The theme of loss is something that has hovered over "Harbinger" since the launch of the book -- loss of identity, loss of family, loss of home. Valiant pushed the marketing pedal hard for this issue, advertising the death of a Renegade, and adding loss of life as another twig in the growing pile. The loss we get is sudden and tragic, coming early in the story and adds a new wrinkle to Pete Stanchek's narrative -- in his effort to stop Toyo Harada, who would go to any lengths to promote his own agenda, is Pete becoming the thing he hates?
In Pittsburgh, Pete stands over the destruction of Harada's world headquarters, waiting for the man himself to appear, only to reveal the true plan was to destroy and steal Harada's data from his servers a continent away. While he handles the Final Boss Fight, Zephyr, Torque and Flamingo ward off the foundation's army of psiots in order to keep Pete's meeting a private jam session. This leads to an ugly moment where Zephyr is pulled out of a building by Ion, only for Flamingo to jump out after them and pay for Zephyr's life with her own.
Was it worth it? Writer Joshua Dysart posits this question quickly as the Renegades are close to their goal but aren't even afforded the opportunity to mourn their friend. Pete has them hip-deep in shark infested waters and they have to push forward as if nothing has happened. Kris, feeling the loss from Los Angeles, struggles to maintain the data raid as she stuffs down her emotions to maintain her own focus. As Dysart has built the narrative in this book, he has allowed the pile of mistakes the Renegades have built to rise into a pyre. It doesn't seem like Pete is aware of how he is pushing his friends and how similar his tactics are becoming to Harada's own. To destroy what he perceives as evil, Pete is beginning to find the same methods and outcomes as acceptable as Harada has over the years. Perhaps he could adopt the code name "Tunnel Vision," because it's looking like that is his true gift.
Clayton Henry and Khari Evans turn in solid work. This is becoming Valiant house style, so if you're familiar with any of their other offerings you can expect the same here. It's good stuff, tells the story clearly, and moves the action forward.
I get a feeling that while this was marketed as a major event in the lives of these teens, it's actually just the latest step down a dark path. We end the issue with Pete rocketing towards Harada, bent on destruction. Zephyr and Torque slink away, the body of their fallen friend in tow. Kris and @x now have possession of Harada's entire database. But what comes next and is it worth it? And if Pete gets what he wants, and justifies the means, what loss then becomes accessible if the stakes are higher next time?
Flamingo's death is heroic but foolish. She leapt in without thinking, empowered as she was by her bond with her friends. Were her actions necessary? Ion would have splattered on Liberty Avenue before Zephyr, releasing his hold and allowing her to regain her levitation field, which she seems to quickly do anyway. Zephyr and Torque are now burdened with the knowledge that their friend died to save them. Pete, who activated Flamingo's psiot ability and her self-worth, led her towards a life that looked like it allowed her more control over her own destiny. Instead she gives her life in service to Pete's agenda. She now becomes a martyr to the cause, a rallying point as seen by Kris' spray paint tag on the server farm. Whether she serves the Renegades better that way remains to be seen. When the dust settles there will be some real soul searching to do in this comic book, and the answers these kids find will decide whether this new loss gains them anything at all.