REVIEW: Creator-Owned Heroes #1

As the writer of a series of columns called “The Creator-Owned Zone”, of course I was going to review a comic that has “Creator-Owned” in its title.  In truth, though Creator-Owned Heroes has been on my radar for a while (mainly through following masterful promoter Jimmy Palmiotti on Twitter), I didn’t actually know anything about the content of the book itself: it had just wedged itself in my brain through osmosis, and so on a whim I decided to pick it up today.  I discovered that it is actually a magazine, and though that might seem to be stepping on the toes of the new Bleeding Cool magazine (also released today – I skimmed it on the shelf, looks pretty good), if anything the combination of articles, interviews and comics make it more like a US format CLiNT, albeit – in my humble opinion – better executed.

The first half of this comic-format magazine is taken up with the first chapters of two serialised creator-owned comics.  The first of these is American Muscle, written by Steve Niles of 30 Days of Night fame, and drawn by Kevin Mellon, whose work on Heart earned plenty of praise from me.  Their story is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a vaguely-defined virus of sorts has wiped out most of the human race, and a ragtag group of rebels have escaped from some protective walled community to explore the wastelands beyond.  Niles makes ecomonic use of his limited space here, very quickly and concisely setting up the concept and introducing us to our characters.  Admittedly, those characters are not yet really defined at this early stage, though a basic framework for who our key players might be is laid out.  Questions are raised about the world and these people, and we’re left with a shocking cliffhanger to bring us back more.  A textbook example on how to plot an opening chapter well.

On the art front, Mellon continues to impress.  His work is cleaner here than in the rougher lines of Heart, given extra slickness with the sun-parched colors, also provided by Mellon.  The desert heat an the dust practically rises from the page.  As Mellon’s work gets tighter, at points I’m actually reminded of the work of Tony Moore.  He certainly shares Moore’s ability to make each member of a large cast visually distinctive, which should prove useful as this story continues.  Mellon is definitely a talent to watch!

The second story, Triggergirl 6, is fairly light on plot, with only a whisper of a larger mythology and a bigger plot waiting to unfold.  But co-writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray – whose work on Jonah Hex i loved so much – have proven to be dependably consistent storytellers, so I trust them to be going somewhere interesting with this tale of a highly-dangerous female assassin.  For now, though, they’re happy to let artist Phil Noto do the talking, and this gorgeous artist doesn’t just talk, it sings!  The later action sequences are handled with pinache, but its the early pages that are a true delight – and not just because of the purdy naked lady.  Noto shows a mastery in depicting texture, whether it be the smooth softness of our protagonist’s skin or the sleek shine of their uniform.  Gorgeous work, and when combined with Mellon’s contribution in the previous story, I’d venture to say that, above all, the comics in Creator-Owned Heroes #1 could be regarded as a visual triumph.

But though this may be a bit of a blasphemous thing to say in a comic review, I may have enjoyed the magazine content even more!  While sometimes stuff like this can come across as half-hearted backmatter, here it feels like a vital part of the package.  There are some passionate testimonials on the appeal of creator-owned comics, a feature on cosplay, and an insightful interview with Neil Gaiman, as well as a bit of “making-of” stuff regarding the design of the comic itself and other bits and bobs.  It all made for interesting reading.

Would I pick up Creator-Owned Heroes monthly?  I’m not sure.  Both of the stories are certainly good enough to warrant me sampling another chapter.  Nevertheless, I love the idea of this book, and the clear passion behind it.  I think there’s definitely a niche for a comic like this, and so I wish it every success!

Creator-Owned Heroes #1 is available now from all good comic stores.

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