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AdHouse has become known, in its short existence, as a publisher of graphic novels, anthologies and art books of high production values and not a lot of insight or depth. Oddly enough, this anthology, a collection of mostly-humorous pieces related to superheroes written and drawn mainly by talents not known for superhero work, has the most to say, though on a rather narrow topic.
Not that it says a lot -- generally, the couple dozen or so creators take the tack that to be a superhero is to be fairly ridiculous and emotionally stunted -- but for at least the first half of the book, it’s an entertaining, amusing working of this theme. Martin Cendreda’s “The Amazing Friends” is a funny opener, about some middle-aged guys taking a crack at the hero gig and taking it very, very seriously, though not having any real heroic qualities themselves. It’s just a lifestyle thing. Bryan Lee O’Malley brings the same energetic whimsy to “Monica Beetle” as he does to his SCOTT PILGRIM series, while Jeffrey Brown has better results with his short, “Aw Shit, It’s Cycloctopus!” than his graphic novel BIGHEAD, which was also a superhero spoof.
STREET ANGEL’s Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca have fun with the blaxploitation-inspired “Shock-A-Con”, and it suggests that perhaps the best work comes from those who have already taken some kind of crack at superheroes already, maybe to work out their anger/frustration/whatever with the genre and to have some fun with it. However, that doesn’t account for limp efforts like Brian Wood’s “The Watcher” or John Cassaday’s “The Blank”. In fact, Cassaday’s work here and the pulpy serial from HELLBOY TALES indicates he really wants to draw something set in the 40s, but he should get someone else to write it.
Typical of many anthologies, a number of creators turn in work seemingly more interested in being wacky or obscure instead of putting in the effort to craft a good six page story, and while a Paul Pope can mostly pull that off, a Zack Soto cannot. Graham Annable’s “Captain Insomniac” is a clever little joke depicted with watchmaker’s care, and the following “Titanius” from Tony Consiglio is funny as well. James Jean dazzles with his art so much the story is superfluous; Scott Morse dresses up an adequate joke with a lot of paint, and then after Scott Campbell’s “Pretty OK Team” -- the same sort of joke we’ve already seen much of in the book -- and the dynamite (no pun intended), sincere “The Last Stand of Bomb Boy Benton” by Paul Rivoche, the book’s final 65 pages are kind of a slog. Jamie Tanner’s “Blink” is much too long and precious and sucks away a lot of the previous enjoyment of the book, and Victor Cayro’s disturbed, hard-to-read “Afterbirther” finishes the job, unfortunate for the otherwise charming final story by SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST’s J. W. Cotter.
As with most anthologies, one won’t find truly essential work from any of the creators they already know, with the possible exception of Rivoche, who just doesn’t do enough comics, and aside from Cendreda and the interesting pin-up artist Ragnar, the unknowns don’t exactly break out into stardom here. It is, however, a mostly amusing, if fairly limited, look at the silly, outdated tropes of a genre that probably didn’t need more reminders of its limitations and silly, outdated tropes.