Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hero: Book One by David Rubin

The Hero: Book One by David Rubin.

dark horse,The Hero,david rubin


The Hero: Book One
Written and Illustrated by David Rubin. 
Translated into English and reprinted by Dark Horse Comics. 

David Rubin has crafted something so fresh and unique out of such an incredibly old tale that it just shouldn't be possible not to mention as much fun as it is to experience.  The Hero: Book One is here nonetheless, and it deserves to be recognized as the fantastic work that it is.   

Rubin's art stands out to me from just about everything else on the shelf, with bold lines, bright colors, and boundless energy. Honestly, the cartooning in this book is some of my personal favorite of all time. When I sit around the house procrastinating/daydreaming about being an artist, even my daydreamed art isn't as wonderful as the work Rubin is putting down. I know he was tapped by Paul Pope to be a contributor for the continuation of his Battling Boy world of books, and a lot of comic readers are already familiar with his work, but unfortunately I haven't gotten around to reading those yet and so I was sort of unprepared for the artistic assault that this book contained. His lines are clean but brushed boldly giving it a sense of awe and depth in those lines.  If forced,  I simply couldn't find a page in this particular work that wasn't gorgeous. The book is also immaculately designed and begins the story of our protagonist on the very first endpaper with an illustration of Heracles still in utero, his destiny still in flux, and gives you the feeling that Rubin just cannot wait to get the story started. 

Book one opens with the destiny of Heracles and Eurystheus being foretold. One of them is destined to be a sadistic tyrant, and while the other will be destined to be a hero of great renown, he will also be forced to be the servant of the tyrant. The consequences of Heracles not obeying Eurystheus are shown early on as he's hit from on high with a lightning bolt for seemingly only contemplating disobedience. 

Just as Rubin's art style rides the line between dark and light the story he is reimagining and his portrayal of the characters does the same.  Eurystheus is portrayed as a murderous and demented sociopath but one who is himself being manipulated by the gods, maybe so much that he is incapable of being any other way. Heracles is shown as a natural hero, thinking of the problems of others before himself, but unable to be as effective as he could be due to his bond to Eurystheus. 

Rubin doesn't hit you over the head with the themes he's exploring, but they are there; what it means to be a hero, free will vs. destiny, faith in higher powers, and how being destined to be a hero is a lot like being cursed in how the Heracles story pans out. 

The setting for the story is classical and modern in the same breath, a retro punk retelling of Greek Gods in modern day clothing advertisements. A world where Cell phones, airplanes, computers, and motorcycles all exist in the same world as the Greek pantheon. Whether we are being told a story of ancient Greece with modern technologies or some strange modern era that is home to an actual pantheon of gods is left up to our interpretation. 

There's also a risqué cameo from a certain Amazon that is NSFW and graphic depictions of violence but given the source material I don't think anyone should be shocked. 

The only thing that struck me as a little bit odd was Rubin's portrayal of Poseidon, who looks like a muppet Cthulhu via Futurama instead of the way he's been illustrated every other time I've ever seen. But it's a fun scene and still manages to match the overall style of the book.  You can tell the creator has a deep appreciation of the classic myths but he isn't letting those old tales tie his hands. He's still able to weave beats of humor and surprise into what could easily be referred to as a tired tale. 

This book was so much fun to read it seemed to fly by in seconds  and I honestly can't wait to read it again or to dive into Book Two. So the only warning any reader really needs is to try not to cut your fingers on those pages while you're racing to the back cover.  

Stay calm. 
Don't panic. 
Heracles is the hero you need to read. 

Ultraman Volumes 1 & 2 by Tomohiro Shimoguchi and Eiichi Shimizu

Ultraman Volumes 1 & 2 by Tomohiro Shimoguchi and Eiichi Shimizu

Ultraman Volumes 1 & 2
Written by Tomohiro Shimoguchi
Illustrated by Eiichi Shimizu
Published by Viz

I know we're all being sold a billion different "new" or reimagined versions of every single thing we ever loved, as well as everything we slightly remember due to those early morning sleep deprivation experiments that were Saturday Morning Cartoons.  And because they know we loved that stuff so much there are now unintelligible live-action Transformers movies, semi-animated Scooby-Doo films, and The Real Housewives of Gilligan's Island.  It's a minefield.

I get it. I understand.  I'm one of you too.  Someone who craves all the new things I didn't even know I was missing out on, someone who despises the very idea of new ideas coming in second place.

But not everything is aiming to suckerpunch you right in the nostalgia.  There are few things that are simply amazing and deserving of our attention.  Naoki Urasawa's retelling of Astroboy in his Pluto manga immediately jumps out to me as a great example of why it's a good idea to make that initial leap sometimes.  Knowing that kind of work is possible and out there under the guise of a reworked older property made it all the easier to pick up Ultraman Volume 1 by Shimoguchi and Shimizu.

I have lots of fond memories of watching the old Ultraman television show when I was a kid, but I honestly don't remember much about the whole mythos.  I remember he got big, fought kaiju, and had some sweet kung fu laser beam action.  And with that, I've already told you more than you need to know to enjoy this first volume, which will take those foggy memories (if you have them) and pull you right back in to a world where giant robot dudes fight surprisingly sneaky giant reptile kaiju. I don't believe this will disappoint anyone who might be on the fence. 

Shimizu's line work is incredible, dynamic, and it lends itself really well to black and white. There are scenes in these first two volumes reminiscent of some of the biggest action-oriented science fiction manga series I've ever read. This isn't on the same level with Domu or even Blame!, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Shimoguchi also has a nice mystery going so far in regards to the origins of Ultraman, the main character's origin, and the previous adventures of the earlier Ultraman which makes the decision to keep coming back a no brainier for me. 

In lesser hands this book could be a silly Power Rangers nonsensical mess, but that is not what this is. This is the good stuff. 

So if Saturday morning serials have a fond place in your heart, if "your" Godzilla is a guy in a rubber suit, or if you're just in the mood for some giant monster Kung fu action, this is worth picking up and diving in to.