H-E-R-O: Powers & Abilities
by Will Pfeifer, Kano (DC Comics, 2003)

There are right ways and wrong ways to make superhero comics appeal to adults. DC Comics did it right in 2003 with H-E-R-O.

The second revival of a Silver Age concept, H-E-R-O told the story of individuals who gained superpowers through a mysterious device. However, instead of subscribing to high ideals, fighting the good fight and generally improving conditions and circumstances for themselves and others, dealing with the seeming windfall of great abilities brought disappointment, and even disaster. H-E-R-O: Powers & Abilities collects the first six issues of the short-lived, but superior, series.

Writer Will Pfeifer handled characterization in a masterful fashion, giving readers a full view of humanity that is as real as you can find in the capes 'n' tights genre. These are not the cardboard cut-outs of so many superhero tales, but representations with human foibles and shortcomings that are sometimes difficult to look at, but captivating in their honesty. And, while certainly not putting forth a hopeless view of people in general (as proven by the story of Jerry Feldon), Pfeifer's characters remind us of how fallible we are, and how quickly our "best" ideas can give birth to consequences we never expected.

Helping to set the tone of the story is the art of Kano. Painting a somber atmosphere with a darker palette than that seen in most stories of super derring-do, Kano's work is a perfect example of how an artist can give a "lift" to a story that is already well-conceived. What's more, he is able to pull off nine-panel pages, splash pages and everything in between with a storytelling flair that escapes many artists today. After this offering, I will forever consider Pfeifer and Kano one of comics' dream teams.

H-E-R-O: Powers & Abilities is highly recommended for those who enjoy thoughtful, in-depth characterization with a side of superhero action. All but the youngest of readers should seek it out.

review by
Mark Allen

19 September 2009

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