Rafer Roberts in Artists’ Alley at Awesome Con

Rafer RobertsLast month, Valiant announced a slate of new titles for the second half 2016, one of which was Harbinger Renegades. The Renegades have deep ties to both iterations of the Valiant Universe; it was hardly surprising that they were included among the initial titles the revived Valiant debuted. Since their previous series Harbinger ended, Harbinger writer Joshua Dysart has been focused on Imperium and Toyo Harada, leaving the Renegades free for other creators. For her part, Faith has found success in her recent solo series written by Jody Houser. This fall, though, the Renegades will be back as a team, staring in a book written by Rafer Roberts. Roberts is an emerging creator with experience at Valiant, where he has been doing a fantastic job scripting the current Archer & Armstrong title. However, the Renegades under Dysart had a very different tone than Archer & Armstrong, less wacky, more socially engaged. During the recent Awesome Con in Washington DC, I stopped by Roberts’ booth in Artists Alley and spoke briefly with him about how he was approaching the series.

Roberts started out by saying that he could not help but bring his own voice to the title. So, yes, Renegades would contain some of the same zany energy which is found in Archer & Armstrong. As he explained it, superheroes are surreal by their nature and it is no good pretending otherwise. Stripping away any sense of fun by being 100% serious is harmful. You end up with something that resembles much of the New 52’s output. Instead creators should embrace the absurd. Now this does not mean that comics need or should avoid relevance. Roberts said that he would continue Dysart’s practice of exploring social issues in comics, if in his own way. He cited the example of Steve Gerber who used absurd humor in titles such as The Defenders or Howard the Duck to satirize culture.

Harbinger Renegades 1 Darick Robertson
Darick Robertson

In light of this, I asked Roberts if readers would see the Renagades setting their sights on their old adversary Harada in the near future. Roberts answered that they would be no in hurry to refight that battle. In Harbinger, they were motivated by idealism to take down Harada, and they failed. They might have dismantled his Harbinger Foundation but the man himself was unscathed. In fact, as readers of Imperium know, Harada has only become more motivated to reshape the world according to his own ideals. Meanwhile, when the Renegades exposed Harada’s secrets to the world, they made public a large amount of advanced scientific research. Now instead worrying about how Harada’s highly trained scientists might use psiot technology in a lab, they need to be concerned about how an arm-chair expert employs it in their garage. Their attention is not shifting away from the common good, as much as their focus is changing. They will concentrate less on the bigger picture and more on the average person trying to get by. Let X-O Manowar fight the Vine armada; the Renegades will assist the person whose car was smashed by falling debris.

Altogether, it sounds like Roberts has a very good feel for these characters and where to take them next. After speaking with him, I have raised my level of expectation for the new series.

Cheers

Harbinger Renegades #1 debuts in November. The latest issue of The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong (#4) is available now.

Disclosure: Publisher Valiant provides review copies of their titles to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.

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