Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

Helios #1
posted December 12, 2004

Creators: Mike Penny, Jason Rand, Gabe Pena, Chris Dreier, Transparency Digitial Productions, Spehar, Dreamer
Publishing Info: Dakuwaka Productions, $2.99
Ordering Numbers:

When I go to big comic book conventions, I'm always intrigued by the number of small press exhibitors with which I'm completely unfamiliar. I'm not sure if they make me happy or sad. It's nice to see people following their dreams, but most of the books are so completely forgettable it's tough not to wish for some to have more original dreams. As every few conventions it seems a fresh batch of publisher booths is in place like a new, nerdy skin, I would guess that most efforts of this type fade in a few years time after failing to catch on.

.imageMaybe that will be the case with Dakuwaka Productions; I'm not plugged in enough to know the difference between a sustainable effort of this type and one that isn't. Dakuwaka sent me their comic Helios #1, which promises a mix of political intrigue and action-filled superheroics. The problem is that both contributing elements seem pretty weak to me, and the mix proves nothing special. My guess is you have to be buried pretty deep in the world of superhero comics and its values to take notice of many of the things that might distinguish this comic from its fellow travelers. Are there enough people like that buying comics anymore?

It's not an ugly or outright amateurish effort. The various action scenes and figures are cleanly drawn, albeit in a rather run of the mill 1990s lesser Image title way. The political intrigue is allowed to build in more than a few off-hand panels. The particulars are so generic they could almost be stamped with their type. The backroom intrigue consists of a Senator seeking to take control of a governmental superhero program, the way all Senators do, I'm sure, even through nefarious means if necessary. In this issue that means triggering a handheld device (!) causing a small explosion that lets out a previously captured supervillain so that he may cause mayhem. It's a strange politician that seeks to discredit a program and risks potentially killing all of its major resources in order to seize control of it, although short-sightedness is at leasrt political quality I recognize.

The creature goes on a rampage and is stopped by the three superheroes remaining in the government program, but at the cost of severe injury and perhaps death to its female member (once I saw there were no black members, she was my choice to go, too). Weirdly, the story trades in instances of screwy logic that threaten to diminish even the cheap thrills of pulp. The author tries to build suspense by saying the escaped monster during took out multiple team members during its initial rampage, back when the superhero squad was at full strength, but he goes down really quickly in this issue's tussle. He's supposed to get stronger the more he destroys, but we don't see that, either. The guy who's been on the suphero team the longest has to be told about what it was like to fight the creature, even though every available body was supposedly called in. And though a plot point is that this monster can breathe underwater, it seems to me like he's stopped by being forced to breathe in water. If there are explanations for all of these things, they're not made clear, and that kind of lingering question is deadly in an adventure comic.

A blurb on the front cover of Helios #1 proclaims "...Imagine 24 meets the X-Men." This may be more apt than they know because nothing here seems new; it's all stuff cobbled together from somewhere else, much of the source material itself not very fresh. Superheroes is a tough genre right now, and I don't think the market supports merely average work anymore, save for some distinguishing, outsized characteristic: a really original plot, compelling dialogue, top-of-the-line art, a well-worn icon... Helios could have been published anytime in the last 20 years by up to a dozen companies, and mostly has been across any number of similar titles. I'm not sure why a reader wouldn't just want to read those comics instead.