HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 does not follow the series' normal plot points, but it succeeds as a solid medieval fantasy one-shot.
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A Different Story
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HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 is a compelling book on its own, but it is even more interesting once the reader realizes how it fits into the rest of the series. The comic has had a strange beginning in its most recent arc. It introduced plot threads that seemingly are set aside until later issues. The last issue did not feature the namesake Harbinger superhero team at all. Instead, it detailed a battle between the H.A.R.D. Corps and the Generation Zero kids. This issue oddly features neither of these stories. Instead, writer Rafer Roberts and artist Juan Rosé Ryp tease a new adventure that takes us back the beginning of the Valiant Universe. While this story may seem unpolished, it actually works in HARBINGER RENEGADE #6’s favor. Both the subject matter and the actual form of the comic create a compelling mystery.

Ancient Psiots

The story takes place in 1097, where an order of religious knights, The Brotherhood of Cuth, is hunting what they think is a demon king. However, as we savvy present-day Valiant fans will immediately recognize, the villain in question is a psiot (a psychic mutant and mainstay of the Valiant Universe). We are taken through an exciting battle, culminating in a final face-off between some unlucky knights and a crazed, super-powered demon.

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Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Without any knowledge of the Valiant Universe, a reader would think this is just a pretty good sword and sorcery epic. As a straightforward fantasy story, it is fine and hits all the necessary beats. However, there is nothing particularly Valiant-y or RENEGADE-ish to connect us to the ongoing series. Despite this semi-confusing shake up, Roberts’ writing succeeds on two fronts. First, on its own, it is a pretty solid fantasy story. Again, HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 has knights, brutal battles, and a demon king (all nice pieces of the puzzle, which as of now is still unknown).

Secondly, it’s fascinating to guess how this random medieval fantasy is going to fit into the ongoing RENEGADE story. I spent my entire reading of this issue looking for Easter Eggs and connections to the ongoing series. While some fans may not enjoy this I SPY type of comic storytelling, I thought that it added another experiential layer to the comic. Truthfully though, even by the end of the issue, I was unable to find a strong thread that connected this to the ongoing HARBINGER story. Despite being unable to reach a clear cut conclusion as to how this issue works into the greater universe, it was still a fun ride.

Sir Gerald of Catalonia

The story is told through the eyes of the Knights’ leader, Sir Gerald of Catalonia. Roberts does not give us much to grasp onto in terms of Gerald’s character. He is a brave, skilled knight through and through — and that’s all. Most of the issue is told in huge chunks of narrative exposition in big green boxes. It is the equivalent of reading a Wikipedia history article. Not much of Gerald’s flavor gets drizzled onto the storytelling. Roberts would benefit from telling the story a little more from Gerald’s point of view.

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Alpha, the demon king villain, is visually stunning. He looks like a cool cross between HE-MAN’s Skeletor and THE FANTASTIC FOUR’s Dr. Doom. Alpha is the type of cackling one-dimensional villain that makes great fantasy comics. He is so mainstream and over-the-top in his cartoonish villainy that he almost feels out of place. It’s a goofy thrill to watch such a heavy-handedly evil villain hack his enemies to death with Ryp’s incredible ability to portray gruesome violence. However, in terms of the greater Valiant Universe, he feels a little too removed. Again, this comic is more a classic fantasy than classic Valiant.

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Battle After Battle

HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 is at its best when Ryp is rendering his highly detailed battle scenes. Ryp continues to be the king of depicting grand hack and slash action, with a realistic fidelity that is disgusting in the best way. There is no shortage of blood and guts in this comic. There is a real sense of weight to the battle scenes. This adds a layer of emotional weight to some of the drier, exposition heavy scenes.

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Ryp has a way of packing in a great deal of emotion into each panel. Despite the sparse dialogue, we get a feel for the various warriors’ fears, furies, and tacts. When Ryp draws a battle, he doesn’t portray the warring soldiers as just a gaggle of blank faced action figures. Instead, we receive a wide array of three-dimension, feeling soldiers. Despite the vast numbers, their facial expressions and body language are windows into their individuality.

Final Thoughts on HARBINGER RENEGADE #6

HARBINGER RENEGADE #6 veers off the rails from the series’ normal team-based subject matter. However, the issue succeeds as a straight forward adventure fantasy comic in its own right. Ryp’s art and villain design alone are both well worth the price of this book. Roberts has crafted a nice widespread mystery, and it will be interesting to see how he fleshes out and interconnects this tale with the greater HARBINGER story.

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