Before I begin, I should mention the connection I have with No More Heroes, this dark new superhero series by writer Gordon McLean and artist Caio Oliveira. Gordon is a fellow member of the Glasgow League of Writers, a collective of comics writers formed in 2011. In fact, both of us are founding members. And in the very first meeting of the group, one of the scripts on the agenda up for review and feedback was none other than the first draft of No More Heroes #1. Since then, I’ve seen that script be redrafted and refined, I’ve talked to Gordon during his search for an artist and his queries into publishing avenues, I’ve looked at the printed pages of artwork he excitedly brought along to meetings, I recommended Kel Nuttall as the best possible choice for a letterer. And now I get to read and review the finished first issue. I feel like I’ve followed No More Heroes on the journey from concept to completion, and that might color my perspective of it slightly. But setting aside any sense of kinship or personal connection to the title, I feel I can safely say with some degree of objectivity that No More Heroes #1 is a hugely enjoyable read, and makes for a stylish comic book debut.
The plot centres around Sid Millar, a regular 20something average Joe who is hanging out with his friends one night when he receives an anonymous text, simply reading, “SHOULD I KILL MYSELF?” After some heckling from his drunken friends, Sid replies with, “YES.” The next day, news breaks that Dark Justice, the world’s most beloved superhero, has killed himself. Coincidence? Or is Sid responsible?
We have seen many stories about the Everyman superhero. With No More Heroes, McLean takes the concept even further by having our protagonist be an Everyman without being a superhero, showing what life might be like for regular people living in a world of superheroes, and how their life might be affected when superheroes cross their path. Sid and his friends are a relatable bunch, thanks largely to McLean’s keen ear for naturalistic dialogue. It’s almost a shame that the plot is given away in the basic pitch, as without knowledge of what the comic is about, the newspaper headline reveal of Dark Justice’s death is a whopper of a left-field story beat. This is because, in the opening sequence, McLean does such a great job with setting up the dynamics between our ensemble of normal characters, that you could be lulled into thinking this was a story that wouldn’t feature superheroes at all.
There are a couple of minor plotting problems, largely related to the pacing. Once the superhero aspect of the story comes more to the fore, we are treated to a full-page and a double-page spread in quick succession, which feels a wee bit like padding. Especially since, by the time we reach the end of this first issue, it feels like we could have benefitted from just a little bit more plot to further bait the hook for the next chapter. But even so, there’s still more than enough likeable material to make picking up No More Heroes #2 a safe recommendation (even safer considering that I’ve read the script for issue #2, and it’s even better than the script for #1!).
On art duties, newcomer Caio Oliveira handles himself very well. This is a very talky script, in the first half at least, but Oliveira manages to make it visually interesting, designing expressive characters that have little bits of business and body language that pop. And once we get to the action scenes, Oliveira comfortably makes the transition. I might have a problem with them from a plotting perspective, but from a “Holy crap that looks great!” perspective, those splash pages are stunners.
One thing I will say, though, is that this book could really benefit from color. A colorist – Goran Kostadinoski – is credited, but according to the comic’s official website, this was just for the cover and promo art, with the actual interiors currently being black-and-white. I can understand the desire to keep a book black-and-white to keep costs down. I almost made The Standard black-and-white. But I think that superhero books really need to be in color for maximum impact.
Overall, No More Heroes #1 is a very promising start. Dark, tense, frequently funny, and stylishly drawn, I’d definitely recommend this as a series worth checking out. And Gordon McLean is a talent to watch. Since writing this, Gordon has shared several other scripts at GLoW meetings, quite a few that are even better than this, and he has several in various stages of development. He’s a breakout writing talent in waiting, so you should be one of the cool kids and check out this opening salvo.
No More Heroes #1 is available to buy in print and digitally from the official website.