This week I read a superhero book from a small indie publisher titled 'Mercury' and it was pretty bad. That kind of book the contributes nothing new to the medium, but thinks that stepping backwards in time will somehow result in a success comparable to the stories the book's art and story clearly took inspiration from. Ultimately, I couldn't muster enough passion about it to actually write a review, and simply passed. Moments ago, I read a book with the exact same problems. Only this time, the book was released by a major comic distributor. And people ask me why I don't read superhero books.
'Cage Hero' tells the story of a teenaged high school wrestler, recently moved to a new town and feeling out of place. He lives with his grandfather, as his father is off fighting an indeterminate war, and his mom is just vaguely absent via exposition. Displaying an almost uncanny ability on the wrestling mat, he begins attracting the attention of mysterious figures with connections to his grandfather, that might just result in an exciting destiny for our teen hero.
So yeah, Peter Parker, only he's a physically fit sports star who the ladies love. Sometimes you wonder if the people who rip off the Spider-Man archetype actually remember what the Spider-Man archetype is. This book is simply crap. I wouldn't say this about 'Mercury', because if you are in the indie scene there's a certain amount of personal guff that I think excuses a lot. A kind of 'I did this' spirit that is hard to be really tough on. This book is released by Dynamite, and reads like one of those advertising tie in comics, where you get to meet the NASCAR superhero team or where the members of the Miami Dolphins get superpowers. The only elements that separate this book from any other similar superhero title is where the writer awkwardly jams in themes about subjects that are clearly personally important to him: military service and UFC. While relating being a superhero to serving in the military (something they haven't done, but seem to be building toward) could be an interesting filter for a superhero story, here, it's just an awkward frame to this embarrassingly generic story. Grandpa is a vet, dad is a soldier overseas, hero boy has trouble fitting in because he moves so much because of military dad. Even random 'will you be my mom' lady teacher was an army brat and relates to hero boy so she can properly give him tough love. How we find out how UFC ties in with superheroes just makes you wonder what the pitch for this book looked like. I don't know, maybe Dynamite just has a slot box you slide the title of the book in, and they greenlight you based on whatever title sounds best.
Oh, big surprise, it doesn't look good either. Very obvious David Finch fanboy art, down to the hatching style, uninked so that panel boundaries are flakey and uneven and the 'fills' are occasionally transparent grey from the digital coloring process. Not hideous on their own, just as uninspired as the script. The colors tip it into bad looking, some pages look like they could be banged out in half an hour, and the school interiors are quite literally colored in beige. Continuing my weird use of this parallel, 'Mercury' was far less polished art wise, but it's strict adherence to Marvel method composition at least gave you an idea of what the artist was trying to accomplish, and actually resulted in one or two decent visuals.
This is embarrassing. Not for the writers or the artist, this is probably what they set out to accomplish (verdict out on the colorist though). This is embarrassing for Dynamite. They print too many books and hold too many properties to be operating on this level. While Boom and IDW try their hand at Image style creator owned properties (results vary, but still), Dynamite publishes a title that feels less polished than those Harley Davidson/Marvel comics where Harley's defeat the Wrecking Crew or some shit. Writers, artists, I can forgive you. This isn't good, but there's a chance that you think this is good. Dynamite, you should know better.
Wait, Kevin Eastman was a co-creator on this?
Now it makes a lot more sense how this got published.
Cage Hero #1 Story: Ian Parker & Kevin Eastman Script: Rik Hoskin Artist: Renalto Rei Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/4/15 Format: Print/Digital