Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNature abhors a vacuum, y'know...and with the proliferation of serious stories with serious ramifications for the entire (fill in your favorite shared Universe) and this time it's for real-style goings-on, well, it's good to know that some people aren't taking things as seriously as the Powers That Be would have you think we should. People like J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, who seem to be staking out their lighthearted territory with more frequency these days, first with their mostly-successful revival of their 80's Justice League with Kevin Maguire, then going over to Marvel and giving us more of the same in a new sandbox with The Defenders. And also, while they're at it, hooking up with artist Joe Abraham on Hero Squared for original characters in a similar vein.

The latest from the Boom! Studios, Squared #1, is actually #2 since one issue has already been released by Atomeka. Got that? Anyway, we get a brief recap at the beginning so you won't feel like you've missed out on much. It's the tale of Milo Stone, a slacker film student with a girlfriend named Stephie, whose path crosses with Captain Valor, a hero from a doomed dimension who has come to our world to try and prevent the same fate from befalling us and defend our world from the evil Lord Caliginous and his Malignite minions. So far, so typical superhero plot- but the twist is that Cap is really Milo from his dimension, who was chosen, Captain Marvel-style, to receive superpowers and became his Earth's defender. Our Milo, y'see, hasn't been so fortunate. Another wrinkle is that Caliginous is actually that world's Stephie, and we kinda get the feeling that the potential exists for our Milo's Steph to do the same. Got that?

As always, what makes this fun is the excessive, but always breezy, dialogue that DeMatteis writes for his characters. Lotsa jokes and snappy patter, even though there is a faintly perceptible undercurrent of apprehension because in spite of his slack, we kinda like ol' Milo and Steph, and like Cap Valor, we don't want to see bad stuff happen to either of them. One gets the impression that this was a leftover plot thread from an intended Justice League story; it would be fairly easy to see Booster Gold as Captain Valor, maybe, or something like that- and the lack of familiarity with these new characters kinda detracts a little bit. When crazy things happened to Booster or Beetle or Guy Gardner, we could get a little extra humor at it playing off their personalities, and we don't quite get the same thing from these newish people. I also have, after two issues, a sneaking suspicion how this will turn out, or at least I see one plot twist coming 'round the, I won't say what it is! No spoilers here! Also, I'm reminded a little of a Jonathan Peterson (whatever happened to...?)/Kevin Maguire project of several years back, Strikeback!, insofar as it applies to the pace and the tone, although we don't get the myriad of characters that series had.

Artwise, Joe Abraham's art is as jagged, angular and fine-lined as before, but he's appeared to have grown more comfortable with his style since the Atomeka issue, and it looks just fine here. He gets across some nice facial expressions, and even reminds me a little of early 90's Kyle Baker, especially in his depictions of the Malignite soldiers. I don't know if he's still Photoshop-inking his stuff, but he's getting better at it if he is.

Hate to keep bringing up this aspect of it, but really my only quibble, other than why the obviously female Caliginous chooses to go by "Lord...", is that this is one mighty skinny floppy for $3.99, full color or no full color, and I'm afraid this might impact its casual rack appeal.

It simply boils down to this: if you're receptive to what Giffen and DeMatteis do best, and/or have liked it in the past, you'll like this very much. If not, then you'll want to take your sour ass elsewhere. Hero Squared is another enjoyable example of KG and JMD doing that voodoo they do so well. A-.

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