"Powers & Abilities (Part 4)"
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Publisher: DC Comics
Jerry possesses a magical device that can transform him into a variety of super-heroes with extraordinary powers. But Jerry's attempts at heroism are met by greater and greater failure. While trying to prevent a robbery Jerry's girlfriend is shot and gravely wounded, which has caused him to contemplate suicide.
In this final chapter of the first HERO story arc we learn why Jerry has called a suicide hotline. But this realization does not come as quite the shock that writer Will Pfeifer had built up. And although there is closure to Jerry's tale, there are still far too many unanswered questions remaining - in fact, some of the most important ones were never asked at all.
We learned with absolute certainty last issue that Jerry is not Peter Parker. He does not possess either the character or the determination to be a super hero, regardless of the powers that the HERO device might provide him. If you or I were given the speed and moves of Barry Sanders would we automatically become the world's greatest running back? It's an interesting dilemma, but one not sufficiently explored here. Perhaps the underlying message is that heroism has more to do with heart than with speed or strength, which is a fairly positive metaphor for the real world – especially considering how cynical and pessimistic the world has become recently. Unfortunately, Jerry lacks the fortitude required to play the part. Consequently, the counter message of HERO might be that some people are simply destined to fail, no matter what advantages they're provided - all the cynics and pessimists out there are probably nodding their heads right now.
Pfeifer's story is kept narrow and isolated, which fits Jerry, who doesn't seem the type to travel far from home. He hasn't flown off to Paris or saluted pilots in a passing 747. If Jerry were a cop he might have zipped down to Columbia and destroyed the cocaine fields; if he were a soldier he could have hunted down Osama Bin Laden. But Jerry shovels ice cream, so the best he can do is go looking for punks dealing crack on the sketchy side of town. Sadly, what does that say about Jerry? He thinks small and has no imagination. Not someone we would normally desire as a central protagonist. I kept wishing that Jerry would show some glimmer of the man he might be. It might have been interesting had Superman, Jerry's idol, shown up for a pep talk or better yet slapped him around for playing with fire.
However, the biggest problem with HERO is that no attempt is ever made to explain the HERO device itself. The closest Pfeifer gets to an explanation is the mysterious old lady who was apparently the previous owner. But she doesn't lend any insight beyond whining about how great it felt to be young again. Brian Azzarello's "100 Bullets" is perhaps the closest comparison I can draw to HERO. It too is an anthology series built upon a simple premise. The difference between the two is that Azzarello weaves a thread of governmental conspiracy into each story, which lends situations and characters additional, sometimes broader meaning. In HERO Jerry is exactly what he appears to be: a loser who doesn't even have Walter Mitty pretensions. HERO is well written and expertly drawn, but it appears content to tell solitary "Twilight Zone" stories in the DC universe.
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