Whenever a book has a "The Death of" story, there's an understandable amount of caution. Is this just a gimmicky way to lure readers back into the series? Will the death have any actual significance? Will the development even last? Thankfully, Joshua Dysart's latest HARBINGER story doesn't feel like a simple ploy to reel in new fans. In fact, it feels like something that's been brewing for quite some time and you really should experience the other stories for the full impact. To top it off, you can't help but love the blunt solicitation: Dead. Means. Dead. The death scene itself is intense and, believe it or not, it's not even saved for the cliffhanger. This big moment isn't reserved for a final splash page and the entire plot doesn't revolve around it. Something absolutely terrible happens and the group realizes the mission must go on. It's what said person would probably want, after all.
If the goal was to make Toyo Harada an even bigger badass, then mission accomplished. How Toyo crosses the large distance is ridiculously cool and the art team makes it a hugely cinematic experience. Without giving it away, I'll just say you can practically feel the force behind his actions. And then when Toyo finally squares off with Peter Stanchek? Awesome. We only receive glimpses of it here and there, but they're completely epic and loaded with impactful character work.
Aside from the now deceased character, I'm loving how Dysart's able to juggle the cast so well. No character really feels cast aside in this story and each of them get a chance to shine -- be it though their personality or unique power. And, speaking of unique powers, I'm so happy to see Animalia is getting a fair amount of attention. While the fallen Renegade didn't receive too much focus in this latest story, there is a back-up which takes you way back to when the character first entered the book. It's a nice trip down memory lane and, if said character's death got your feelings going, then this look at their personality is certain to make you really miss them.
Clayton Henry and Brian Reber's pages are delightfully engrossing. They're able to capture the energy of each scene perfectly. The sequence leading up to the death flows so well and then they hit you with the tragic and brutal aftermath. There's even a close-up panel added in the end to let the moment really sink in. And, as already said above, the looks at Peter vs. Toyo are seriously fierce. From the strong expressions on their faces to the vivid displays of power and how it damages the world around them, no panel comes off as even slightly rushed and each one is framed so you can fully appreciate all of the madness that's going on.
HARBINGER's hit us with some massively emotional moments so far (a certain scene with a skateboard comes to mind). Unfortunately, the death of a teammate didn't really get my emotions flowing all that much. Visually, it's a gripping scene, but, just like I said in "The Good" it occurs and then everyone -- including the reader -- has to deal in their own way while moving forward. I have a feeling the strongest bits of emotion will happen in the issues to come, but as of right now, this just didn't pack quite the same kind of emotional punch as the other big moments from the excellent series.
HARBINGER once again proves it's a very well-written and thoroughly exciting series. The conflict between team Toyo and team Peter is massively satisfying and it leaves you beyond anxious to see what'll happen next. Yes, the big death didn't tug at my heart as much as it could have, but this is still an incredibly compelling story with consistently impressive visuals.