Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hero Comics 2011

Written by Neil Gaiman, Christopher Ivy, John Layman, Jason Craig, Sam Kieth, Ralph Reese, and Richard Starkings
Art by Mike Dringenberg, Sam Kieth, Christopher Ivy, Rob Guillory, Jason Craig, Ralph Reese, and Dougie Braithwaite

I picked this up for two reasons.  The first reason is that, being on vacation, I couldn't buy anything that was on my pull-list back home, and knew I'd never ordered this.  Secondly, there are some seriously impressive names attached to this anthology fund-raiser comic.

The biggest thing about this book is that it reunites the creators of The Sandman for a creepy little nine-page story.  Gaiman has a narrator talk about the odd little hotel he stayed at near some beach in England, and it is very clear that this story is being told from beyond the grave.  What makes this work is more the art than the writing - Kieth and Dringenberg meld their styles (more on this momentarily) in such a way that I'm not sure who has done what.  The story looks like a marriage of Jon J Muth and the Expressionist painters, and it works very well.

What didn't work was the follow-up story that Kieth illustrated, which is made up completely of the texts of e-mails between Kieth, Dringenberg, Gaiman, and editor Scott Dunbier.  I'm sure there are a lot of people who would greet this 'peer behind the curtains' kind of thing, and would like to learn how the comic was made (or at least discussed in its inception stage), but personally, I found it dull as paint drying.  Also, I strongly developed a dislike for Mike Dringenberg, who comes off sounding like a pompous ass.  I don't disagree that he is as talented as he says he is; I just don't need to read it coming directly from him.

Also of interest in this book are short pieces from two of my favourite Image series.  The Chew short is brilliant - Tony has to ingest a strange new hallucinogenic pill in order to discover where it comes from, and he trips out.  Guillory clearly had a good time with this one.  In the Elephantmen short, Richard Starkings kept the atmosphere pretty sombre, as he tried to match his story with the theme of the charity that this comic supports (Hero helps comics creators with medical or financial issues).

Finally, there are three one-page strips by creators who have benefited from Hero's help.  These are affecting, and useful for reminding the reader why he's bought the book.  In all, a decent enough collection that it's worth your $4, especially considering that buying it is a good deed.

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