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[Featurama] It Came From the Quarter Bin: 1st Edition


[Featurama] It Came From the Quarter Bin: 1st Edition

Comic book readers follow the same trend as most other hobbyists.  We all enjoy our bargains even if we have no idea if the books are any good.  I have indulged in my share of long box diving and have come away with a mountainous stack of books that for some reason or another have sat as unread and unloved as if they were still stuck in that dusty long box in the comic shop.

Well I must say no more dillydallying. It’s time for me to burn through these books and give them the love they still deserve.

Some of these books may be great and mysterious finds, some might just be terrible.  It Came From the Quarter Bin will be a showcase of the forgotten.

Hero Squared Convention Special Issue 1

“Getting to Know You”

Why I Bought It

This being the first edition of It Came From the Quarter Bin, I thought I’d open with something that had me scratching my head as I handed over my 25 cents.  This is a Joe Abraham and J.M. DeMatteis signed special convention issue. It perked me right up because up until recently, I haven’t been one of those big Comic Convention types of guys.  My local comic shop isn’t big enough to bring in regular comic artists and writers either.

So getting a signed comic, let alone a convention edition is somewhat of a rare thing for me.

I probably could have shipped in something signed from Boom Studios, but that’s not really the same thing is it? Plus, that’s not a convention edition anyway.  This just seemed special and as a huge Justice League International fan, I couldn’t leave it to gather dust in some bin.

The History

DC Comics in 1987 decided to hand the reigns of their struggling Justice League title over to Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with Kevin Maguire handling art. In what would become a huge change for the franchise, the team brought a focus on humor and fleshing out relationships instead of falling into the typical themes of the grim and gritty 80s.  It proved to be a successful move that would spread the team to two books and would keep them busy for years on the title.  Eventually the books were handed over to different writers and artists, but the team would often come back together on projects throughout the years.

In 2004, an old British press studio named Atomeka Press decided to start up printing again with the help of a former marketer Ross Richie.  After lying dormant for seven years, Atomeka grabbed up a handful of new indie projects to run along with some reprints of their classic A1 and Eddy Current series.  One of those new projects was a reunion of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis with their take on a superheros book focused on consequence called Hero Squared. Dubbed the X-tra Sized Special, the dynamic creative duo, alongside a relatively new talent in Joe Abraham, set out to showcase what would happen in a world where super heroes really do punch first and ask questions later.

A year later, the creative team would take their project to Ross Richie’s newly formed publishing house Boom! Studios and expand it to a short three issue mini series (of which we will be discussing the first issue).  This would again be expanded to a full run later but due to the other responsibilities Giffen and DeMatteis had at bigger publishers, they decided to put the book on hold until they could get a firm release schedule put together. Missing release dates on a bimonthly book isn’t what anybody on the team had in mind.

So the epic conclusion was delayed.  In the mean time, the group would visit the book’s primary superhero team known as the “Planetary Brigade.” In two very short runs in 2006 and again in 2007, Planetary Brigade was fleshed out.

Finally in 2009, 5 years after the first one shot, Hero Squared: Love and Death would wrap the series up.

What Hero Squared Issue 1 is All About

Milo Stone is the mild mannered super hero Captain Valor.  He is the biggest super hero of his planet and unfortunately that planet doesn’t exist anymore.  The world’s greatest super villain Calignous was successful.  She destroyed the planet and forced Captain Valor to leave his universe and land in the sarcastic failed film maker Milo Stone’s life.

This is the oddest Odd Couple story I’ve seen. Parallel universe stories have been common since the 60s or even before that.  The characters have been used as enemies and allies, but I’ve never seen the alternate reality theme used like this.  I guess that’s the teams strong point.  Good or bad, they bring something oddly unique to the formula.

The book opens with Times Square under attack and Captain Valor saving the day in a single page. From there we approach the relationship of Captain Valor, Milo, and Milo’s girlfriend Stephie.  Milo doesn’t like Valor and he’s starting to get a bit uncomfortable with how familiar Hero Milo is getting with Stephie. It is in this back and forth to get rid of Valor that we find out who Calignous is.  She’s Stephie.  Or well, Stephie from Valor’s world.

