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Helen Killer #1

Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2008
By: Michael Deeley

Andrew Kreisberg
JLD Rice & Chris Moreno
Arcana Studio
This is the stupidest goddamned comic I’ve ever read. And I’ve read Secret Wars II.

In 1902, Helen Keller is given a new invention by friend and mentor Alexander Graham Bell: A pair of goggles called the Omnicle. The Omnicle can restore Helen’s sight and hearing, as well as endowing her with superhuman strength and agility. After seeing a demonstration of her abilities, the Secret Service ask Helen to protect President McKinley from a suspected assassination plot by anarchists.

Let’s start with the most obvious failing of this comic; the art. Rice & Moreno try so hard to copy Frank Miller, it hurts. Keller looks like Daredevil in the way she moves, stands, and looks in her dark glasses. Her teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, looks like Morpheus. Something about Sullivan’s blacker-than-black dress seems unreal. Anatomy is always slightly off. Hands in particular look too big for their bodies. And the inking is uneven. Random people and objects often have thicker inks than the characters talking. So your eyes are drawn away from the focus of the panel. Rice & Moreno need to spend more time studying and practicing visual storytelling.

Now let’s get to the 'story'. Historical fiction is nothing new. Even putting superhero trappings on real-life history has been done before, and with great success. I am reminded of Matt Fraction’s Five Fists of Science, a funny and exciting story about Mark Twain and Nicola Tesla fighting Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan. That drew on the real life rivalry between Tesla and Edison, as well as the well-documented personalities of the people involved. Even the addition of a Yeti, a giant robot, and other fantasy elements did not stretch my suspension of disbelief. The story remained driven by the characters.

But Helen Killer is the complete opposite. Kreisberg started from the premise, “What if Helen Keller was a superhero?”, and wrote everything around it. It’s like making a movie just to show off a new special effects technology. Even within the fictional world created by the comic, the logic makes no sense! Bell’s Omnicle is a pair of glasses that reroute light and sound through new areas of the mind. This allows Helen to see normally, as well as a person’s spiritual aura. Now I can buy that since this is a work of fiction. But how can a pair of glasses make Helen hear when it has no earpieces?! Does the Omnicle transmit sound through its lenses and into Helen’s brain? And how can any of this give a 22-year old woman the strength to lift a man over her head, jump over 6 feet into the air, and flip around like a kung-fu master?

The story itself is composed entirely of clichés. Helen is the troubled hero fighting her dark side, (like Daredevil, Batman, and a hundred others). Sullivan is the protective friend who doesn’t want Helen put into harms way, (like most heroes’ mothers). Agent Blaylock is the love interest whom Helen will either save or avenge (probably both). There is nothing unique to the figures involved. No truly original characters. This is literally just another superhero story dressed up in period costume.

But the worst part of this mess? Kreisberg writes at the end how he was impressed with the true life story of the real Helen Keller. Ms. Keller graduated from Radcliffe magna cum laude, and traveled the world as a cultural ambassador. Keller went from being trapped in a world of darkness to becoming a leading figure on the world stage. But even as an adult, she still remembered her time in the “No World”; how her anger took on a life of its own as “The Phantom”. The real Keller sounds more interesting and complicated than the bad joke in this comic.

I can say one good thing about this mess. The anarchists are described in the same terms as today’s terrorists. They also sound more dangerous than I had ever suspected. I’d like to learn more about early 20th century anarchists. Were they an organized movement? Or was the term a catch-all for political dissidents and lone assassins? A comic about anarchists sounds like a great idea. I’d also read about a comparison of terrorist groups throughout history. Did they use similar tactics? What groups achieved their goals? And do we still think of those winners as terrorists?

Now I’ve described a better comic than this one, a woman whose story is told elsewhere, and two comics I’d rather read that don’t exist. What does it mean when I’d rather read something that doesn’t exist than this comic? It means this comic is really freaking terrible. You can’t even enjoy it for camp value. It’s too ugly and takes itself too seriously. This isn’t the new ‘Anita Blake’. It’s just another self-published wannabe.



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