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H-E-R-O: Powers and Abilities
Written by Will Pfeifer
Drawn by Kano
Published by DC Comics; $9.95 USD

H-E-R-O is an updated version of a '60s DC Comics staple, Dial H for Hero. Simply put, a mysterious object can give its beholder superpowers when the letters H-E-R-O are “dialed” on it. It’s a pretty unique concept that immediately bypasses a superhero standard, the origin story.

This collection contains three tales of the H-Dial; the first focuses on Jerry Feldon, typical high school teen, complete with the my-life-sucks attitude and why-can’t-I-get-the girl angst. Jerry works in a small restaurant, with the girl of his dreams, and while washing dishes comes across the inadvertently discarded H-Dial. His repeated attempts to do any good with his powers often end in failure, and ultimately the shooting of love interest Molly during a botched robbery at the restaurant. The second finds the dial in the hands of Matt Allen, a Senior VP at Edutech, who becomes so addicted to being a hero that he loses both his job and his family. The third story has the dial possessed by Matt’s daughter, Andrea, who uses it to impress classmates at a new school, as they all take turns dialing.

Pfeifer’s scripts have a Hitchcock nature about them, in a sense that you have a group of characters that set out to do good deeds with the knowledge they have but in the end discover that being themselves is better than being any superhero.

Jerry’s story takes up a majority of the trade, and sets up the ironic tone the book repeatedly takes in the issues after. Pfeifer captures the mood well enough; Jerry fits within the teen stereotype but never feels defined by it. The story does become rather lengthy, and what would make a decent two-parter ends up becoming almost boring at four issues, despite the clever ending.

The two-part Matt and Andrea Allen tale is better for being two short stories, rather than a lengthy examination of the situation, but the art doesn’t fit the story nearly as well. And that’s probably the book's biggest downfall. Kano’s moody pencils are a bit distracting at times, partly due to the coloring and inking. The book could have benefited from a more defined artist. Often the characters look different from panel to panel and are hardly distinct in any way.

While the H-Dial is one of the most unique concepts in superhero comics, it’s also one that can quickly fall into the realm of boring. There are only so many time we can see the story of “with great power comes great responsibility,” before it begins to lose its resonance. Unfortunately that’s pretty much the extent of these three tales, and while they are told in three different ways, they all use the same basic story telling principles to teach the H-Dial bearers that lesson.

One thing the book could definitely have benefited from is the format DC took with its Hard Time and Fables trades. Rather than have the issues broken up into their separate parts, present each story as a whole, saving the covers for the back. Aside from a somewhat self-congratulatory introduction from Geoff Johns (one that seems to focus more on the fact that he likes the book rather than any redeeming quality the series may have) there’s nothing in the way of bonus material. Which is a shame; because one would think there were many sketches of the various heroes and heroines before they were ever set to print.

Ultimately the book wastes a great concept with three cause-and-effect tales that are all too obvious from the get-go. Grade: 2.5/5

-- Logan Polk



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