Filed under: Comic Reviews, Image Comics | Tags: American Muscle, image, jimmypalmiotti, justingray, KevinMellon, PhilNoto, STEVENILES, Trigger Girl
It’s pretty clear that when we look back at this time in comics we’ll probably refer to it as the creator-owned-age, just like we’ve had our gold, silver and bronze ages previously. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s certainly an idea that’s got a lot of people thinking, which as a result has made for more interesting and ground-breaking comics for us the reader. At the epicentre of it all stands Image – a publisher who’ll gladly welcome anyone who has a good idea with open arms and allow them to do what they want with it. So it’s no surprise that this new title, Creator-Owned Heroes comes with the Image stamp of approval and a bag full of creators behind it.
On the face of it, I thought this was just a neat way of shipping two comics together – a double feature kind of book. That in itself would have satisfied me – at a decent price point, I’d be getting more for my money than if I’d bought 2 standard DC or Marvel titles. To my surprise, COH turned out to be that and a little more. Yes it’s a double feature comic, but with an oversized letters page that’s actually a magazine in disguise. It’s a clever tactic creating a magazine format in the shape of a comic – certainly fooled me. On realising this, I started having flashbacks to CLiNT magazine, launched about a year ago here in the UK, and worried that like it, this would miss the mark altogether. I’m glad to report that it’s a hell of an improvement on the format, but not perfect.
There’s a good chance that it’s because of first-issue-syndrome, but a lot of the articles from the creators involved in the book are very samey, all talking mostly about the idea behind the book. I’d still love to see input from all of these people each month, but I’m hoping that subjects can vary a little more and move away from what we expect to hear about creator-owned work. Some of the filler content could do with a re-think too, including a double splash page of photos of the creators at cons, and “Jimmy’s 6 best movies of 2012”. What does work well though are the interviews from others in the business, including one with Neil Gaiman in this first issue. Getting the views of those not involved with the creation of the book but talking about the creator owned space and the industry in general is something I’d like to see plenty more of (but not too much that it’s stealing the attention away from Comics Anon of course!).
The magazine section makes up the last third of the book, with the main comic events ahead of it. I’d like to see the layout mixed up a little in future issues to see what difference it makes – having the comics split by additional content in-between might help the overall experience of reading the issue cover to cover, however care would need to be taken for any spoilery images or discussions cropping up somewhere before the comic itself. By the sounds of it this book will have various comics come and go in the future, offering up a nice selection of talent from the comics industry, and issue #1 offers up American Muscle from Steve Niles and Kevin Mellon and Trigger Girl 6 from Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Phil Noto.
American Muscle offers up fast cars in a post-apocolyptic world, something that Niles himself comments as territory that has been trodden on before, however is keen to avoid these “land mines” in order to produce something original. He does this by blending in an all new idea for how the world will end – a total breakdown of the human immune system. How this came about and quite what effect it’s had on the world is yet to be seen, but somehow it’s resulted in massive desert wastelands and the American coastline falling into the sea. Niles uses an ensemble cast of characters to tell his story, but again trying to break the mould by having them aware of the same expectations we would have when it comes to doomsday scenarios – i.e. it’s normally got to be somewhere between nuclear war or a zombie breakout. The comic has an odd blend of indie comic originality and Hollywood blockbuster that certainly make me curious for the next instalment.
The second feature comes from the minds of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and is illustrated by the fantastic Phil Noto. Anyone not familiar with Noto’s work should get over to his Tumblr account where there’s a regular update of sketches and art. The first half of Trigger Girl 6 is a shrine to Noto’s work, with very little dialogue, leaving the pictures to tell the story. Like American Muscle, the story seems a familiar one, but not quite how we’ve seen it before – an assassin trained (or grown?) for a specific purpose – to be the most deadly killing machine possible. With details downloaded straight into her mind, Trigger Girl is up, dressed and kitted out for her mission before you can say “rise and shine” – and then she gets a hi-tech bubble-pod straight to her latest mission. There’s clearly a lot of background still to be explored in this book – like who controls the Trigger Girls and why are they targeting government officials? Personally, even if the story doesn’t turn out all that well, I’ll still be front row & centre for Noto’s amazing artwork.
On the comics alone, I’m more than happy to pick up future issues, but with the prospect of something more, giving me a bigger read for no extra cash, I’m even more eager to see more of this book. As with most new and original ideas, the first couple of tries won’t always be perfect, so here’s hoping that certain elements will be mixed up a little next time round to give us something truly unique and worthwhile.
Craig – @hastiecraig
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