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Helios #1-2
Written by Jason Rand
Drawn by Gabe Pena
Published by Dukawaka Productions, $2.99 USD each

Helios, created by Mike Penny and Jason Rand, is something of a rarity in comics; it’s very traditional super heroics, done well. The constant need to re-make the term “mutant” into some new word aside (here they’re called neo-genics, which at least sounds good, unlike DC’s meta-humans), Helios has a lot going for it.

The story follows three heroes, Façade, Blur, and Sunstrike, as they tackle neo-genic bad guys and try to save the world. The first issue mainly introduces readers to life at The Compound, home base for the Neo-Force, which also doubles as a prison for those they capture. It also introduces a few mystery elements as well as displays the teams fighting prowess. The second issue of this thirty issue maxi-series opens shortly after a battle with one of those baddies, which left one of their number, Blur, seriously injured. Before her teammates can become too relaxed though, they’re forced to go back into battle with another group, members of the terrorist organization, “The Shining Path.”

The story does manage to mix a bit of espionage-like events with the routine action. But, government-sponsored heroes are, again, not exactly a new trick in the superhero repertoire. Still, it adds a much needed break from straightforward hero story that dominates most of the issues. The mystery behind why the Compound is being set up for a takeover is pretty interesting.

Rand does a good job with the dialogue, unlike a majority of super-hero books it rarely feels like it’s there to just move the story along. The script is full of pretty standard super-heroics, but Rand has managed to mix in a bit more humanity than most books have. Though the characters really don’t have lives outside of the Compound, they all seem pretty developed.

The art is very nice in the more subtle and simple panels, but Pena tends to lose the story in a few of the action sequences, as well as some of the bigger splash pages, which is a shame. Part of that is due to the colors as well, which look like something out of some of the early Image books, not really bad, but not up to speed with some of the more prominent superhero books. Pena’s characters do tend to look like each other which can lead to some confusion regarding who’s who among the minor characters, and is slightly disturbing with the main cast.

Also, as odd as it sounds, the covers make a huge leap between the issues. The first cover (by H. Young and Kandora) looks like something one creates on a computer to kill time or to try and impress a friend, not exactly top notch. But, by the second issue Penny has enlisted Eric Basaluda and Beth Sotelo to render an action packed cover, possibly a bit too action packed, but a huge step up from the digitized art on the front of the first issue.

One of the book's biggest surprises isn’t in the art or the script, but rather the actual pages, or the lack thereof. Not once in either of the stories twenty-six pages does anything resembling an advertisement show up. It may not be something that many people reading superhero books (or likely any monthly comic) really consider, but after reading one without having to flip through useless pages interrupting the story it’s a hard aspect to have to go back to, and is another good argument to “wait for the trade” as many comic readers are adapting.

While there’s almost nothing here that hasn’t been done at least once before somewhere in the vast libraries of DC and Marvel, and even Image, unlike quite a few of their recent efforts, here it’s done right, despite the little faults mentioned. Rather than try to re-invent the superhero genre, the creative team has seen fit to just tell their story within those pre-set boundaries, which is pretty refreshing. Helios is a book that has a lot of potential, and it’s above and beyond most of the “capes” titles already out there. Grade: 3.5/5

-- Logan Polk

The ADD Blog by Alan David Doane. Trouble with Comics Reviews of comics and graphic novels. Commentary about the artform and industry of comics. Get back to the main page.

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