By: Joshua Dysart, Duane Swierczynski (Writers), Clayton Henry (Artist), Brian Reber (Colorist)

The Story: Bloodshot heals from his encounter with Toyo Harada, while the Renegades arrive in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, so does H.A.R.D corps…

The Review: I am a bit torn with this issue. In many ways, it does a lot of things really well, which does bode good things for the Valiant universe in terms of quality, yet it also does some mistakes that bring some scenes down in term of pure enjoyment.

Beginning with the good stuff, I can fairly say that Joshua Dysart brings his great characterization from Harbinger here. With the issue heavily featuring the Renegades, each of them brings with them their unique voice that makes them fun to follow, with Peter being always so torn with what he should do or Faith always being the optimistic and cheerful one. He even brings some good characterization to the new characters introduced that are parts of the H.A.R.D corps, which makes them a lot more interesting to follow.

A lot of these characterization pass through the dialogue, which is excellent. There is a good balance between humor, exposition and character depth that show the seriousness of the plot, yet without making it too dark. Whether it’s the new character Shakespeare throwing existential and poetic lines or Bloodshot reacting sarcastically to the chaos happening around him with the psiot children, both Swierczinsky and Dysart makes this easy and fun to follow.

As fun some of the scenes are, a lot of what makes this issue good is the action and the gravitas around it. When H.A.R.D corps arrives in Vegas, you can see quite quickly why they had been called to solve this situation and how they will deal with those out-of-control kids with superpowers. It’s a rather harsh scene, yet it does drive home the fact that what is happening is not just a silly little conflict without any repercussions and that this is how it would perhaps happen in a more realistic setting.

The pseudo-realism of the Valiant universe is also brought home in several scenes as well, whether when Bloodshot needs to ingest proteins to activate his nanites, how it hurts when the H.A.R.D corps members reactivates their machinery in their brain or how a military operation would react to such dangerous children. We also get some more explanation about how the various powers work in scientific terms, which really reinforce one of the key differences of the Valiant universe. While realism can sometime be seen as a burden rather than strength in some stories, it does help here by bringing a certain sense of dread and importance in some key moments. It is that very importance that makes this crossover successful so far as I do believe that events here will actually alter how both the series involved won’t be the same after the last issue of Harbinger Wars.

However, the big weakness of this issue would be the pacing, as it takes a good number of pages before we reach the actually interesting parts of the issue, where these aforementioned parts really shine. There are a lot of pages attributed to connecting several of the plot points and some of the characters together without bringing any excitement or any entertaining or important point for the reader to latch onto. In short, there’s a lot of build-up to these big scenes that move us away from the interesting concepts and characters. It makes sense for them to be here, yet they feel obligatory rather than fun, which is not exactly the best way to go when trying to give some exposition to the readers.

Still, as much as the pacing may be off, we have to be thankful for Clayton Henry’s work here. What he does is help a lot of the characterization of Dysart and Swierczynski thanks to his large repertory of facial expressions. Thanks to the poses, the faces and many other elements, he is able to bring home many of the emotional inputs the script is trying to bring across. The action also benefits from this talent, as the impact of several key happenings in this issue is quite high thanks to his choice of panelling and his artistic pacing.

As good as an artist he is, a lot of the tone is achieved by Brian Reber, thanks to his colorization. Using a lot of somber tones and degradation toward that particular effect, he does convince us that this is not exactly a light type of story. Working in tandem with everyone, he brings the weirder aspect of some of these powers and the repercussions of several of the action with his palette.

The Conclusion: While it may have some severe pacing issues, this issue nonetheless brings some great characterization, dialogue and a good art team with Henry and Reber doing their stuff quite well in accordance to the tone set by Dysart and Swierczynski.

Grade: B

Hugo Robberts Larivière