Spotlight: Thanksgiving Special Valiant’s The Fall of Harbinger

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Today, I will be taking a look at a book and series that I am super thankful for. Our main focus will be on Book of Death The Fall of Harbinger.

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Full disclosure, I was a bit leary of the idea of having futuristic endings of the Valiant characters in a storyline when I first heard about Book of Death.  But the truth is that seeing another story of Harbinger, even one that promises the potential demise of Pete Stanchek, had me excited for this issue.

And you know what? The creative team crushed it on this issue. They have delivered a stellar read that even addressed some of the concerns I had with the whole Book of Death concept.

The best place to start with this spotlight is with the writer, Joshua Dysart. The reason we start here is that Dysart has been the writer for the entire run of Harbinger under Valiant Entertainment.

The development and care he has shown for these characters and concepts really show in this issue as a sort of beautiful swan song. After all, this is how these characters go out. Isn’t it?

The writing is the constant that ties this story to all that comes before it, but it wouldn’t be such a beautiful work without the art of Kano. And man does this guy contribute. It looks like he pencils, inks, and colors the entire issue based on the creator page.

In that span of story, Kano’s art bounces back and forth between various points in the characters” lives and really sells the drama and the tension of the story. The use of color for some of the more cosmic scenes are both beautiful while showing the terror of what’s headed for Earth.

The final component of the team is the lettering of Dave Lanphear, which is expertly done. Everything in the issue reads clearly. It also looks great and without his efforts, a lot would be lost in the climax of the story. As this is a story about characters with mental abilities, there are times where we need to see what they are thinking.

At the end of the day, this is a wonderful issue and has won me over on the Book of Death concept. This story does what most comics don’t but probably should do. It ends. As much as we may hate it when things end, it really allows us to remember the characters and the stories we loved. We look back with fondness while reading their last moments.

While I do tend to avoid giving spoilers, it is worth noting that when you pick this up (if you haven’t you should), the idea of endings (yes, more than 1) is addressed in the book’s climax. It’s at this point that a whole slew of possibilities are opened up to the reader on where future Harbinger stories might go.

So pick this book up with the highest recommendation I could possibly give. If you haven’t done it read Harbinger and read Imperium as well. Why? Because Joshua Dysart and artists like Kano have made the books associated with Harbinger characters a master class in comic book storytelling.

They have consistently put out one of the best books on the shelves, and I can’t think of any other book that can top that. So go now. Buy the books. You can come back and thank me in the comments later.

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Black Knight 1 Spotlight: Did Dane Whitman Pull the Wrong Sword

Last month I expressed my love for the character of Black Knight. And just as I once followed him on his adventures to the Ultraverse (that’s a deep cut for any younger fans), I’ve also followed his adventures to the new Weirdworld setting in All New All Different Marvel.

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Eric Powell Cover

So what is the deal with Dane Whitman? Well this issue is an ideal jumping on point as a couple of pages gives you a brief history of the Black Knight of Marvel. Frank Tieri using the narrative device of the Black Knight chronicling his origins and current status on a tape recorder which allows new readers to see where he started, insight into the Ebony Blade, and allows the action to progress without any jarring exposition.

Well done.

For his part on art duties, Luca Pizzari shows off the new duds that our hero is sporting and it looks quite badass in the sword and sorcery setting of the issue. He also manages to put a nice spin on a very Obi-Wan style character for Dane in the form of his ancestor Sir Percy of Scandia.

And as far as which Obi-Wan, Tieri writes this as the dickish “from a certain point of view,” really not that helpful spirit guide. Which should lead to fun interactions within the series, since Dane already seems tired of his ghost ancestor’s nagging.

This series has helped me realize that you can’t trust old wizards. As my title points out, the all powerful Merlin might be the biggest dick of all. Sir Percy was the first of Dane’s lineage to carry the Ebony Blade and mantle of the Black Knight during King Arthur’s reign. As Dane points out for new readers, yes he means that King Arthur.

What do we know of Arthur? Merlin guided him. He became king and was able to wield Excalibur, an enchanted and powerful sword. And this is where Merlin is a dick because Arthur gets a sword and is king and here is how the conversation with Percy must have gone:

“Hey Percy take this enchanted weapon the Ebony Blade. Unlike Excalibur, this sword has an unquenchable thirst for blood and will make you and your bloodline addicted to its power. P.S. it will also drive you mad and be your undoing. Merlin out!”

So yeah, maybe it isn’t the greatest weapon to have by your side, but in this issue alone it shows how cool its power can be and the benefits it bestows on Dane.

The whole team is doing a great job of world building from creating supporting characters for our hero to creating the actual Weirdworld setting. Aiding in this task are the tremendous colors of Antonio Fabela. His muted pallet really creates a dark ages type of atmosphere. The colors help create a perfect scene of when Dane stumbles across something else that was dumped in this realm. Fabela enhances the scene to make it look both haunting and beautiful.

Joe Sabino is the last component providing lettering that is clear to read and does not interfere with the art. His choices on the word balloons really sell the dialogue and the captions are especially important when detailing the character’s history.

All in all this is a fantastic issue that ends on a cliffhanger that leaves me dying to see what comes next. Eagle-eyed readers may notice a character at the end who I believe appeared previously in Tieri’s Original Sins 2.

Do yourself a favor and add this to your pull list. There won’t be another book like this in stores. Whether you are a Black Knight fan or not this story should suck you in and appeal to fans of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones for that sword and sorcery feel. As Tieri mentioned this may also appeal to Breaking Bad fans as the hero is addicted to his cursed sword and seems to be willing to give anything to hold onto it.

