Exclusive: Joshua Dysart Wraps ‘Harbinger Wars’

[SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains major spoilers for the end of “Harbinger Wars.”]

As Valiant Entertainment continues its second year of publishing, there’s a brave new world for “Harbinger” and “Bloodshot” — due in large part to the conclusion of Joshua Dysart and Duane Swierczynski’s “Harbinger Wars” crossover this week. As Valiant’s first crossover event, the miniseries brought a number of new revelations to the table, including new characters like Cronus and his Generation Zero psiots and the introduction of Major Charlie Palmer and his H.A.R.D. Corps. Not only did new concepts and ideas come to light in “Harbinger Wars,” the miniseries also advanced both Peter Stanchek’s Renegades and Bloodshot to the global stage in a very public battle within the borders of Las Vegas.

In order to better understand the fallout of “Harbinger Wars” and how it affects the future of the Valiant Universe moving forward, CBR News spoke with Valiant-exclusive writer Joshua Dysart to discuss both “Harbinger” and his role as co-writer on “Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps,” the shifting status quo for both series’ second year, what’s going on with Project Rising Spirit and more.

CBR News: Josh, let’s talk about the consequences of “Harbinger Wars” — a whole lot happened in this story and as a result there are a lot more pieces in play on the Valiant chessboard. Starting with your own title, “Harbinger,” how will a whole cadre of Psiots added to the Harbinger Foundation affect the Renegades’ existence?

Joshua Dysart: Obviously, profoundly in the long run. Basically what we’ve done is completely flesh out the Valiant Universe with its first real full battery of titles that weren’t from the original Valiant. They’re now free to play wherever they need to play, and that will absolutely have an effect on Peter and the Renegades. That’s what we wanted to do on every level with “Harbinger Wars.” We wanted to make sure we created an event that changed the Universe in interesting ways, because that’s always something that’s promised, but rarely fully delivered on. Not only will “Harbinger” be deeply affected by the flooding of the new Psiots into the world, but also by the conflict itself. Also, “Bloodshot” is deeply affected as you can already tell by the title change.

One of the most prominent characters you and Duane Swierczynski introduced in this arc was Chronos and his team of Generation Zero kids. How big a role are these characters going to play in the Valiant Universe moving forward?

I think in the long run, they’re going to play a large part. This is one of the cool things about this book — “Harbinger” is ultimately about long game and “Harbinger Wars” was about perpetual war and escalating conflict. We have the single creative team behind the conception — we have [editor] Warren Simons and myself. We have a lot of time and a lot of room to play with this stuff because we both plan on being on the book for a long period of time. So you might not see immediately Generation Zero affect the events in “Harbinger,” but guaranteed over time, they’re going to have a very powerful spot in the universe. If I told you exactly how that would happen, it would kind of take out the fun of it — but they’re definitely part of the mix now. One thing you see at the end of “Harbinger Wars” is we totally deliver a fully-realized story but at the same time, that final narrative beat — because this is something that is ultimately about perpetual conflict and perpetual war, which is why we had the flashbacks in “Harbinger” — isn’t going to happen for some time. We’ve got a long game on the book and it’s going to be the same creative team for a long time. These Generation Zero kids are in the mix, ultimately, for as long as the Valiant Universe works.

“Harbinger Wars: introduced a great number of new concepts to the new Valiant Universe, including Hive and Astral, who both had an intriguing tease at the end of issue #4. What kind of plans do you have for those characters moving forward? Why keep them out of play from the Harbinger Foundation?

