Review: No Hero

Now that superheroes have gone mainstream there are plenty of stories that take apart the genre trying to figure out what makes it tick.  No Hero is one of these, and while it’s no Watchmen, it’s worth a look.  Warren Ellis introduces us to a superteam called the Front Line.  They were formed in the sixties by a messianic scientist named Carrick Masterson, who cooked up the key to superpowers through psychedelics.  Many of Warren Ellis’ comics have toyed with the idea of superheroes going after the REAL villains in our society, and right off the bat that’s what Masterson and his minions do.


Over the decades, Masterson and his super soldiers have wiped out everything that offends their sense of justice and alter historical events for the greater good.  But what then?  The Front Line’s dominance has led to them becoming what they once hated: dictators.  Since Masterson is the only one who can create superhumans, he has a monopoly on the superhero zeitgeist.  That unmitigated power has made him, for all intents and purposes, ruler of the planet.  He rules as a mixture of politician and celebrity, and as the story goes on we get a behind-the-scenes look at Masterson running his superhero empire.  Turns out he’s changed from an idealistic 60’s radical to an arrogant, jaded, and paranoid tycoon.


Besides Masterson, there’s Josh, a seemingly regular guy who desperately wants to be a superhero (while also insisting that he’s ‘no hero’).  Masterson’s superheroes are dying off left and right and he needs more soldiers, so the idealistic Josh is signed up for the program.  But as desperately as Josh wants to become a superhero, his initiation into this new world proves to be a nightmarish metamorphosis.  His role as the new standard bearer for the Front Line goes gruesomely wrong at every turn.  This is where the artwork comes into play.  The story isn’t Warren Ellis’ best (besides Josh and Masterson, there’s hardly any depth to the characters), but Juan Jose Ryp’s art is amazingly detailed.  We get scene after scene of extremely gruesome violence.  The superhero business can be really ugly, it turns out.  The  violence escalates for the story’s climax, which involves a twist that would’ve worked had there been more character development.  Still, the artwork is epic, and the story is good for those who enjoy superhero deconstructions.


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