"Harbinger" #7 is the sort of book that at a glance, ends up a little off-putting. But then again, that's keeping in line with the original "Harbinger" if you think about it. Writer Joshua Dysart has Pete Stanchek, Kris Hathaway and Faith Herbert on the run from the Harbinger Foundation and in the process trying to build an army. With the first new recruit being Charlene Dupre, a stripper in New Orleans, he introduces us to a very different character than what readers have seen up until now.
Charlene -- or as we'll no doubt better know her as, Flamingo -- is in many ways the stereotypical battered female character. She's got a boyfriend who beats her, and a past involving additional abuse from both her family and peers. By the time she's become a stripper, she's hit just about every "this is how a woman becomes ground into the dirt" plot beat seen over and over again. It feels a little tired and a little one-note.
It's not until readers take a closer look at the book that it starts to feel like there's a larger purpose or two to Flamingo. The more obvious one is having Flamingo's activation by Pete to serve as a catalyst for Flamingo not just gaining powers but also taking control of her life. Instead of being the one beaten down both figuratively and literally, she's using her abilities and her newfound confidence to strike back at the one currently keeping her down. In terms of personality, Flamingo at the end of "Harbinger" #7 is a completely different character than the one we saw at the start of the issue.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Flamingo also serves as a direct contrast to the two other female characters in "Harbinger." Where Flamingo is battered and beaten down, Faith is exuberant and excitable. Both of them had power activations that unleashed their insides onto their outsides, but Faith's shift seemed to just amplify everything that we already saw, her power bringing to life what she'd wanted from day one. Flamingo's is a much darker transformation, with her power reflecting that shift. Perhaps more importantly, though, Flamingo helps serve as the flip side of Kris. Flamingo (and to a lesser extent Faith) ultimately follows Pete because he's freed her, and she's serving almost blindly. Kris ends up being the manipulator rather than the manipulated (which is a complete shift from the position she was put in at the start of the series), and hearing Kris talk about building an army makes Flamingo's battered, abused past click into place. It's that sort of damaged person that will be easy to recruit, and it casts not just Pete but Kris as well in a darker light.
The art this month is shared between Barry Kitson, Lee Garbett and Khari Evans. The bad news is that these three art styles don't mesh very well; Kitson's art in particular is instantly noticeable in comparison to Garbett and Evans. The good news is that all three artists do turn out good pages. Garbett and Evans have a slightly looser and more elongated style in comparison to Kitson's compact, tightly drawn characters, but there's never any mistaking who's who from one artist to the next. I could have done without some of the more ridiculous drawings of Flamingo's past (the Daisy Duke style cut-off shorts couldn't be any smaller and still stay on, for instance), but all in all it's not bad.
"Harbinger" #7 feels designed to push buttons and make readers feel a little uncomfortable. Since that feels like exactly what Dysart was not only intending to do, but also appears to be part of a much larger picture that makes a point about the two main characters, I'm ultimately on board. I could use without this particular cliché again anytime soon, but for now the purpose behind it makes me willing to let it slide. I'll be back next month.