I think narratively, they’re more interesting [off the board]. I tried to put each character in a place that’s going to be most interesting going forward for that character. Chronos is interesting as a prisoner of war. That’s what’s interesting about him because he’s a soldier and he’s a soldier with no real master. He’s at his best when he’s a prisoner of war. He can’t be a prisoner forever, so we can expect some really interesting narratives about how he responds to being Harada’s prisoner or ward or mentee or however his relationship progresses. And then you’ve got the children under him. We’ve got a few characters where even though you’ve finished reading “Harbinger Wars,” you don’t really know where they ended up. I put them all in places that I think are very interesting for them. What’s most interesting for Hive and Astral and — it’s an unholy trinity, because inside of Hive there are many personalities. The most dominant is the Chinese viral consciousness. What’s interesting to me about them is they’re out in the world, wandering around, trying to make it. Hive is not a strong person because psychologically, he’s been worn down by all these personalities and psyches that he’s absorbed. He’s caring for a little girl’s consciousness — a little girl who can leave his body, move around and come back. And he’s got this extremely aggressive Chinese viral consciousness in him. To me, that’s not interesting when we put that group in a cage. That’s interesting when they’re out in the world, wandering around, trying to figure out how to live. Ultimately, I just tried to put each character in a place that going forward will be the most interesting thing to do with that character.

In that case, let’s talk about Major Charlie Palmer, who’s been teased to have a large role in the Valiant Universe moving forward. Can you tell us a bit about how you plan to reintegrate him into the Valiant Universe following “Harbinger Wars?”

It’s no secret that “Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps” is coming out and it’s no secret that Christos Gage is writing it and I’m on board to keep everything really in sync with what we’re doing in the larger Valiant Universe — or at least this corner of it. The nature of Palmer’s character is to be an exceptional soldier who really doesn’t want to do it. That’s a pretty common type of character, but I think it’s really an interesting one. Obviously, what we’re going to do with Palmer is put him into perpetual warfare, and that’s what we’re going to do with “Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps” going forward. If you really think about this title and how interesting it can be — under Duane’s very capable writing, Bloodshot has spent over a year searching for his identity and his sense of self and really being against everything that Project Rising Spirit made him do. The idea is we’re going to somehow get these characters — H.A.R.D. Corps and Bloodshot — together and they’re going to be working for Project Rising Spirit. After all that Duane has done, that should have some cognitive dissonance to it. I think that’s where the real energy is going to be.

What you’re going to see with Palmer is a very strange relationship with Bloodshot and how the two people lead and exactly the kind of conflicts they’re forced into and why Palmer would do this in the first place — or why Bloodshot would do this in the first place. All that stuff is going to make for a really interesting year in “Bloodshot,” because Palmer’s going to be in it.

Project Rising Spirit has had a huge impact in the Valiant Universe across the board, and now they’re under new leadership. With the original H.A.R.D. Corps decimated, what kind of relationship is Project Rising Spirit going to have with this new H.A.R.D. Corps and Bloodshot? What kind of trust can there be given their history, if any?

Precisely. That’s exactly what we were speaking to in the last question. As writers, how are we going to deal honestly with this mistrust and this anger and frustration at the organization that you’re working for, and yet still go and do the things they ask you to do? Kozol’s a pretty smooth talker. I really, really love writing Kozol, so I’m glad he’s sticking around. Christos is doing a great job with him. How manipulative is Kozol? In the end, how manipulative is Bloodshot? Or Palmer? Who’s going to benefit the most by the end of this year by this really bizarre relationship that these three men have? It’s going to be really interesting. It’s part of the engine of the next year of the book.

One of the big revelations of “Harbinger Wars” was the Harada Protocols hidden in Bloodshot’s nanite programming. While Bloodshot has managed to reset the Harada Protocols in his nanites, it was implied that there may be some other protocols hiding that Kuretich couldn’t wipe from Bloodshot. How prevalent is this idea in Bloodshot’s mind following what he’s been through in “Harbinger Wars?”

I think it’s very prevalent. Duane’s whole theme with Bloodshot was the sense of an identity crisis. We’ve ramped that up with the Harada Protocol in a free will versus determinism narrative. That’s his central philosophical dilemma. This is why science fiction makes me so happy in my heart — it’s amazing that we can create this metaphor of being programmed to discuss this philosophical nature of free will versus determinism. If we can get that into “Bloodshot” while he’s blowing a bunch of stuff up and killing people and eating cows, then we’ve really done something interesting with the character worthy of getting to take it over from Duane’s run.

