"Over the Looking Glass"
Writers: J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffin
Artists: Joe Abraham, Matt Nelson(c)
Yeah, I know. How can I give Keith Giffin such a low score? Well, look. Three bullets isn't a bad score. It's an adequate score, and you have to realize that I'm comparing Hero Squared to Giffin's Ambush Bug, The Heckler, Vext and The Legion of Super-Heroes, especially The Legion of Substitute Heroes. I'm comparing the book to his and DeMatteis' Justice League run and their utterly brilliant Formerly Known as the Justice League. Against that stiff competition, Hero Squared just doesn't stand up. It's better than a lot of books, but it's not as funny or as interesting as Giffin's and DeMatteis' previous work. That may change, but at this stage of the game, the book is merely killing time until I Still Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League hits the racks.
Now, some of Hero Squared certainly seems derived from I Still Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League. As I recall, Giffin in an interview said that after the apparent killing of the second Justice League project, he reworked the idea into Hero Squared. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, and he should be commended for doing something that differs drastically from the source.
That said, Lord Caliginous certainly sounds a helluva lot like Manga Khan, and Sloat sounds a helluva lot like one of Caliginous' L-Ron replacements. Though their banter about "self improvement" does move outside of that territory and offers the book's best moment.
Captain Valor is a good Captain Marvel/Superman hybrid. Maybe he acts comic book silly at times, but he they don't push him far over the top where he would have become a parody that ridicules the concept of the super-hero.
Perhaps the really damaging flaw in the book is that the other characters really aren't very likable. Maybe this is Giffin's and DeMatteis' purpose; to suggest that reality is filled with unlikable characters. Well, I know that. Most of them are ensconced in Washington D.C. However, there are a few nice people in the world, and Valor's reality aide-de-camp Milo is just rather grating with no other setting to his personality. He sort of reminds me of what Booster Gold would be like without his creativity or imagination--and yes, to a lesser extent a want to do good.
Artistically, Joe Abraham and colorist Matt Nelson acquit themselves well. The super-hero action, the comedy and the realistic drama are well staged. The design of the book is very distinctive. It's difficult to pigeonhole Abraham into one style like Manga or old-school. So I won't try. The artwork does appeal, and that's the important part.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about Hero Squared, but this is simply not Giffin's and DeMatteis' best work. It could become their best, but at the moment it's too early to tell. However, I fell in love with Ambush Bug the moment he gave a no-hard-feelings present of a Red Kryptonite necklace to Superman. I can't say that there's any character in Hero Squared that truly grips me the way Ambush Bug did and still does.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!