Each issue of No Hero carries the label "A Serialised Graphic Novel" on the cover, immediately below the title and tagline. This isn't pomposity or pretentiousness on the part of the creators, but instead a statement that indicates that this isn't an episodic series, but a single story spread out over several individually published chapters. Nowhere has this been more keenly felt than in this issue, which isn't a particularly satisfying read in its own right, but works well as a middle chapter of the larger story that Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp are telling with this book.
Last issue's cliffhanger, in which Joshua Carver took the FX7 drug designed to give people superhuman abilities, is quickly followed up here. After a brief prologue that explains that Carrick Masterson has taken measures to actively induce disturbing hallucinations in his subjects, we're treated to eight completely text-free, dialogue-free pages made up of four double splashpages. The first three of these splashpages allow artist Juan Jose Ryp the opportunity to conjure up some nightmarish imagery that feels like Iron Maiden album art as envisioned by Salvador Dali. Ellis' script might well have read, "3 double-page splashes of sickening hallucinations. Go nuts." Still, the artist is clearly enjoying himself, and his pages are so full of rich detail (with several interesting, surreal visual vignettes on each one) that they don't feel like empty, hollow reading experiences.
Unfortunately, this early visual indulgence eats into the page count of the book. The rest of the issue has to make quite an effort to provide enough in the way of plot and character development that it doesn't feel like a waste of a chapter.
Although Joshua is absent for the majority of the issue (we check in on him again at the end for another gruesome development), that doesn't mean that we don't learn more about him. Through the dialogue of other characters, his motivations are examined and some questions are raised regarding the readiness with which he accepted Carrick's drug. It's interesting stuff that makes me keen to see the character return to the spotlight next issue.
There's also an exciting flashback to an old Frontline operation which shows just how involved the group became in global affairs, and just how militaristic and adversarial Masterson's organization ultimately became. It also gives Ryp another gory scene to illustrate, and one that provides some justification for the imposing black costumes sported by the group.
Finally, there's a significant development involving the apparent death of one of the book's main characters. I don't want to labor the comparisons to Ellis and Ryp's previous collaboration, Black Summer, but after reading this issue, it seems that there are further parallels to be drawn between the two series. The third issue of that book also featured a surprise death of a major character that was later revealed to be a piece of misdirection by the writer and I'm wondering whether the same thing might happen here.
This isn't the best issue of No Hero so far, and judged purely on its own merits, it's not actually that compelling a read. However, as a part of the larger whole that is Ellis and Ryp's "Serialised Graphic Novel" it works well, moving a couple of plot points forwards and developing some of the characters a little more fully.
What did you think of this book?
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