Telepath Wars

Harbinger Wars: written by Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski, illustrated by Clayton Henry, Clayton Crain, Pere Perez, Mico Suayan, Khari Evans, Trevor Hairsine, and Barry Kitson (2013): Writers Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski do a fine job here on the reborn Valiant comics line’s first multiple-title crossover event. The crossover is sharp and limited in focus, representing as it does one battle among many already fought and many more to come.

In just a year of issues, Dysart has turned the Harbinger title into something that actually is a superhero comic for adults. Powerful telepaths with as assortment of powers (dubbed ‘psiots’ here) and humans seeking technological weapons to use against those psiots have been battling secretly for much of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The powers are outlandish but not ridiculous, and there’s an urgent morality to the proceedings, along with a lack of clear-cut answers.

Another nice thing about Harbinger, Bloodsport, and this crossover is that pretty much everyone involved thinks he or she is the good guy. Harada, the aging super-telepath whose Harbinger Foundation educates young psiots, wants to make the world into a utopia. But he’s also a manipulative, fascist prick for whom the ends always justify the means. Peter Stanchek, the renegade psiot who is Harada’s only rival in power, has done terrible things in the past, and in this series is clearly in over his head in terms of battle strategy and tactics. Bloodsport believes he’s overcome his programming so that he can now help psiots escape both Harada and the non-telepathic arms manufacturer Operation Rising Spirit, but he may still be a pawn of various forces, his hard-won free will only an illusion. Or a delusion.

In any case, these 12 issues thrill, chill, and are heavy on the spills. The battle scenes carry real weight, involving as they do characters we care about in truly dangerous situations. It’s a book where anyone could die at any moment. But there’s also hope here, and an ultimately anti-cynical take on real heroism. Peter Stanchek and Bloodsport may not entirely know what they’re doing, but they are doing it for the right reasons — but as the old existential thought-experiment notes, that doesn’t ensure that the results will be positive. Highly recommended.

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