Hero: 9 to 5 Graphic Novel Review
|REVIEWS - PRINT REVIEWS|
Ian Sharman continues to swipe at the stereotypical superhero...
Jackob Reilly (aka Flame-O) is a superhero. However, his life is anything but heroic – in a world where the rich and powerful can afford top-notch superheroes, the rest of us have to rely on the services of ‘Heros to Zeros’. It's a government backed agency, like the NHS, underfunded and stressed to breaking point. Jackob has problems that we can all relate to: he's in an unfulfilling job, where his worth is unnoticed.
Sharman creates a world of the mundane where being a superhero is just another job. Hero: 9 to 5 gives us insight into Jackob's tempestuous relationship with Frostika, a super-villain with a basketball-proportioned bust.
Although British comic book writer Cy Dethan (Starship Troopers, Extinctions Protocol) "wished he’d thought of the story first”, the idea is far from original in its concept, as it feels like a humorous nod to Watchmen with a bit of The Incredibles thrown in. Saying that, there is a distinctly British feel to the dialogue, and although the language is needlessly explicit in parts, the writing does distinguish the story from what may otherwise look like a typical rendering.
Just about every aspect of the psyche, physique and storyline of the classic superhero comic is challenged, but wrapped up in a package that at times feels like it has been penned to appear in Viz or even the Beano. This was made noticeable with a graphic style change that occasionally popped up, making the scenes look more akin to a newspaper comic strip than a graphic novel. Perhaps if there were a few busty babes kicking ass in the Beano a few boys' lives may have been a little more exciting. I wonder if that’s the joke of it all? It’s hard to tell if Sharman isn’t actually making a point about the reader as well. There’s no doubt that there is an escapist fantasy to reading comics – that’s a given. But why must the women have massive tits and wear kinky costumes? Derrh! We love it. So we’re part of the joke!
Sharman keeps a good balance between the classic superhero dust-up and the realities of everyday life. There is enough depth to leave you wanting more from these characters, even though there are plenty of clichés in the relationship of Flame-O and Frostica. The buxom heroine wears a shirt and nothing else on one occasion. Where the theme of relationships in the story tends to be simplistic, it is overcome by a few nice twists to both the story development and the dialogue.
There are a few pages where the genre is really scrutinized both in the text and the composition of the artwork and they work well. The coloring is always punchy and consistent with the mood and action of each page.
Flame-O has a female sidekick, a character called Pink Girl (her powers are ‘Pink’). She adds an element that is so in keeping with the genre, yet there is another aspect to her that is quite different from other sidekicks. There is also an interesting rivalry between Pink Girl and Frostica for the affections of Flame-O. This feel very much like a teenager's perception of relationships: and perhaps the entire story could be seen as very naïve, but that seems deliberate. One panel in particular was a standout, featuring Pink Girl. It really struck me and helped drive the drama in the story in an unexpected way, giving everything a more gritty feel.
At times I did find that grittiness lost in the art. The fine line between dark themes and humorous banality is a hard balancing act. Some of the scenes felt difficult: the irony that was being set up wasn't always used to best effect. There were a few asides to the reader that, as a writing device, felt incongruous to the narrative that was very strong on its own.
I would like to see more depth to the relationships between the different characters, not just the male/female side but with each other. I would have expected to see more of the camaraderie that would be in a small group of people under great pressure, and even the breakdown between friends. This was a side of Watchmen that I felt was deftly managed: the longevity and change in friendships and romances over time. To be fair, Hero: 9 to 5 only covers a relatively short period of time, and to do this would be overcomplicated, so perhaps my observations are more for Sharman and team to investigate for future issues.
Overall Hero: 9 to 5 plays out to be a satisfying read which made me laugh, and I went back to admire some of the large panel pages, and I want to see more. I do have some reservations about the maturity and sensitivity of the character treatment. I think Sharman, Gray and Zamor have made a good start to exploring a good idea, but I would like to see a more complex story arc develop.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.