HELL YEAH #1
(W) Joe Keatinge (A) Andre Szymanowicz
In an industry built and defined by Super-Heroes, it's kinda hard to come up with a new perspective to offer readers, something inventive that will pull them away from their childhood heroes and take a chance on a new mythology of masked men. Two of the most popular methods have been satire and deconstruction, made famous by books such as Marshall Law and Watchmen. The idea of real world Super-Heroes, as oxymoronic as that sounds, is not a new one, and has certainly been a popular trend in the past years, because who’s to say that there isn’t a superman out there somewhere, working in secret to change things, or perhaps more appropriately, keeping them exactly the way they are...
"Hell Yeah", by Keatinge and Szymanowicz, enters into the realm of books descended from the likes of Squadron Supreme, The Authority and Kick Ass, but with a definite next generation vibe. Keatinge puts you behind the mask of a college student with the unenviable task of living up to his father's legacy, which is all the more difficult when he's partly responsible for changing the face of the entire world. Now, years later, Super-Heroes have become commonplace, giving rise to hundreds of super powered beings in their wake; one of which being our main character, Benjamin Day.
With little knowledge of his origin except for a mysterious barcode tattooed on the back of his neck, Ben leads a somewhat reckless life, getting into fight after fight while trying to maintain his enrollment at Kurtzburg University (nice Kirby nod), so as to not anger his parents. Keatinge does a good job of mixing real world problems that readers can identify with into a super powered setting, achieving some of what made the Silver Age Marvel comics so popular. We get a good window into the life of a kid who has everything going for him, but still unable to find a balance in his life, though unbeknownst to Ben, his parents may have more to blame for that then he realizes.
Working on what is probably his highest profile book yet, Andre Szymanowicz, though still a bit rough around the edges, turns in some pretty good pages, balancing the line of disbelief that is essential in allowing the reader to believe that Super-heroes are walking the streets. Set in Portland, OR, Andre drops in specific locations, such as Powell's bookstore, to give the reader a frame of reference, thought at times I did feel it could have been anywhere U.S.A. That may just be a personal hang up, as I think many of the new books Image puts out are a little light on the environment, providing just the necessary details to evoke a certain scene in the reader's imagination. Sure, Kirby did it at times, as well as the majority of Silver Age artists, but that was when kids had a bit more imagination as opposed to nowadays, and if Image is to achieve Kirkman's goal of reaching non comic readers, creators will need to truly transport the reader to new worlds using participation techniques that has made Manga so popular here in America. Especially a book like this, which I feel could appeal to teens, will need a weapon to combat the inability of many non readers to bring the printed page to life; a fact that Manga has worked around by providing pages rather than just panel of background.
That being said, I think Szymanowicz has a good handle on character design, especially what a modern super powered kid would wear for a costume. The girls that show up at the end of the comic look like super-hero club kids, which is an idea that has fascinated me since Morrison tackled it in Final Crisis.
Despite ending on a somewhat overused cliffhanger, I'm definitely curious as to where this book is headed; if it will address the problems brought about by the appearance of Super-Heroes and their impact upon the world, or if it will turn into a universe hopping adventure filled with angst ridden super teen beat down trying to solve their problems with their fists, like their fathers. The tagline for the book is, "The last generation of Super-Heroes", so I can only assume things will not end well for our characters. Though from every death comes rebirth and we may very well be looking at our future saviors.
REVIEW BY CASEY!