This revelation queue’s her exit and it is then revealed that she’s having some reservations about her relationship with Milo.  With a more heroic version of her beau available, what is Milo really worth to her?

Once she’s gone, Milo’s finally left just trying to do anything he can to get the guy out of his apartment in the least destructive way possible.  He presses Valor on the relationship between him and Calignous, and Valor takes it hard. Something happened to transform them into hero and villainess and just as they start to bond over this understanding of boundaries, villainy strikes.

Calignous sends a giant robot to attack the apartment forcing Captain Valor to jump into action and leaving Milo to evacuate the tenants from the building.  This has all been a ruse for Calignous to isolate Milo from Valor.  As Valor is left there fighting it out with a Calignous’s robot, Milo is captured and brought before her.  Poor Captain Valor is left wondering what the true purpose of the diversion was for.

Is It Good?

Actually yes.  Indie titles from big names usually hit or miss.  While I’m not sure how this title did for these two publishers, the ideas presented are really interesting.  While Giffen and DeMatteis pour on the dialog pretty thick at times, the relationships created through this are still really interesting.

The dynamic between Valor and Milo is interesting.  They really kind of throw you in awkwardly to this relationship for an issue 1, but enough is explained to eventually get the gist.  Actually the best things coming out of the book are the subtle hints as to what may happen.  Sometimes these guys waste a lot of story on a punch line, but the hint of a pairing between alternate Milos and Stephies is actually really interesting to think about.

Milo in either form is essentially a good guy.  Sure, one is clearly more cynical than the other, but at the end of the day, they are still decent guys.  However, something happened between Valor and Calignous that turned Stephie from totally too good for you girlfriend to vengeful former lover in Valor’s timeline. The histories hit a divergent path at some point and it’s a sore spot for both characters.

Stephie isn’t quite the perfect girlfriend Milo thinks she is.  The last pages of the book show her staring at Milo’s picture and then putting it face down.  She’s debating him, despite the fact that he’s a decent guy.  A slacker and maybe a bit of a loser, but a decent human being still.  This display shows not only that Stephie is wanting out, but that she just doesn’t have any faith in her man.

As a fan of all sorts of awkward triangle relationship stories, this is interesting to me.  Stephie in both forms is smart, driven and successful.  Right now though, Stephie is coming off looking worse than the world destroyer Calignous.  That’s a fun thing to think about and I’m actually pondering picking up some trades of it.

I do have to say though I’m not loving the coloring done.  The lines from artist Joe Abraham picks up on the same style as Kevin Maguire (with a bit of Frank Cho or even Adam Hughes mixed in) which is pretty nice to see from guys known for creating such exaggerated expressions in their characters.  That digital paintbrush isn’t consistent as you can see in the image below and it’s a bit of a shame.

Hero Squared is a surprisingly good book.  Potentially we had an indie title from a brand new publisher and an untested artist in Joe Abraham.  Even with the Giffen / DeMatteis team up on writing, they aren’t a flawless duo despite their amazingly unique styling.  Not only was it good, it was definitely worth a shiny Washington.  I’m actually more shocked that I only got it for a quarter.

While I can’t say that the teams goal of creating a super hero story that showcases the real life consequences of god-like beings smashing into each other in a city was successful in this issue, there are subtle hints that could show that.  First and foremost is that they almost destroyed Milo’s apartment building.  Yet, you probably wouldn’t come to that conclusion from reading this book.  More than anything, the hints of a lover’s mix up similar to the Meg Ryan film Addicted to Love seems to be the really intriguing piece.  For premise alone, this team up of Joe Abraham, Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis knocked the concept out of the park.

Now all I have to do is track down Keith Giffen somewhere and tackle him for an autograph.  The completionist in me needs to get this book fully inked.

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