Comics Reviews

Do We Need Another 'Heroes'?

Eh, maybe not, says Jeff Jensen, after flipping through the comic companion to the TV series. PLUS: Checking out the adventures of some other heroes -- both super and anti

Heroes | HEROES VOL. 1 Ordinary webcomics don't suddenly become any more special in this graphic novel collection
HEROES VOL. 1 Ordinary webcomics don't suddenly become any more special in this graphic novel collection

''Heroes'': Webcomics collection

HEROES: VOL. 1
Various writers and artists
(Hardcover)
Since the very beginning of Heroes, NBC has been posting nifty webcomics that flesh out their world of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities — a classy nod to the medium that inspired the show, not to mention a clever marketing gimmick. Now, as the show has gone creatively frosty in its second season, DC Comics has packaged all that free season 1 fun into a pricey, fancy hardcover ''graphic novel.'' How's that for bad timing? Written for the most part by the show's producers, the short stories that comprise this volume lay like footnotes to various episodes. ''Hell's Angel'' — which chronicles Horned Rim Glasses' first encounter with Claire — correlates to season 1's outstanding HRG-focused outing ''Company Man.'' Many of the yarns center on Hana Gitelman, a.k.a. ''Wireless,'' an angry young lass — fleetingly seen on the show itself — determined to crack the secrets of the Heroesverse. FOR FANS OF... Uh, Heroes? DOES IT DELIVER? What was nifty when it was free becomes kinda skimpy when you have to pay $29.99 or so for it. Too many of these tales feel like hastily sketched afterthoughts, though maybe the real flaw lies in the handsome, prestige-style packaging. It raises the expectation of quality to a level that these comics were never aiming for in the first place. The Wireless stories are the best, particularly the six-part ''War Buddies,'' which provides crucial backstory for the Linderman and Petrelli characters, as is the climactic installment, ''The Death of Hana Gitelman,'' nicely drawn by Jason Badower. Strictly for those who like to accessorize their pop obsessions with expensive mementos. B- — Jeff Jensen

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE
Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli
(Monthly; issue No. 7 is on stands this week)
A gang of villains that rather unimaginatively calls itself The Vulturions swipe a briefcase full of info that ''a foreign power could use to construct gamma bombs!'' Arriving to save the day: the Scarlet Spiders, a.k.a. back-ops dudes who eerily resemble Spider-Man — and who have just gone public. In pursuing the Vs, the Scarlets accidentally meet the actual Spidey, only to find him summarily peeved. (You see, after last year's ''Civil War,'' an unmasked Spider-Man became persona non grata for refusing to register with the government as part of the Super Human Registration Act, spearheaded by the Fed-friendly Iron Man.) Irked that he's likely been cloned — yet always game to stomp out the baddies — Spidey teams with the Scarlets to retrieve the attaché. However, just when you thought matters might get resolved, Nazi geneticist-turned-government recruit Baron von Blitzschlag unveils a greater conspiracy. FOR FANS OF... Marvel's Civil War and its fallout; Slott's She-Hulk. DOES IT DELIVER? The witty Slott wisely sticks to propelling the thievery plot at hand — drawn with much gusto by Caselli — without letting too much brain-numbing mythology get in the way. And when it inevitably does, our witty writer is right there along with us, breezily poking fun at the absurdity of it all. Because in Slott's world, even Peter Parker's former Daily Bugle coworkers muse over how they just can't keep up with Spidey's ever-evolving, ever-dramatic life. B+ — Nisha Gopalan

SERVICE INDUSTRY
T. Edward Bak
(Paperback)
We meet our (autobiographical) antihero, a 27-year-old slacker with an angsty past, when he finds a guitar on the street and ruminates about this great find, only to cash it in for stripper-n-booze money. In this mini-collection's second yarn, he's a stoic dishwasher at a restaurant. While doing this thankless job, his fertile imagination provides escape through alternate-reality jaunts where winged phantoms, giant robots, and the like force him to confront unresolved issues — notably, his splintered family in which his father was absent, his mom was broke, and his sister was carted off to foster care. FOR FANS OF... Catcher in the Rye; Alice in Wonderland. DOES IT DELIVER? Creator Bak's imperative to flip between fantastical, vibrant-colored artwork and moody black-and-white panels befits the book's schizophrenic vibe. A miasma of anger and sadness and cynicism, his work is loosely punctuated by a sometimes unwieldy outpouring of sentiments or philosophy. This can result in the finely hewn opening tale, ''Mocking Irony'' — a slice-of-life episode steeped in indulgent self-awareness that's at once hilarious and tragic. Or it can play out like the subsequent story, the titular ''Service Industry.'' There, rambling Gen-X-esque monologues start out thinky but wind up head-scratching. (Exhibit A: ''We're all destined to die insignificantly alone...in a void...a reality which terrifies those who could cling to the concept of 'spiritual salvation' — the absurd ruse which presumes a separation from the infinite — suggesting that a leaf could exist without the tree....'') Given Bak's unrelenting preoccupation with life's futility, you can't help wondering if this promising talent's approach to storytelling wouldn't benefit from just a little more, you know, purpose. B — NG

Originally posted Nov 13, 2007