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(Super) Hero Happy Hour

I hate the comics that, after I’ve finished them, I have no other response except, “…eh.” A good comic can remind you why you like comics in the first place and will make you want to read it over again. A really bad comic will at least give you that cathartic chance to ridicule the hell out of it. But comics that are, for lack of a better term, “eh” give you nothing.

Such is the case with Super Hero Happy Hour (grammatical note, “superhero” is one word, and editorial note: creators Dan Taylor and Chris Fason got slapped with a cease and desist order by the Big Two, because the word superhero is actually trademarked by them -- so later editions of this book are simply Hero Happy Hour. So it's kind of moot if not downright a potato, potahto thing). It’s like reading nothing.

There’s no real story, as each chapter is just another tale of superheroes in a bar complaining about their jobs, an anthology series like H-E-R-O. It all takes place in The Hideout Bar and Grill, an establishment catering to First City’s hero population. It does feature a certain cast of characters, but there’s actually only one plot point that gets carried over from one chapter to another, thus the characters become interchangeable to the stories.

The heroes themselves are either archetypes of the usual heroes (namely Batman and other characters from the Big Two), or completely unexplained heroes, meaning there is no demonstration of power or specific costume visuals to hint at who or what the character is about. For example; the first hero we’re introduced to, The Guardian, is a blond haired man in white spandex that has red, white and blue bars on his chest emblem, but a large stylized…shape, colored gold next to it. The reader is introduced to him at a barstool, so we have no idea what the character is about, what his powers are, or anything to that effect.

And don’t expect to see any characterization, because it’s not there. They really are just a bunch of heroes drinking and commiserating about their jobs. Other than a few easy references to first names and the removal of a mask here and there, we get no indication of the heroes as characters; we never have a scene outside of the bar, in an apartment or anything. Nothing happens…ever. I kept reading, hoping that eventually I would get to a point where a story would start; where a narrative thread could be found and followed. Doesn’t happen.

Even when the heroes end up having to fight some villains who bust in (and by “bust” I mean, walk into the bar quietly and find the time to strike a threatening group pose), there’s just nothing going on. Sure there’s a fight but what is it about? Why are they fighting? The heroes don’t even seem surprised that the villains are there. And even the fight is boring because there’s no real use of powers, just some punching here and there, peppered with some more posing.

With a set up like “heroes in a bar,” there’s a lot of possible ways to spin, the most apparent would be comedy, but writer Dan Taylor never writes a funny line into the dialogue. The dialogue is not even ironic or sarcastic in tone; it’s the literary equivalent of dry toast. Taylor never tries to inject humor into the script, while at the same time keeping any element of the deconstructionist superhero genre as far away as possible. We wouldn’t want the characters to be dramatic or interesting, or have any kind of relevance to the comic they are in. Nope, that would be silly.

The artwork is pretty bad. Artist Chris Fason is still a young artist trying to get comfortable and find a style with which to draw. Unfortunately, that means that there is a high level of inconsistency in the artwork, as faces and proportions change page to page. Even when he finds a style, I doubt it will improve the art much, as his work is a bad rendition of the cartoon-ish drawing style that started cropping up when Powers became a big hit, and Fason is no Avon Oeming. His panels are boring, he has no sense of action and the characters don’t move because of it, and to top it off, he doesn’t draw much. With the minimalist trappings of the book, there’s really little in way of backgrounds to draw, and a bar can only be drawn so many ways. The characters have no visual personality, and barely an identity as there is no color in the book and the inking is so thick that at times it looks as if someone just spilled the inkwell onto the page.

Do not buy this. It isn’t good. It’s not even good enough to be “bad.” You might feel as if you wasted your time reading a bad comic, but this comic makes you lose time, like graphic novel blackout. The publisher GeekPunk is charging $14.95 for four issues and a “Heroes & Villains” section, where the creators run down the origins of the characters that appear in the bar. Certainly wouldn’t want to explain those origins in-story. Nope, that might take away time from all the…uhm…drinking I guess. This comic never tries to be anything, ends up being nothing, and should be shunned like a naughty Quaker.

Robert Sparling

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