Break from Batman: Harbinger, Vol. 1 and best February comics list

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Harbinger, Vol. 1

A powerful telepath travels the world finding teens with remarkable powers and brings them back to his secret school for the gifted. Sound an awful lot like X-Men? That’s because it is… on the surface. But trust, me by the time you reach chapter 5 that notion gets thrown out the window entirely. It’s that same mutant premise at first, but it’s grounded in a reality closer to our own and rather than follow the adventures of a colorful team we’re watching the story of a single character unfold.

This protagonist isn’t really a hero, heck he isn’t even an anti-hero. I wouldn’t even call him likeable but he ends up in interesting situations and that’s what kept me reading the book. Think about films like The Social Network or There Will Be Blood. Unlikeable protagonists, but good movies. I will say that our protagonist reacts to his powers in a more natural way than I’ve seen in pretty much any other superhero story even if that does mean behaving in a way that’s less than chivalrous. Let’s face it, if you’ve watched “Saved by the Bell” you probably wondered how the girl-crazy Zach Morris managed to keep his hands off Kelly whenever he saw fit to FREEZE TIME– a lot of folks seem to forget Zach had that ability but not me. Not this guy! And so when Harbinger‘s distraught, pill-popping, teenage psychic finds his childhood crush and learns that she hates his guts I appreciated that the author actually stayed true to the character established earlier in the story and had him go into her head and make her fall in love with him. See what I mean? Things get kind of dark in Harbinger and the main character isn’t a pure soul. I don’t like the guy at all, come on what followed after the mind-bend is essentially rape, but these actions were believable.

The story itself plays out very slowly but the darker nuances like the twisting of his crush’s emotions and his drug addiction (he pops pills to stifle the constant flow of psychic information filling his head) were just enough to help me look past the similarities to Professor X’s students and trust writher Joshua Dysart with where the story was heading. After all, Harbinger isn’t a new thing. It’s a property that’s been around since 1992 and I don’t think such a blatant knock-off of something as famous as X-Men could survive this long, do you? Especially when I’ve heard nothing about this series but good things.

The artwork in this series is also quite good and while multiple artists like Khari Evans, Lewis Larosa, and Ian Hannin take turns on various chapters I was never once shaken up by a drastic change in style. The characters were all very expressive and some of the flashback and psychedelic dream sequences were colored in really cool ways. But the part where the art really shines is in the conclusion. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to get to this book’s ending because while the rest of it is quite slow and character driven the finale is bloody to say the least. The way the action is depicted is absolutely brutal and comes off 10 times more intense after the lengthy set-up to reach this point.

Harbinger is a great surprise and at only $9.99 you’d have to be crazy to not give this book a chance. Same goes for any of the Valiant books. Granted, I haven’t read any of Bloodshot yet, but everything else from this publisher that I’ve seen so far has been really excellent. So if you stick with the slow burn of the first 3 and a half chapters and a hero who makes questionable choices you are more than rewarded with some great surprises that turn the mutant school premise on its head and an ending that you won’t soon forget! Volume 2 of Harbinger can’t get here fast enough.

SCORE: 8/10

The Best February Comics (That I Read)

This time around I’m just going to focus on the comics that have a really great jumping-on point for new readers and then follow that up with a brief list of the other comics I read this month that were really great. So here are those accessible and enjoyable books listed in no particular order…

Think Tank #5

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Think Tank was going to be  a mini-series but was so well received that it’s moving forward as an ongoing series. This issue does a nice job of recapping what happened in the four issues prior and setting up an all new story. The thing I love most about this tech-heavy book is that at the end of each issue there are pages and pages of references to where the author got his idea for the advanced technology on display in this book about DARPA scientists. There are links to Youtube videos, academic articles, and news clips. Not only are you entertained by Think Tank, but you might learn something too.

Green Arrow #17

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Everything I have ever heard about the first 16 issues of Green Arrow has been overwhelmingly negative but with issue #17 the series gets a fresh start with a new writer (Jeff Lemire of Animal Man and Sweet Tooth fame) and artist (Andrea Sorrentino of I, Vampire). With the TV show “Arrow” getting more and more popular it was ridiculous for this Emerald Archer’s comic to come off so terrible so I’m happy that DC found a creative team good enough to pull this hero out of the gutter. Green Arrow #17 was my first ever Green Arrow comic and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I will say that it reminded me a lot of Marvel’s Hawkeye, especially with its creative page layouts and the overall look of the protagonist. But there’s a major difference between these two series as well. Hawkeye is very character driven and funny and Green Arrow appears to be plot driven and serious in tone. I’m on board for now. It was easy to follow for a newbie such as myself and I’m looking forward to the next issue coming out on March 6th.

Snapshot #1

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Andy Diggle and Jock (Batman: The Black Mirror) team up for this four part story about a comic book nerd who finds a lost smartphone loaded with images of a grizzly murder. The stark black and white imagery is phenomenal and the cliffhanger ending will definitely bring me back to see what happens in issue #2.

