The Harbinger #4 is written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez, colored by Rico Renzi, and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. It is published by Valiant Entertainment. The finale of “Be Better” pits Peter Stanchek—clad in his new “Harbinger” gear—against the demonic version of himself, calling itself the “Renegade.” In the process, the mystery behind Peter’s mind wipe is finally revealed, with the Harbinger gaining new allies and new enemies alike.
This issue features some of the most inventive artwork that Rodriguez and Renzi have put on the page, and considering what’s happened in previous issues, that’s saying something. Renzi draws images that are literally mind-melting, especially when it comes to the Renegade; after he woke up, the wave of psychic feedback burned him alive, resulting in his horrific visage. More action sequences feature Harbinger and Renegade battling against each other, as they literally punch through panels. During the battle, panels even crash into each other, representing the chaos swirling within Peter’s mind. Comics have often been described by creators as having an “unlimited budget” compared to film and television, at least when it comes to visuals, and Rodriguez seems ready to put that adage to the test.
So do Renzi and Otsmane-Elhaou. Renzi beautifully blends a mix of colors, with pink and blue being the most prominent as the respective psychic energy of Renegade and Harbinger. Yellow also takes center stage, representing the psionic energy both characters utilize. And Otsmane-Elhaou doesn’t keep the words confined to speech bubbles—they spill out, surrounding characters, and even doubling in size. The phrase “Be Better” also shows up in the background, burning white-hot and serving as a reminder of Peter’s new mission.
Great art means nothing without a great story, and thankfully Jackson and Lanzing are up to that challenge. Jackson and Lanzing are making a name for themselves in the comic book world. From their work on characters including Kang the Conqueror and Batman Beyond, they have a clear grasp of what makes the character they write tick and how to push them in new directions. Throughout this story arc, they’ve made it perfectly clear that Peter doesn’t have a clean slate; he has to work to correct his mistakes. That ethos is front and center in this issue, as Harbinger’s actions have drawn new enemies out of the woodwork, but he’s also inspired others to take up his mission.
Finally, the issue ends with a preview for a new Valiant series titled Armorclads by JJ O’Connor, Brian Buccellato, and Manuel Garcia. The concept features genetically enhanced workers using bleeding-edge mechsuits to start a revolution, which sounds right up my alley. Valiant’s pushed the boundaries of superhero and science fiction storytelling with its characters, and Armorclads looks like it’ll continue that tradition. I can’t wait to read it.
The Harbinger #4 delivers mind-melting artwork combined with an emotionally taxing story as the series’ first story arc comes to an end. However, the next issue promises the return of a fan-favorite hero, and I definitely look forward to seeing where this creative team takes things.
The Harbinger #4 is available January 26, 2022 wherever comics are sold.
The Harbinger #4
The Harbinger #4 delivers mind-melting artwork combined with an emotionally taxing story as the series’ first story arc comes to an end.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.