Real Heroes #3 Review

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Can even the most skilled actors become the very heroes they portray on the screen?  If not, they’re in for a long fall…  Your Major Spoilers review of Real Heroes #3 awaits!

RealHeroes3CoverREAL HEROES #3
Writer: Bryan Hitch
Penciler: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Paul Neary with Andrew Currie
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously in Real Heroes:  The Olympians are the greatest heroes ever known, an assembly of heroes familiar to those who have seen recent superhero blockbuster films.  Of course, there’s a reason for that, as they’re all actors assembled to PLAY those heroes on the big screen, all of whom have feet (and sometimes even more) of clay.  Now, they’ve been transported across dimensions into a world where they actually have the powers of the heroes they’re dressed up as.  Last issue, an attack by a villain threw most of the team into free-fall, thousands of feet above the city, with no idea how to not die.  Is it time to recast our heroes?

A WRITER GETTING HIS FEET UNDER HIM

The first issue of this series was an intriguing one, setting up our characters (and making sure we know which real-world actors they’re pastiches of) and making it clear what each of their weaknesses are.  This issue opens with the team having to deal with their first real crisis, and it…

…doesn’t really go well.  As they fall, we see each “hero” responding, with the super-fast character suddenly shifting into speed mode reminiscent of Mark Waid’s 90s Flash comics, the shrinking character panicking and getting small, and the super-strong paragon of virtue not understanding why the monstrous villain keeps beating on him.  Bryan Hitch’s most high-profile work has been with writers who are at the forefront of the “decompression” trend in comics (such as Mark Millar), and it’s no surprise that he’s emulating that in this issue, but the fact that the fall takes nearly 1/3 of the book is a pacing misstep for me.  The characters’ dialogue and reactions all feel very flat and familiar, and I can actually recite some of the lines before they happen.  Once they make landfall, our heroes all choose to run away (which, to be fair, is a perfectly rational response to the situation, and is one of the things in the issue that I feel works as a stylistic choice.)  Unfortunately, their actions once again fall into the predictable (the former addict gets drunk and considers his hidden stash of cocaine, the speedster runs and runs and runs like a constipated wiener dog, etc.) leaving me cold.

OVERLY FAMILIAR MOMENTS

The second half of the issue deals with the captured members of The Olympians coming face to face with an alien super-mastermind, and once again, the plotting and dialogue is predictable and basic, with the biggest howler of the issue coming as “Hardware” stammers that they’re not heroes they’re actors, and the alien responds with a smirking “I know.”  Part of me wonders if Hitch is trying to evoke the idea that these actors are using their knowledge of tropes and dialogue to adjust to a world based on the fictions they know, but if that is the case, a little more finesse is required.  The major threat of the last third of the issue is an homage (which is French for “lifted wholesale) from the original Superman motion picture, which frustrates rather than entertains me, and the overall effect of the issue is one of perplexity for me.  There are some good notions here, but a story that depends on the idea of actors having to adjust to the ridiculousness of an action movie world can’t whole-heartedly embrace the clichés of superhero comic fiction.  There’s no more reality to the Olympians “real world” existence than their movie world, and the stock characters don’t give us anything much to hold on to.  Hitch’s art is, as always, the breath-taking wide-screen madness, but even that works against him, as it makes all the unreality and madness of the superhero world look really cool and familiar, but doesn’t really have the nuances that would make the characters’ fear and confusion meaningful in a visual way.  Add to the fact that those big set pieces appear somewhat haphazardly through a plot that neither sets up nor follows up on them, and it’s the proverbial sound and fury situation.

THE BOTTOM LINE: PRETTY BUT PLODDING

Hitch is a very talented artist, even though I think he’s caught in a rut of rehashing ‘The Ultimates’ over the last couple of years, and this issue shows him really working to grow as a creator, playing with some high-concept and deep character work that has potential.  Unfortunately, the execution of this issue reveals his inexperience as a writer, prioritizing the big spots and familiar bits of comic book-style storytelling to the detriment of what has been set up by the first two issues.  As interesting as the premise is, Hitch’s work contains minor moments that simply do not work, with the most obvious of those being a team with the generic name of “The Olympians” being led by a hero also generically named The Olympian.  Real Heroes #3 has a compelling premise, and there are hints of something new and different in this issue, but there are simply too many characters in play for any to fully grab our attention, and the extensive decompression makes it hard work to stay invested in the issue, leaving Real Heroes with a 2 out of 5 stars overall.  This issue could have used a once-over by a more experienced storyteller to help put it all together…