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No Hero #0

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2008
By: David Wallace

Warren Ellis
Juan Jose Ryp, Greg Waller (c)
Avatar Press
No Hero is the second collaboration between Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp to be published by Avatar. Their first, Black Summer, was a compelling tale of politics and superheroes that posed some pertinent questions about the use and abuse of power, and the extent to which the means justify the ends in the pursuit of justice. This new book looks to be covering similar territory, but from a slightly different point of view.

As with Black Summer, this #0 issue provides half-an-issue's worth of story as well as some commentary and background information from Ellis. For just $1.00, it's a decent package that gives you enough information to whet your appetite for the story without giving too much away.

Kicking things off in the 1960s, Ellis presents a group of apparently heroic superhuman characters who name themselves The Levellers. The group claim that they're altruistic, and that they don't want to rule or control anything - but, as in Black Summer, these good intentions ultimately lead them down the path to something more sinister. A brief montage shows the movement becoming more hardline as the years go on, with some of the group members turning to drugs as a result of the substance that was responsible for their powers and their superheroic lifestyle. Finally, an explosive epilogue sets up a decent mystery that promises to form the backbone of the main series.

Juan Jose Ryp's artwork is as detailed and intricate as we’ve seen in Black Summer, but with some slightly less rigid layouts that suggest that he's starting to experiment a little with his art. His visuals accurately reflect the pop culture zeitgeist of the eras that he's called upon to depict, with 1960s scenes of civil unrest, JFK and the space race evoking the political and social landscape effectively. He doesn't shy away from the more gruesome aspects of Ellis' script, either, with a particularly chilling scene in the more modern closing pages that wouldn't feel out of place in Seven.

Despite being a fairly slim volume, No Hero #0 has me interested enough in the series that I'll definitely be picking up the first full issue. The ideas that Ellis is playing with are interesting and socially relevant, there's a decent hook ("How badly do you want to be a superhero?"), and the story of this issue already hints at some compelling yet subtle mysteries (the date of the formation of the Levellers is 6th June 1966 (6/6/66) and The Front Line form on 7th July 1977 (7/7/77) - could they be significant?). The back matter also provides a wealth of background information on the series from Ellis ("Much more than you needed to know, right?") that drops some hints as to the sort of direction that he'll be taking with the book. As long as Ryp can work quickly enough to produce issues on something approaching a regular basis (we're still waiting for the oft-delayed Black Summer to wrap up), this looks like it could be another strong offering from the team.



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