New Ghostbusters #1

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I started reading this series a little over a year ago and enjoyed it. I really liked the variant covers that parodied classic albums from Queen and U2 and the overall tone of the series was very funny. However, I abandoned it later on because the plot wasn’t enough to keep me coming back month after month. It just felt too much like the same film and video game plots recycled again. New Ghostbusters, however is something entirely new. The original Ghostbusters we all know and love have been abducted and it’s up to secretary Janine Melnitz and a few other new characters to fill the void. Don’t worry though, Peter, Ray, and the rest are still very much a part of the comic. The story cuts between the struggling New Ghost Busters in New York and the Real Ghost Busters lost in another dimension quite frequently for a story that’s exciting and unpredictable.

Uncanny X-Men #1

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I know, right? Another X-Men title? Yep. And it appears to be a pretty necessary companion piece to Bendis’ other X-book All-New X-Men (which I read and really, really like). I swear, Bendis writes almost every comic over at Marvel. It’s absurd. Anyway, this comic gave a nice recap of what’s going on with Cyclops and reveals why exactly a rather important figure of the X-Men mythology has been so noticeably silent in All-New X-Men. There’s some big an exciting stuff going on in the X-Men universe these days and it’s not been hard at all to jump on and follow the story.

Todd, The Ugliest Kid on Earth #2

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This comic is really weird and really funny. I almost added it to the list of best comics last month, but wasn’t 100% sold on the quirky nature of it all. Now I’m sure I want to keep picking it up because I’m just so damn curious about what could possibly happen next. It’s a story about a really sweet, innocent little boy who also happens to be so hideous that he has to wear a paper bag on his head. The whole world treats him like crap in increasingly bizarre situations that center around a murder case in which somehow everyone thinks this little kid could be responsible. In this issue, Todd is locked up in prison, not juvenile corrections but real maximum security prison. It’s ridiculous.

Vibe #1

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Here is a comic that really looks like it should be terrible, but it’s not. It was actually quite enjoyable and it sets up some enormous plot points that I’m sure will play out in a big way in future Justice League issues. Here you learn the all new origin story of Vibe, which relates directly to the opening arc of Justice League and the Darkseid invasion. I think it’s worth checking out. Vibe’s powers are interesting enough and his personality is likeable in a Peter Parker-ish sort of way.

Five Weapons #1

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Hogwarts for Assassins. That’s basically what this is. The premise of a school in which kids are taught how to use weapons seemed pretty dumb to me at first but the twist is that our protagonist is a kid who wants to rise the ranks of the school’s various weapons clubs by…are you ready? Not using a single weapon himself. That hooked me.

Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

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I hate how Marvel numbers some comics as “.1″ sometimes, but setting that complaint aside, this was actually pretty good. I know nothing at all about Guardians of the Galaxy but thanks to this prologue issue I’m now on board to check out what issue #1 will be like. If you like sci-fi then I recommend you give this one a try.

Other great comics that might not be as easy to jump aboard include…

Daredevil End #5

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Marvel Comics

New Reader Friendliness: Low

We’re getting real close to finding out what “Mapone” means and who the new Daredevil could possibly be.

 

X-O Manowar #10

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Valiant Comics

New Reader Friendliness: Low

What could be better than a pissed off Visigoth with the most powerful weapon in the universe going up against a full scale alien invasion in modern times?! TWO PISSED OFF VISIGOTHS. And yes, “Pissed Off Visigoths” is a pretty solid band name. Writer Robert Venditti was recently announced to be taking over for Geoff Johns on DC’s Green Lantern and if you’ve read X-O Manowar you know that Hal Jordan is going to be in good hands.

 

All-New X-Men #7

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Marvel Comics 

New Reader Friendliness: Low

I think Cyclops is one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel universe right now and this issue is a great example of why that is. Mystique makes her first All-New X-Men appearance as well.

Bedlam #4

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Image Comics

New Reader Friendliness: Low

This dark and disturbing comic continues to show off a lot of Batman parallels as the Batman character continues to grill the reformed Joker character all while the real murder continues to escalate his killing spree.

End Times #2

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Image Comics

New Reader Friendliness: Medium

Here’s another funny comic for ya. It’s the story of the world after the rapture and in issue #2 the people are finally coming to terms with what has happened and are beginning to take sides for the upcoming battle of good vs. evil. Evil, of course, is being lead by our protagonists’ slacker roommate.

Saga #10

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Image comics

New Reader Friendliness: Low

You have to have heard about Saga by now. It’s the best.

 

The Black Beetle #2

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Dark Horse

New Reader Friendliness: Medium

Brilliant artwork and a great pulp-feel. It’s like a Batman comic set in the 1940′s, it’s fantastic and worth every penny. Dark horse has a real winner on its hands here and even though there have only been three issues so far (there was a #0 a couple months back) The Black Beetle is quickly becoming a personal favorite of mine.

Indestructible Hulk #4

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Marvel

New Reader Friendliness: Medium

It’s Hulk fighting a bunch of sea monsters. What’s not to love?

Daredevil #23

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Marvel

New Reader Friendliness: Medium

This one might just make your cry. The whole story centers on Matt accompanying Foggy to the doctor’s office to get some test results back. It’s pretty touching stuff.

Thor: God of Thunder #5

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Marvel

New Reader Friendliness: Low

The God Butcher story was supposed to be a 5-parter but even as issue #5 concludes it’s clear that this epic story about Thor’s quest to stop a killer of gods is far, far from over. Easily in the top 5 best illustrated comics today.

 

What were the best comics you read in February?

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