H-E-R-O #1 (2003)

Sometimes it sucks to be a comics fan today. Reason #44? DC’s short-run quality comics. From the company that brought us Monolith and Resurrection Man and Fallen Angel came H-E-R-O, another short-lived, high-quality series that somehow never attracted any sort of audience. From a sales standpoint, H-E-R-O was a dog. But from a quality standpoint, the series is terrific. And now it can be yours in your local comic shop for a quarter an issue.

The quality starts with the first issue. In it, we meet a guy named Jerry, who found a dial that can turn him into a super-hero. Unfortunately, his super-powers don’t help his loser’s life, and he calls a suicide hotline, so frustrated is he about his life. What follows is a really wonderful journey, one of excitement and despair, proof that super-powers don’t necessarily solve a guy’s problems. It’s one of the core lessons of Lee and Ditko’s Spider-Man, but here, with a more modern spin, the idea still resonates.

Jerry sounds like a loser, but he isn’t. He’s an interesting character who really comes to life in the able writing of Will Pfeifer. The scenes where Jerry describes his bleak future are funny, and when he finds the HERO dial that turns him into a hero, we can really feel his excitement. Then, when things turn bad, the story takes another nice turn.

And if the story isn’t good enough for your quarter, the art by Kano (one name, thank you very much) is gorgeous, clean and resonant and fun. I have no idea what else Kano’s done, but he shoulda been a star. Dave Stewart’s inks help a lot, too.

If you see this book in a quarter bin, snap it up. Then you’ll feel the same sadness I sometimes feel about being a comic fan today.

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