Before I close out, I have to mention that this series is also blessed with beautiful covers that really make it stick out on the shelf.

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Julian Totino Tedesco Cover

COC Spotlight: Don’t Pass on The Mantle

I just recently finished reading issue 5 of The Mantle, which was put out by Ed Brisson and Brian Level through Image Comics. This book deserves a spotlight for a number of reasons.

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One of the things that really piqued my interest in this title and made me pre-order this book is that it is the first superhero comic I’ve seen from writer Ed Brisson. I had previously enjoyed his Image series Comeback and have heard good things about sheltered as well so I thought I’d see how he wrote a superhero tale.

While I am not too familiar with Brian Level’s art, the previews that were released before issue 1 came out looked amazing. Throughout the series he often shows a few different styles to differentiate the different time periods of the wielders of the Mantle.

This story and the title relate to the idea that before issue 1, there have been various people with the power of the Mantle. This power has been transferring from host to host for decades and needs a new host when the previous wielder dies.

Unfortunately, we find out that none of the previous Mantles died of natural causes. In fact each new Mantle not only receives incredible power limited only by their imagination, they also receive a nemesis called the Plague who can find them anywhere and has a sole purpose of killing each new hero.

Bummer.

Luckily, each new Mantle is clued into their new status by a group of super humans who possess their own unique skills that pale in comparison to the Plagues super strength and ability to decay things. Their only way to fight back against this incredible foe is to prepare the new hero for the coming battle.

At the times where we see flashbacks Level’s art really shines in depicting comic book styles that were prevalent in the time periods depicted. From golden age to silver age to nineties style, he really captures the era.

The fight scenes are energetic and the smaller character moments really shine and do an amazing job of depicting our heroes’ plight.

One part of the creative team I have yet to mention is Jordan Boyd. His colors enhance Brian Level’s ability to tell the story and enrich every scene especially the ones that are other worldly in nature. His colors often perfectly set the mood and helped me to really experience the atmosphere and emotions of our heroes.

His work is the finishing touches on a beautiful product.

So what is the verdict on Brisson’s first superhero series?

In one word amazing! These first 5 issues show great world and character building that makes me want to pre-order any other tales that this team sets in this universe.

One character, Necra, opens up a terrific landscape where the current Mantle can meet with all that came before. This was a highlight of the series for me and a wonderful concept. While the Mantle is the title character, I would love to see more stories showing the history of the team that seeks out and aids each new wielder.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. There are twists in the story that you won’t find from most publishers as well as some brutal moments. I tried to remain as spoiler free as possible because you really need to experience this story.

If you missed these issues in floppies and your LCS doesn’t have any on the shelf, make sure to pre-order the trade. You won’t be disappointed and I’m sure that you will be just as interested as I am for future stories of these characters.

Buy the trade. Put it on your mantle. This is a work of art by a team that meshed perfectly to bring you this story.

COC Spotlight: Battling Boy and the Fall of the West

Where do I begin with this very special Creator-owned Comics Spotlight? I think that I’ll start out by gushing over my love of the Battling Boy universe that Paul Pope has created. The story is incredibly fun and has more of a pulp vibe than your usual superhero comics.

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This story started with a one-shot featuring the death of Haggard West that was played up as the final issue of a long-time ongoing series. This was a clever way to promote the Battling Boy graphic novel and the character of Haggard West has influenced the whole series to this point.

The story has spun off from the first Battling Boy title to give back story to the character of Aurora West. She appears as a second protagonist in Battling Boy as well as being the daughter of Haggard West who was trained her whole life to take over hero duties for her father.

Her story started with the pocket sized graphic novel, The Rise of Aurora West. This story established that Aurora had begun to use her father’s training to look into the death of her mother, Rosetta.

This story continues this week in the Fall of the House of West written by Paul Pope, JT Petty with art by David Rubin. It is worth mentioning that the book is in black and white and that the art is perfectly suited for the world established in Battling Boy.

The characters are all expressive and depicted in a way that is visually distinctive. It sometimes reminds me of the art in Chew and it is refreshing to see a young woman like Aurora looking like a teenager instead of a smaller version of adult super heroines.

While David Rubin is doing an incredible job on art, JT Petty is working with Paul Pope on crafting this backstory for Aurora. The writing is incredible and helps to dig deep into the mystery that plagues our main character. Who killed Rosetta West.

The writing and art also work well together to paint a picture of what Haggard West was like in life and his inability to deal with the death of his wife. It also shows us that despite training his daughter to be a hero, the loss of his wife pushes him to be over protective of his daughter.

I don’t want to spoil this story as I think it deserves to be read and experienced, but I will say that this story looks at what it takes to be a hero and the lies we tell ourselves and others to avoid harsh truths. It also shows the difference between two generations of heroes in our father/daughter duo.

At the end of the day, the two Aurora West books depict a tale of the heroes journey while also setting up and solving a mystery. The story does pay off the mystery set up in the first book so I recommend picking them both up at your LCS or through an online service like DCBS or instocktrades.

If you can track down the Haggard West one-shot and get a copy of Battling Boy it will likely increase your enjoyment of the Aurora West books, but I don’t believe they are necessary. However, I recommend at least picking up Battling Boy since there will be a new book at some point showing the continuation of that story as opposed to these prequels.

That’s it for this spotlight, but more will be coming as I will try to have a new post up each week by Thursday at the latest. Thank you and feel free to message me with any books you would like to see get the spotlight.