter is virtually a god, who is able to exist in outer space (see Harbinger Renegade #1) and vanish completely without a trace (see Harbinger Omegas #1 through #3). Peter’s powers mirror that of Toyo Harada who (while certainly more experienced and capable) has demonstrated the ability to hold back the combined military might of the entire world while building and defending his utopia in The Foundation Zone in Somalia (see Imperium #1 through #16). One only needs to review Book of Death: The Fall of Harbinger #1 where this power creates a plasma wave in space that passes the earth and kills millions in the process. Peter and Harada are each powerful enough to psychically influence and control the minds of every human being on earth and win global elections, and they even later transcend the very material plane of existence! Yet, in Harbinger Wars II, Kindt has Peter frantically running on foot while being chased by a helicopter.
In Unity #1 (written by Kindt), Harada united the combine forces of Ninjak, Livewire, The Eternal Warrior, and himself to challenge the might of X-O Manowar, and the human death toll was high. Since that time, X-O Manowar has absorbed the knowledge of the known universe (see X-O Manowar #50) and has gained significant tactical, operational, and strategic levels of experience from interplanitary and galactic levels of war (see X-O Manowar #1 (2017) to present; also written by Kindt). Yet, somehow Peter (who is still at this point untrained and lacking experience) is able to stand toe to toe with X-O Manowar, Ninjak, and Charlie Palmer, and then in the same breath be neutralized by a hemet (not possible; please at least attempt to respect the established mythology of the Valiant Universe).
Peter looks into the mind of Charlie Palmer to identify a dark past from Palmer’s time in northern Iraq. Problem is, he is depicted as an 18 year old soldier following the orders of his Sargent (military paygrade of E-5 who a most would be an infantry fire team leader, which is the smallest unit in the U.S. Army, consisting of only four soldiers) to commit war crimes against a Kurdish Village (which is an unlawful order, that would have monitored and stopped by his squad leader, platoon leader, and higher headquarters) who were actually America’s allies during the war! Are readers to believe that a first tour E-5 with an 18 year old fresh out of boot camp somehow commit war crimes against allied forces with zero oversight or fallout? Also, Charlie Palmer is a Major (as of 2013 at least when he was re-called from retirement; see Harbinger Wars) which is a military paygrade of O-4 (which takes a minimum of nine years of service as a commissioned officer) So, what was it? Was Palmer an 18 year old following unlawful orders from an E-5 Soldier against allied forces, or was Palmer a newly commissioned officer (O-1) gaining battlefield experience and climbing the ranks for the next 13 years to eventually be sought out by paramilitary government contractors (see PRS and later Omen)? This is what occurs when too many creative ideas are tossed about without the proper background research being conducted first; which is forgivable for the new Valiant management team, but also disappointing for Kindt from who much more is expected.
X-O Manowar has access to all the known history and knowledge of the universe and has more battlefield experience than almost any character in the Valiant Universe (Fact!) yet he falls for a basic mental projection from his past? No, this is unfortunately lazy writing and comic book editing.
While all of these minor plot holes are one thing, having Livewire disable the entire power grid of the United States as a knee-jerk response to prevent her new friends from capture or death, may well have caused more death and destruction than any event in history!
- Hospitals go dark, with patients on life support (or in the middle of surgery) falling victim first.
- At any given time, there are 5,000 (+/-) aircraft over United States airspace (not all of those aircraft are American by the way), so those all crash resulting in thousands upon thousands of deaths — not including the locations where those aircraft actually crash, many of which would be large cities! Remember 9-11 and what two aircraft did? Imagine 5,000 aircraft potentially hitting cities, residential buildings, parks, schools, hospitals, neighborhoods and towns full of innocent people.
- It is estimated that an average of 5,000,000 cars moving to and from work in the LA area on any given day. This number does not account for other traffic, such as deliveries and people actually working, buses, taxis, UBER, etc. There are (estimated) 253,000,000 million cars and trucks on the roads nation-wide, but take a conservative figure and say that only 10% of that number is actually on the road at the time of this event, and that is 25,300,000 drivers (+ passengers of course) on the road and in traffic at the time Livewire shuts down the power. Try to imagine the number of crashes and fatalities! School busses filled with children are not immune from this either!
- Emergency services such as police, fire, and medical vehicles stop working as well, so they cannot respond. Not to mention that those that are already responding at the time are prevented from completing said response.
- Ships at sea would no longer be able to navigate with GPS, and following a loss of power, they would be adrift subject to the direction of the ocean currents. In high traffic ports and shipping lanes, collisions with other ships would not be able to be prevented and the death toll from drowning would be quite high. Not to mention that much of these ships are carrying food, medicine, parts, and clothing.
- Since Livewire decided to take out all of the satellites in orbit, the ability to track incoming threats (such ICMB and military aircraft since other nations power grids were (presumably) not targeted by Livewire and therefore able to exploit a strategic opportunity against a defenseless Untied States, which (ironically) includes the very people that Livewire was seeking to protect from harm!).
- Perishable foods and many types of medicine will start to spoil. Livestock (cows, chickens, even zoo animals; including several endangered species) would either starve, or die due to their climate controlled living conditions. Those that actually escape would be introduced into the wild and create an ecological disaster of unknown proportions!
- Do not forget about prisons! What happens to the 2,200,000 prisoners? Prison riots and escapes occur almost immediately with an ungodly amount of murders, significant bodily harm (e.g. mutilation), and serious offenses against persons (e.g. rape, forced sodomy) right off the bat and in the weeks, months, years to follow.
- Not only would the water in homes cease to flow, so also would water used to irrigate crops to feed the people. This also applies to sewage systems, which will also stop of course, and subsequently create a perfect storm of sorts for sickness and disease.
- Since the banking systems would shut down, money would be virtually useless (as would credit) so a barter economy would have to take over. History teaches us how that plays out during a regional crisis such as this.
Basically, Livewire (attempting to protect a few) will have created the most horrific loss of life in human history, and all she can say is that she did “The wrong thing for the right reasons.” Logically, ethically, and creatively, this is very short sighted and it is clear that not much thought went into this series of events and the repercussions of such. Eric Heisserer produces phenomenal work usually; however, he did not do Kindt any favors with this set up.
Artistically, the team of artist Tomás Giorello and colorist Diego Rodriquez are as brilliant as ever! Giorello is one of the absolute finest pencillers working for Valiant, as his astonishing work on Bloodshot Reborn, X-O Manowar, and Ninja-K has clearly demonstrated. His consistent character proportions, detail, and shading are signature to his style, and complimented by Rodriquez’s coloring process. Giorello and Rodriquez routinely work together on projects such as this, and the result is always phenomenal. Artist (and painter) Guedes renders a number of pages in this issue. Guedes’s work is most impressive and lifelike as can be seen in his previous work on Divinity #0.
Moving forward, Harbinger Wars II is a pivotal event that promises to alter the course and direction of the Valiant Universe (and the publisher itself). While the story is visually on point, there are problems with characterization, plot, and the relationship between cause and effect. Valiant Entertainment, and the talent behind this story, are far better than Harbinger Wars II indicates. Hopefully, the altered course and direction of the Valiant Universe (and the publisher itself) that was promised with include more though and cohesiveness that respects the respect the very mythology that Valiant itself has established.