Hero Squared

A little background: My great guy-you’d-use-your-one-call-from-prison-to-phone friend [Ross->] moved to Los Angeles immediately after graduating from the University of Texas in 1992 with an eye toward breaking into the film industry. While zillions of people embark upon this particular adventure, the capricious streets of that city are enough to send most of them home, tail between their legs, within a few years.

Not Ross, however. Through a combination of doggedness and smarts (not to mention his dashing good looks), he has managed to carve out a pretty darn good life for himself out there. His latest venture is Boom Studios, a comic book publishing enterprise that is turning out some superb work.

I’m no expert on the funnybooks, but I’ve really taken a shine to Hero Squared, a fledgling series written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and drawn by Joe Abraham. The premise of the story is that Captain Valor, a superhero from an alternate universe, gets tossed into our world, where he discovers that his analogue in this world is Milo, an unmotivated, cynical Gen-X slacker whose help he has to enlist. Milo’s girlfriend Stephie also has an alter-ego, who turns out to be Captain Valor’s arch-nemesis, Caliginous, who laid waste to their dimension before banishing Valor to ours.

While the alternate-timeline plot doesn’t break a whole lot of new new ground, the writing turns a somewhat pedestrian setup into a great series of gags and exchanges that are enormous fun to read. Captain Valor’s straight-laced-to-the-point-of-nerdy brand of heroism causes him considerable frustration when he encounters Milo’s lack of motivation and indifference to many of the issues that face them. Milo is baffled by Valor at first, thinking he’s pulling some sort of elaborate practical joke, but eventually begins to work alongside him (out of necessity) without ever losing his cynical edge or really granting Valor much respect. My favorite character by far, however, is Sloat, Caliginous’ sidekick. Sloat attempts to improve himself by reading a word a day from the dictionary and working his new vocabulary into exchanges with his boss at the most inopportune moments, resulting in some delightful absurdity as they pursue their nefarious agenda. His exchanges with his mentor in evil are priceless.

The books themselves are high quality, printed on glossy paper with rich, saturated colors, and look superb. (Silly putty won’t be transferring images from these comics!) The artwork is very nicely done, with lots of detail that complements the action in the story well. The quality of the character design is especially apparent where we see Milo and Captain Valor next to each other — it’s obvious that these are essentially the same person, but bearing the marks of very different lives.

So, get thee to your friendly neighborhood comic retailer and buy a copy of Hero Squared. (If you lack a nearby comic shop, you can order here as well. But seriously, if you’ve got a local outlet, use it! They need your business!) For more on Ross and his plans for Boom! Studios, see Comic Books Resources’ Interview with him.