Thursday, December 9, 2010

Easy To Avoid, Heroes Volume 2 Graphic Novel Poorly Fills In The Blanks!

The Good: One or two mildly amusing vignettes/panels of artwork
The Bad: Generally poor artwork, Does not significantly advance any meaningful storylines, Expensive.
The Basics: A poor outing for any franchise, the Heroes Volume 2 "graphic novel" awkwardly collects a bunch of pointless stories that (inadequately) flesh out secondary characters from Heroes.

It might seem odd that someone like myself who reviews a whole bunch of action figures and trading cards that tie into major science fiction franchises might sit and complain about anything being over-merchandised. And yet, I have found that the longer the television Heroes has gone on, the less I enjoy it and that the more merchandising the series generates, the poorer quality it becomes. So, as the source material has become more mediocre, the secondary products have similarly become more blase. It is little surprise then, given my reaction to the first Heroes graphic novel volume (click here for that review!), that when I sat down and read the Heroes Volume 2 graphic novel that I would be not only utterly unimpressed, but actually disgusted by the obvious cashgrab and poor quality of the work.

This "graphic novel" is a collection of forty-six "stories," some of which are simply a page or two, so it is more like forty-six "chapters." Continuing the same format as Volume 1, Volume 2 is an odd attempt to fill in the blanks in the Heroes universe by answering questions viewers might have and flesh out the primary - and more often than that, secondary - characters who appeared in the second season of Heroes (click here for my review of that!). The problem with Heroes Volume Two is that the stories are less cohesive and less vital to the series and therefore much of the book seems more like useless fluff . . . and bad filler at that. The backstories of the Haitian and Candice have mild interest to fans, but given that their stories are either predictable or just plain bad, coupled with some of the worst artwork to ever be printed in the pages of a "graphic novel," Heroes Volume 2 is easy to pass by, even for die-hard fans of the show.

Heroes Volume 2 is an awkward collection of stories like "It Takes A Village" where a kid kills his father who is cursed with strange powers and then is rescued by the Company. That kid, as it turns out, is the Haitian from the television series who has the ability to nullify the powers of other "mutants." In "Betty," there is an overweight Goth girl stumbling through high school being picked on by her classmates. That girl turns the tables on her tormentors and becomes one herself using her powers. She is taken in by the Company where she becomes Candice, the woman used to keep the wounded Sylar in check at the outset of the second season. If this makes little sense to you, you stumble upon one of the serious problems with Heroes Volume 2 much the way I experienced it; this book is designed for the die-hard fans who live, breathe and know Heroes inside and out. As a result, the book is often esoteric and relies on very small details slipped in the show to flesh out several pages worth of stories. So, in the case of "Betty," the entire story is based upon a shot of the dead "Candice" seen face-down looking nothing like the thin chick who had been in every other scene.

There is a very short story involving Claude's (the invisible man) first partner with the Company and "Heroism Is Found In The Heart" effectively bridges Ando's story between seasons one and two. In that, Ando has the chance to be a hero by protecting Hiro's sister after Hiro disappears into the past. As well, Suresh is featured in a story where he comes to believe his blood may cure those who have "abilities," long in advance of his realization of it in the television show. There is a story of Maya and Alejandro as children which simply fleshes out exactly what they said happened to them in the show when their powers developed as kids and she wiped out their entire village.

Other stories tend to be similarly focused on second season characters from Heroes, though most of them are shorter or less interesting than the ones from Volume One. Molly has a very cool nightmare in "Molly's Dream" and "Elle's First Assignment" sets up an animosity between Elle and Claire. But these are offset by stories like "The End Of Hana And Drucker" where graphic novel-exclusive characters are killed off and a "Takezo Kensei" (Hiro in the past) adventure that is just plain terrible. It adds nothing to the mythos, looks ridiculous and even contradicts elements established in the television series.

The big black mark against the "graphic novel" (I keep putting that in quotes because it is such a haphazard collection of pages that barely add up to a story, much less a cohesive novel) is the artwork. Tom Grummet does terrible artwork in "The End Of Hana And Drucker" that looks sloppy, is poorly detailed and barely resembles the characters that are supposed to be recognizable. Equally as bad is the artwork of Michael Gaydes who is fairly prolific in this volume. In "Petrified Lightning," his artwork is very cartoonish and some characters, like Claude, where there are plenty of references from the television series to go on are unrecognizable. Similarly, the "Trial Of The Black Bear" is very much a cartoon strip that does not fit in with the rest of the artwork where some of the pages try to have very detailed artwork of the characters from the series.

But the problem here is that vital characters that most readers are likely to care about were kept out of action in the months between Seasons one and two of Heroes. The result is that they cannot have stories presented in the Volume 2 graphic novel and they do not. Wildly popular characters like Sylar, Peter and Nathan are all omitted for the most part because their stories are filled in entirely in episodes in Season two and therefore there is nothing to flesh out in the spaces between that this book wants to fill in.

Also bad is the dialogue. Characters like Claire, who is presented in Volume 2 trying to fit in at her new school with a new name in "Elle's First Assignment" are written saying things unlike anything they say on the television series. While there is some value to creativity in expanding the characters from the franchise, here it becomes problematic because the main characters are seldom recognizable either in the artwork or the way they speak. That is a huge liability when one has a medium like comics where the actor's performance is unable to "sell" key lines.

That, though, makes Heroes Volume 2 very easy to pass by. At $22.99 for a 270 page comic book, this is too tough a sell, so I say use your super powers to avoid it!

For other Heroes related reviews of mine, please check out:
Heroes Season Three on DVD
Heroes: Saving Charlie
Heroes Season Four on DVD


For other graphic novel reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2009, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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