Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hell Yeah, Volume 1: Last Days on Earth

I felt that the revival of Glory was one of the best comics I had read last year, so when I saw that the author Joe Keatinge was writing another series, I was all in for this book, especially after I read an intriguing preview of issue one on my Kindle Fire.

This series follows the adventures of Ben Day. He is the son of a first generation superhero and wants nothing to do with the super powered folk at all. He ends up getting into Kurtzberg University because of his parents' connections, and despite his superpowers and advantages he keeps putting himself into bad situations. Destruction and confusion follow in his wake, and everything gets complicated when he meets a woman who says she was his girlfriend in an alternate dimension.

It turns out that various versions of him are being murdered across the multiverse, and different versions of him keep coming to this universe where they frequently come to brutal and bloody ends.

Yes, that guy looks like Gary Oldman playing Commissioner Gordon for some reason.

Ben, it turns out, is somehow unique. He has had some strange markings on his skin

Hey ladies, check me out! No literally, you can. Because I totally have a bar code.
and lots of people are interested in locating him, either alive or dead. It appears that he is somehow pivotal regarding all of the superheroes.

Honestly, after the thrill that Keatinge's revival of Glory was for me, this series left me pretty cold. The strength of The Manhattans Projects is the weakness in Hell Yeah. I get that this book seeks to create its own superhero universe and that it plays with ideas and concepts that are hallmarks of the Big 2 comics publishers, particularly DC, with multi-dimensional teams of Ben Days that resemble Bat-Mite, 1990s extreme superheroes, and other alternate takes on character designs. But in the end, to me, these just seemed derivative and largely empty. Much of this book relies on its visuals, but not much seems well thought out, explained, or realized, so in the end I know almost nothing about Ben, other than he seems very shallow and annoying, and hardly anything else about the other characters. What is worse, I am not sure I even want to know more about them. As a result, the mysteries are not so compelling or mysterious to me, the characters fall flat, and there is little other than some interesting visuals to make me want to keep reading. Perhaps it is supposed to be some meta-commentary about superhero comics, but I find the contents of this volume neither remarkable or insightful.

The art is by Andre Szymanowicz, who has drawn a handful of books for DC Comics and Image, and it is serviceable though not outstanding. His grasp of anatomy is a bit wonky, and I am not impressed much by his layouts or gratuitous details (a lot of people spew saliva and every gunshot results in a wide splash of blood and guts). I can't tell if this style is intentional, in the manner of parody, or if this series is meant as some kind of metacommentary on crappy 1990s comics (a.k.a. low hanging fruit). If it is the former, then the joke is too decompressed to be funny, and if it is that latter, the story is taking far too much time getting to the payoff for me to care.

All in all, when it comes to this book the sum is less than its parts.

Reviews I have read about the book range from lukewarm to positive. Spartacus! from the Geeks of Doom noted that the book does feature some "obnoxious ’90s superhero comic book traits" (perhaps ironically?), but it is "not clear what the stories trajectory is just yet." This bothers me as this is the first volume of a series and supposed to set the stage clearly. The reviews at Booklist and Publishers Weekly are more positive and generous, seeing more potential in this series.

Hell Yeah is published by Image Comics.

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