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Comic Book Review – Heroes: Vengeance #1

Written by Seamus Kevin Fahey and Zach Craley
Art by Rubine
Letterer Jim Campbell
Published by Titan Comics

This is an unusual comic book in that it’s not the start of a mini-series – the cover calls it a ‘prelude’ to the new TV series, Heroes Reborn; the accompanying text for the preview copy talks about it ‘revealing secrets about key characters in the show’; the inside front cover explicitly states the identity of the central character: Oscar Gutierrez, a mechanic who lives in downtown LA troubled by gangsters, is secretly El Vengador. This issue, despite reading as if there is some mystery as to the identity of the character, doesn’t have mystery because everything is explained; instead, it aims to be a combination of back story and current story.

We first see El Vengador coming to the aid of a young man being attacked by four members of a local gang. El Vengador is dressed in a Mexican wrestling mask but with a more military-styled version of the full-body suit of a wrestler. One full-page spread of him jumping from a rooftop transitions to the same pose of a Mexican wrestler (with the same mask) jumping in a wrestling ring in 1994 East LA. A younger Oscar and his little brother Carlos are watching the original El Vengador; Carlos still believes in the truth of the wrestling bouts but Oscar doesn’t. We see several panels of the two fights paralleling each other down the page before returning fully to the present day to see our super-powered El Vengador take down the gang members with efficiency, speed and strength (there’s a nice panel of a face being punched, a look of shocked pain on the face of the gang member as his teeth fly out his mouth). El Vengador tells the intended victim to leave town; the victim wants more help, but El Vengador doesn’t want to give him any more help – he wants to leave before the police arrive. He persuades the man to leave town before going back home to his wife and son.

This doesn’t feel like a complete story, even though it tries to provide a sense of a complete narrative with the modern-day action and the flashbacks. There is an inner monologue that accompanies much of the book, questioning what it is to be a hero and why a hero is needed, but it seems dry and plodding on the page (Fahey is a producer on the television programme and Craley is a writer of Heroes comic books, but it seems as if it might have worked better as an actual voice-over). The flashbacks to Oscar’s youth are supposed to inform his character, but you don’t get a real sense of who Oscar is as a person – he beats up bad guys and he’s a husband/father/brother, but nothing much else. I guess that because each issue will concentrate on a single character, the issue isn’t about creating a narrative tension that will require the reader to return for more – the point is that the issues will provide more details, but it doesn’t make for a satisfying first issue.

The two timeframes are delineated by a difference in art styles – Rubine uses a softer, cleaner line to draw the 1994 scenes, which is looser and warmer, suggesting the rose-tinted view of the past and youth; the modern scenes are drawn in a tighter, harsher photo-realistic style that is grittier and more in keeping with the tone and appropriate for a vigilante fighting in alleyways. Rubine’s art is good, although I prefer the sharper, darker art of the present-day pages (I was reminded of Alex Maleev and Tony Harris in places, which is a compliment), and he manages a consistent facial likeness in what presumably must be in keeping with the actor playing the part of El Vengador, although I haven’t seen any of the new series to be able to tell, a talent that is hard for some artists to pull off in other comic books.

This comic book works fine as a backgrounder on a character the audience already knows, but doesn’t succeed as a complete comic book in its own right. If you are a fan of Heroes Reborn and want to know more, you will probably get more out of it than I did.

Disclosure: this book was provided as a PDF for review purposes.

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