"The Great Leap Forward"
Writer: Will Pfeifer
Artist: Kano (p), JD Mettler (c)
Publisher: DC Comics
An alien object falls from the sky and a prehistoric hero is born.
The plot of H-E-R-O #11 struck me as a mix of the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy and the Hanna Barbara cartoon Captain Caveman. Much of the story takes place about 50,000 years ago and features a Neanderthal man who has the powers of a superman fall from the sky. Our unnamed hero uses his newfound abilities to pummel a Mastodon which he uses to feed his fellow tribesmen sparking jealousy in the other male members of the tribe. Having no concept of the limits of his vulnerability “Captain Caveman” flees via the power of flight, which starts him on a prehistoric world odyssey fighting for the Neanderthal equivalent of truth, justice and the primitive way. Over his lifetime our hero leaves behind both a mysterious fossil record of animal killed with his fist or in the case of a pack of Sabretooth cats, his index finger, which he also utilizes to etch a history of his adventures upon a cave wall beneath modern-day Metropolis. In his waning years having experienced all that the primitive world had to offer the caveman sets off for one final adventure which ultimately leads to his demise.
In that much of the dialog is uttered by primitive humans the story depends largely on visuals, which makes for a brief read, but a read splendid with the epic of human spirit contained within even the simplest of people. Will Pfeifer uses two pairs of archaeologist as narrators, one pair residing in the modern world and the other from the late Victorian Era, to give voice to a hero who was incapable of speech as we know it. Although I do not know if Pfeifer wrote the visuals of his protagonist this way or if it was Kano’s interpretation, one plot point that intrigued me in particular was the transformation of the Neanderthal to resemble a primitive übermench as opposed to a colorfully clad modern-style superhero, which leads me to believe that the H-E-R-O Dial’s abilities are largely psychological and trigger a transformation based upon the wielder’s impression of what a superhuman is.
In my previous review of H-E-R-O #10, I complimented Kano for his “edgy” art style which relays a street-level simplicity. Apparently what works for average modern humans thrust into the world of superpowers also works for prehistoric humans thrust into the world of superpowers.
Colorist JD Mettler uses a broader palette than the previous issue of H-E-R-O, lending to the sense of wonder experienced by the prehistoric protagonist. I especially loved the rainbow of colors used in the montage depicting exploits of heroism and exploration over a lifetime.
If you want to read a great standalone story purchase a copy of H-E-R-O #11. It’s a book that fans of independent titles should appreciate and despite its lack of a time-tested iconic character a comic that most lovers of standard superhero fair should enjoy as well.
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