Pipedream Pull List: Bryan Hitch’s Real Heroes #1 (Image Comics)

Superstar artist Bryan Hitch’s Real Heroes sees the king of the rubble-strewn panorama fill in the gaps between the epic double page spreads with something a bit more than a few nice celebrity portraits in his new mini-series from Image Comics. But will his words be as powerful as his pencils when all is said and done?

real-heroes-01-Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Bryan Hitch
Price: $3.99 from ComiXology or the Image Comics Online Store

When we reviewed Mark Millar’s new series Starlight last month, we discussed the perils of being a superstar writer and the way your work can be prejudged before it has even been been read. Well that tendancy is amplified even moreso when it concerns a superstar artist who takes on the writing reigns. For every Frank Miller or John Byrne who excels, there are hundreds who fail to capture the same magic when put in charge of the words as well as the pictures.

Which brings us to Bryan Hitch’s Real Heroes, the first book written by the man behind Ultimates, America’s Got Powers and the Authority. Although not strictly his first foray into writing (he co-wrote America’s Got Powers with TV personality Jonathon Ross) this is his first unaided scripting stint and for Hitch fans you’ll be please to know we’re in familiar territory with post-modern superheroes who bear uncanny resemblances to celebrities.

The book starts off in typical Hich-ian fashion with a huge big rubble inducing event, allowing the master of the epic destruction scene to really flex his muscles. However it is an uneasy opening salvo as the battle sees 9/11 re-imagined as a superhero skirmish. Despite us being 13 years removed from this tragic incident it feels in very poor taste and sets the book off on the back foot immediately.

Fortunately for fans of good taste, it is quickly revealed to be part of a superhero movie that sees Avengers-like team the Olympians take on the forces of evil. As is often the case in Hitch books, the characters are rendered to resemble famous people (this after all is the man who visualised Nick Fury as Samuel L Jackson) but the heroes themselves also bear an uncanny resemblance to characters in another Marvellous universe. Whether this is creative laziness or just a reflection of the fact Hitch did such a good job on redesigning the look and feel of Marvel’s super team in the early 2000s, depends on which side of the Hitch fence you sit, however it does make the book feel very derivative.

We are then introduced the various actors who make up the superhero team – at least on screen – as the worlds of comics and Hollywood merge, to create an interesting take on the super team. These are real people, albeit actors, playing a role, rather than mutants or gentically altered super people and the direction we are about to be taken in is definitely an interesting one. As with any Hitch project the cast are rendered to resemble actual celebs, in this case the obvious ones being Chris Pine and Bradley Cooper, rather than creating new pseudo celebs and it’s a great touch, if a tad self-indulgent, but we knew that was coming when we started reading this book.

*FROM THIS POINT ON THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS

The real substance of the book comes in the final half as we see life imitate art as a devastating robot from the movie begins to attack and destory LA. and it is revealed to be a real-life version of the character from a parallel dimension. With the actors transported through a mysterious doorway into an alternate reality where the real life Olympians are real superhereos, but who have been destroyed, the actors are asked to take on their iconic roles and help save the world. It’s a bit like Last Action Hero or Tropic Thunder but with spandex and as a conclusion to a first issue makes for a very intriguing premise.

We’ve included the spoiler warning above because we read this first issue without knowing what was coming and wanted to give you the same experience. Because the story is told in a very linear fashion the big reveal of the plot isn’t revealed until the final page of the book, which in a way works really well as it means you are kept waiting until the very end for it to make sense. However up until that point the first issue did feel a bit trad and unimaginative, as if Hitch really was just going through the motions and drawing what he fancied. Fortunately with this big reveal at the end it begins to feel like something new and exciting and as if this was a book with a bit of actual direction and for that reason alone it ended up much better than we first expected.

How it will pan out in future issues we will have to wait and see as with that comes our next big caveat. With Hitch’s reputation for lateness on his pages, who knows how long the length of time we will have wait for the conclusion of this series will be –  let alone between issues. With only 4 issues slated you have to hope we will see the conclusion sometime in 2014, but who knows? This is certainly the kind of book that benefits from momentum and so we hope this isn’t going to be the only issue we read this side of the summer.

For now though, this first issue is all we can judge and though it may not be packed with earth-shatteringly original characters and dialogue that will turn the world of superheros on it’s head, it’s still a pretty fun read with some great earth-shattering double page spreads in it – and isn’t that what we want from a Bryan Hitch book at the end of the day anyway!

pd_review3“A solid first outing, that will more than live up to the expectactions of die-hard Hitch fans. Whether he is as good a wordsmith as he is a visual story-teller will depend on how well the momentum is carried on past the first issue, but for a debut it has plenty of action and some interesting characters, to go with great visuals and an intriguing twist at the end.”

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.