Anyone that has made the transition from an idealistic youth to a cynical adult whilst reading super hero comics will have had to face up to the inevitable. As much as we look up to these spandex clad avengers, selflessly risking life and limb just because they once got bitten by a radioactive Pond Skater, the whole idea is more than just a little ridiculous. In the opinion of this humble writer though the thing that makes a truly good parody is the appreciation that the subject on which it focuses is truly ridiculous. Just take a moment to think about that. Doesn’t it fry your brain? Of course it does. You know why? Because I’m brilliant, that’s why. Just for the record I’m not really brilliant. I mean I’m pretty good but only because I managed to completely de-rail this review before it’s even started by parodying myself!
Anyway, to get back on topic Hero 9 to 5: Quietus follows the trials and tribulations of the staff of Heroes for Zeroes, a sort of public sector temp agency for masked avengers in London. Where the first 4 issues focused on Flame-O and his relationship with villainess Frostika, part 1 of this new story chooses to shine a light on the Dark Avenger known as The Loner, a sort of blue collar Batman that hangs out on rooftops whilst internally monologuing his way from one page to the next. After rescuing a lady of the night The Loner finds himself on the hunt for another young street worker that has gone and got herself vanished. This is a trail that leads the staff of Heroes for Zeroes across the rooftops of London & then up a little further to the Penthouse suites and Saville Row suits of Canary Wharf as part 2 of Quietus finds The Rocket investigating city worker Elliott Travers while Thunder Woman and Thunder Girl take a day off to go for an eventful shopping trip at their local Savaway.
Now Ian Sharman & David Gray are people who have clearly had to face up to the hard cold ridicule of hero comics, one that is harder than the Hulks abs and colder than Iceman’s… um ice, but rather than try to deny this ridiculousness the pair have instead chosen to embrace it like a long lost love interest before dissecting it & leaving the dismembered limbs in a fridge. Well OK, the fridge part is a lie, but Hero 9 to 5 is a book that makes light of its characters whilst still retaining the core elements that remind us why we love them in the first place. Sharman’s dialogue is nicely self referential while his writing maintains a delicate balance between the serious and the surreal. Occasionally it’s difficult to know if certain scenes are meant to be funny or not but in such cases I just elected that “yes they were” & it never did me wrong. The changeover of characters from one issue to the next is smoothly handled and while the Thunder family’s shopping trip takes a turn for the absurd in aisle 3, this is levelled out with the more serious & down to earth ending that makes up the issue’s climax.
The artwork in Hero 9 to 5 is just as well balanced as the writing. David Gray draws each of the Heroes for Zeroes staff with a particularly 90’s zeal, whilst still managing to retain the correct proportions of their feet. The females have miniscule midsections & ludicrous love melons, while the male characters are clearly fond of their protein shakes, but this just makes it all the more ridiculous when these characters do something normal, like get on public transport, a joke made that little bit funnier given Gray’s depiction of London is as realistic as possible. Combined with the writing the art adds some visual jokes that mean repeated read throughs of the book are just as entertaining as the initial ones. On top of Gray’s art (literally) is Yel Zamor’s colours. The colours in this book always pop and while everything in the foreground stands out nicely the thing that really works is the background. This might sound like an odd claim to make in a review & if I’m perfectly honest that’s because no one has ever made me notice what lies behind everything quite so much. Zamors colours are the very pretty icing on a particularly interesting cake that has all kinds of sweet and sour moments throughout.
Hero 9 to 5 Quietus has great writing and art and is well worth taking a look at whether you like super hero books or not. Part 1 will be available on the 23rd and 24th February at London’s Super Comic Con, alongside a special back up strip involving Thunder Woman and Thunder Girl, with part 2 to be released at a later date. Both books are well worth picking up and if you haven’t heard of the series before the first volume is currently going for $2.99 on Comixology & is also well worth a read.