Valiant Comics has a major release in November 2016 that they've been touting for months as Harbinger Renegades. However, ComicBook.com can today confirm that the real title takes away one very important letter at the end of that teased name, as the book coming November 16, 2016 is actually Harbinger Renegade. The dropping of the plural, which implied the focus was on Peter Stanchek, Faith, Torque, and Kris, is to indicate the real star of this story is the antagonist, a new character named Alexander Solomon. This don't-call-him-a-villain, though he'll definitely be looked at as such by most, is an extremely powerful psiot and disciple of the biggest bad in the Valiant Universe, Toyo Harada. Harbinger Renegade comes from the team of Rafer Roberts and Darick Robertson (with Raul Allen on the first issue), with prologue stories by artist Juan Jose Ryp for the first four issues, and it all leads to Harbinger Wars 2, a 2018 event that will shake up the entire Valiant Universe once more.
"We'd been working on bringing Harbinger [one of their flagship titles] back for a number of years," Valiant Entertainment CEO and CCO Dinesh Shamdasani told ComicBook.com. When the conversation between him and Executive Editor Warren Simons started to include Rafer Roberts, they came to a realization: Harbinger has always been about the villain.
"One of the epiphanies we all had is that right back from the beginning when David Latham, Jim Shooter, and the original Valiant creators would creating the book, their point of view was to name it Harbinger after the villain. As much as anyone, the original Harbinger was Harada's story. That was a big moment for us when we realized that the reason for Harbinger to come back had to be that same point of view," he said.
They decided to play a little game with the title, first calling it Renegades to get people excited about the return of Peter, Kris, Faith, and Torque, and now revealing that while they'll all have major parts to play, the real star is Alexander Solomon, pictured here for the first time in a design sketch from artist Darick Robertson.
"This book is as much about him as it is about the kids, and I think Valiant fans are going to get excited about that," Shamdasani said.
Simons praised the return of Harbinger at the hands of Joshua Dysart and Khari Evans "and a whole host of artists," and said that they wanted to make sure they honored the groundwork they laid with their instant-classic run.
"As we began to develop this we talked about the four we got a bunch of pitches and nothing really clicked until Rafer turned in a terrific pitch and a terrific story that helped re-envision what the book would be. We're not a company that lightly turns over a book until it's ready. Harbinger's been off the map for a couple years at this point in time," Simons said. "We didn't want to just throw a number 1 on there and get it out to the market if we felt like it wasn't ready, if we felt like the story wasn't there."
The key to that story was Solomon, a new villain who was trained by Harada until they betrayed each other, sending Solomon into a hiding he emerges from at the start of this story. With the ability to analyze probabilities to virtually predict the future, Solomon takes futurism to a new level; what he wants to do with that ability is the real question, though.
"A hero is only as good as his antagonist," Simons said, hitting the relationships of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, Neo and Agent Smith, Superman and Lex Luthor, Xavier and Magneto, and others as examples. "Harada is my favorite villain that I've ever worked on," said the veteran editor. Of course, Harada never saw himself as a villain, and Solomon won't either.
"That was a key thing in building who Solomon was. This is an antagonistic force in our universe, at least in this story, but this is a fully developed 3 dimensional character," Shamdasani teased. "What I'm excited for is when the Valiant fans meet him they're going to hear the messaging that we put out there. This is a massive villain that we're creating, that we're putting out there."
Solomon will come in as a mentor of sorts to the young team - who are only just now coming back together as a team, after Kris was left in prison, Peter was meditating in the rings of Saturn, Torque was being a "world-class douche bag" as Simons described on his reality show, and Faith was the only one actually out in the world trying to be a hero.
"It's even larger than mentorship," Shamdasani said. "It, I think, has to do with elements of feeling part of a community or individualism. . Rafer's done such a tremendous job tapping right back into with Alexander Solomon. You'll see from his relationship with Harada, he was someone that Harada recruited, that became a consigliere to Harada, one of his most trusted advisors. They had a relationship that was even beyond mentor and mentee. It was almost a father son relationship. There was a big betrayal that happened and a splintering between the two. There was a very specific reason why Solomon is coming back now. The world events in the Valiant universe are such that Solomon has picked this moment. He's very calculating. That's his ability is to do probability and analysis to try and as accurately as he can predict future events. He's picked this moment to return and to be successful."
If it sounds like he's preparing for some kind of war, you're right - Solomon's story and the story of Harbinger Renegade will lead directly to the 2018 event comic Harbinger Wars 2, and with story arc titles like "Massacre" and "Consequences" being teased, it sounds like you won't have to wait two years for the storyline to progress in major ways.
There's another special element to all of this though - for fans that buy the first four issues of Harbinger Renegade, they'll get a mail away-coupon for a special mail-order giveaway comic: Harbinger Wars 2 #0. Valiant readily admits it's a gimmick promotion, hearkening back to a similar promotion in the original Harbinger in 1992, where a mail-away 6-part coupon let you get the origin of Harada. This one will tell the origin of Solomon and reveal some of what his plan is that leads into Harbinger Wars 2.0comments
"The secret sauce to Valiant is the bigger the gimmick, the more excited we are about the story," Shamdasani said of their use. "The more confident we are that the creative team got there and that book is going to awesome, [the crazier the gimmick]."
Harbinger Renegade kicks off next month, and leads directly to Harbinger Wars 2 in 2018. Read an exclusive preview, plus see some of the direct pencil art and the Harbinger Wars 2 teaser, in the gallery below.