Top Shelf Month continues, showing that there is even room here for superhero comics at the table, especially if they are of a different flavor.
Less Than Heroes, like volume 1 of Sulk, is a loving parody/homage to superhero comics, but with an eye toward reality and absurdity. It simultaneously lampoons the "grim and gritty" faux realism of some superhero comics while also depicting amazing and interesting world-building and situations. The world here depicted is full of superheroes and dangerous threats, and every major US city has a sanctioned super-team of some sort to protect it from harm. These teams are full of unionized, pompous people who share characteristics with the worst attributes of professional athletes. They are mercenary, stubborn, and petty, the lot of them. Then there is Threshold, the defenders of Philadelphia.
Because there is not much in terms of threat level in the City of Brotherly Love, they have decided to go no frills and hire a loosely affiliated quartet of heroes, Mr. Malevolence (the strong guy), the Cosmopolitan (a hipster magician who uses pop culture to cast spells), Recoil (who may not have powers and is obsessed with dental hygiene), and Meridian (the token female). Together, they eat snacks, hang out, get on each others' nerves, and handle the problems that arise, including a mystical, frightening stamp collector, and a Lightning Man. That is, until some of the New York supervillains get tired of getting their butts kicked and decide to relocate to city with more manageable heroes.
This book is the creation of David Yurkovich, a comics creator who has a few other publications under his belt. His works tend to fall under the "quirky" category, including Death By Chocolate, about a superman made of the sweet stuff, and the stream of consciousness, urban-set series Nocturne. He has a website, Sleeping Giant Creations, where he has links to his various comics and web projects, including his tribute to the stricken comics creator Bill Mantlo. His love for comics comes into fuller relief in Less Than Heroes in a thoughtful essay on superheroics that closes the book.
Reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Michael May wrote that "it is full of thought and wonder." Lee Atchison offered this opinion, "The artwork is blocky and irregular, and it may take some getting used
to for those who aren't hip to alternative art, but I think it's quirky
and fits, completely, the characters, the setting, the plot, the
atmosphere ... you name it. It's perfectly suited, in other words, to
the story it tells." Peter Hemminger added that the book's "noble goals are tempered by realistic demands. Maybe that's what makes
it so much more interesting than your average superhero comic." I would not say the book is for everyone, but I appreciated its unique art style, fun characters and plot, and creative situations.
A preview and much more is available here from the publisher.