Obviously, we have to talk about Faith, who you’ve cited as possibly your favorite of all the Renegades. After “Harbinger Wars,” it’s up in the air as to what her fate is. Is it because she’s so interesting to write that you decided to make her the focal point of the next issue? When can readers expect to see what happened to her?

The fate of Faith, I say with a heavy heart, will be illuminated in the next “Harbinger” issue, and it will be the core focus of the present-day “Harbinger” narrative as we wrap up both the 1969 first volley in the Harbinger Wars — or the first folly depending on how you look at it — and the Renegades narrative, which will end with the fate of Faith.

Yes, she’s unquestionably my most favorite to write right now. I’m trying to change that by giving lots of other characters [time in the spotlight] as well, but she just keeps coming to the surface. I don’t necessarily think that’s why I chose her. If anything, I’ve been trying to pull back on writing Faith because I do think some of the other characters need some time to shine. It’s just that she’s so perfect as a hero because she means it and she wants it and she makes every decision from a place of what a true superhero would do. I never really got to write a character like that before. She’s just as morally sound as Superman, and that’s really exciting because that gives her strength, but she’s physically a weak person. She’s placed in a lot of danger, and her powers — which seem like the most exciting — can also be the most limited of the others. I can’t help it. She just constantly finds herself in the way of danger. That’s how she ends up being the focus of the final act of the Renegades during the Harbinger Wars.

With your first major Valiant event wrapped up, are you looking forward to following these characters back on their individual pathways? How long until things circle back around to intersect again?

I don’t think you can unmarry [“Harbinger” and “Bloodshot”] now. For the first year, Duane and I and Warren and the crew — we knew the two books were connected in that they were brothers in the Valiant property, but nobody else really knew. As the arcs started to bend towards each other and come to a convergence, people began to get the idea of what we were doing with this. If I can say so, this is mostly Warren’s fault, through his guidance, I think we revealed that very nicely throughout the first year of Valiant. The second year of Valiant hit and so did our convergence. We took our year to build our books and build our characters independently and give them independent voices. Now it’s time for full convergence. Now that it’s happened — and this is what I meant when I said we struggled to make our crossover a meaningful thing that occurred in their lives — you can’t untie the knot. The two books are going to be intricately woven together. As far as elements from “Harbinger Wars” coming back around, we just blew open this corner of the Valiant Universe — the “Harbinger”/”Bloodshot” corner. There are so many new elements in play and so many cool narratives that it’s almost stressful. There are so many stories I want to tell. I want to tell them all at once, but I can’t do that. We have to keep the pacing tight, we’ve got to do what’s best for the individual books. I can’t promise when these elements will come back around or when we’re going to see another big collision, but I can promise you it’s coming — in that we’ve just established a cycle for the books. They can’t help but rub up against each other now. It’s too late. Everything is tied together.

Wrapping up, you’re about to finish your first full year on “Harbinger.” Looking forward, what can you tease about what you have in store both for “Harbinger” and your new role as co-writer on “Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps?”

I think what you’re going to see in “Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps” is the repercussions of the Harbinger Wars deeply impact Bloodshot’s path and his decisions that he makes. He’s going to have to start to play the game smarter. Duane wrote him lovingly, wonderfully, kind of like a bull in a china shop, which I adore. He just ran into everything regardless of how it would impact him, which makes complete sense for someone who’s as indestructible as he is. He’s starting to play in a bigger league now. He’s starting to be a part of much larger events that affect the global stage and he’s going to have to play it a little smarter, so that’s going to be fun to see. What I can tease about the future is the future is wide open. The big engine of “Harbinger” is how the characters interact with one another, it’s not nearly as plot heavy or plot driven as some of the other books. I think we’re seeing them really coalesce as friends, we’re going to see them bonded by the fate of Faith and that’s what we’re going to explore. Their world is blowing up bigger, too. They’re going to be on a larger stage as well. They just took part in the world’s first in several hundred years “Super Hero Event” that left a beloved American town in ruins. This is it, man. They’re big time now. They’re not just a bunch of kids anymore. I think it’s going to be really interesting to play off that dynamic and watch them grow and watch them face ever-increasingly large challenges.

“Harbinger Wars” #4 is on sale now