Heroes in Birmingham

Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2005
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Heroes in Birmingham

Creators: Rachel Kadushin and Ruben Caldwell [story and script], Ed Meares [pencils and inks]
Publisher: Best Friends Productions (Self Published)
Address: bestfriendsproductions.com/hib
Price: $$2.95(US)

Lets make it clear from the outset; I intend to be quite critical in this review. This does not mean that Heroes in Birmingham is in any way shoddy or a poor comic. Quite the opposite in fact. No, I intend to be critical because it is quite obvious that Heroes in Birmingham is a title that the creators intend to be around for some time. This is number 1 in a series that promises a further 11 issues. Such lofty aspirations warrant a vigorous review.

The plot centres around one Mercutio Bishop, a costumed crime fighter who was physically enhanced as a result of being effected by background radiation. When he gets fired he finds that as a high school drop out his job prospects are limited. He therefore accepts a job transporting a dangerous device to the city of Birmingham. Once there it is obvious that future issues will see him from an alliance with other loner crime fighters and adventures will inevitably result.

This places the comic somewhere between comics such as Astro City with its complex heroes struggling to deal with their humanity as well as their responsibilities as larger than life protectors of the city and The Tick with its farcical parody of super heroes. It is obvious that this is a position that Heroes in Birmingham is quite comfortable with.

Heroes in Birmingham is an ambitious project that has a long gestation period. The story line is well thought out and has been well planned; it is disappointing then to see a glaring spelling error early on in the tale. In the same way much of the syntax seems a little clumsy. In places I assume this is deliberate as the writers strive to give the characters their own distinctive voices but it can be confusing. Time will tell on this one.

The page layout is generally good. In places there are too many frames per page and some pages just appear too crowded and even restricted by the number of frames [an inconsistent use of the gutter is sometimes the villain here]. The most noticeable example of this is page 14, which weighs in with a massive fourteen frames. This in itself is not a problem but this page is an action fight scene so the violence seems to be restricted by the large number of frames and strict adherence to frame size and shape. I realise that as this fight scene does take place in a crowded train then this may be a deliberate and intended effect but for me it is too tight. Once Mercutio hits the big city however all this changes and the page layout as well as the use of frame size and shape becomes creative, exciting and highly effective. The introduction of Roof Girl on page 20,21 is stunning, surpassed only by pages 26 and 27 where the arrival of N- Ergyzer is placed over an impressive background of Birmingham City seen from a birds eye view. Wonderful stuff.

The artwork is strong marked by meticulous cross-hatching and effective use of grey tonings. My only criticism is that some of the frames still have a pencilled look about them and this can result in a loss of strength for the image.

For me, the real plus of this comic is the whole concept of the costumed heroes being sponsored parts of large corporations. Employees that serve the interests of the company and when they become unprofitable they are fired. This includes having their costume taken away from them. Such was the fate of Mercutio Bishop who starts the comic as the Cincinatti F27 Pulse until his campaign was scrapped and he is faced with the prospect of never being able to earn enough money to move away from his parent’s home. This, "we are all just parts of a big machine," angle works well and adds a strong element of irony to the storyline.

This is a very busy comic. It attempts to have a large dose of action, introduce at least five major characters, give background to Mercutio and the creation of the city-state of Birmingham as well as make full and comprehensive of use the background of a large number of the frames to add detail to the setting. No wonder it sometimes feels crowded. This is typified by the cover, which is just too busy and contains too many images to be totally effective. It does mean that we certainly get our money’s worth.

Ultimately though this comic works and deserves to be widely read. The humour is appropriate and nicely paced. The pace of the story is great; action is interspersed with flashback and dialogue. It has a great cliffhanger of an ending, which leaves me eager for Issue 2. The creators have promised three issues this year all I can say is they had better not be lying because having been taken into the world of Mercutio Bishop I need to know more.

In a Word: Promising

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