By Ben Boruff
When I was young, I was easily frightened—and orcs are basically zombies on steroids—so I did not interact with the Lord of the Rings universe until a friend forced me to watch The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD. When Gimli stands on Balin's stone grave, clenches his double-bladed axe, and growls that "there is one dwarf yet in Moria who still draws blood," I was hooked. Peter Jackson's version of J. R. R. Tolkien's detailed, immersive world captivated me. Aragorn, Frodo, and the others exist in a universe with complicated histories, topographical maps, extensive genealogies, unique languages, and nuanced sociocultural interactions, and these details fuel—rather than limit—a reader's imagination. Hotshot, a young hero from Legacy Rising Publications, exists in a similarly elaborate world. This issue of Hotshot packs each page with enough detailed fodder to ignite curiosity in most readers—though it often does so at the expense of clarity and flow. The comic’s panels are saturated with details about Hotshot’s environment, but the narrative is sometimes erratic, moving at an abrupt, stop-and-go pace. Some seemingly crucial plot points are unjustified, like DynaGirl’s instant distrust of Hotshot’s bureaucrat friend, an old man who looks like Stan Lee and acts like Nick Fury. The most bothersome moment of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is when Blake identifies Batman’s secret identity based only on “that look on your face,” and DynaGirl’s inexplicable apprehension seems equally contrived.
As a character, Hotshot has the wit of Peter Parker and the style of Jaime Reyes, but he lacks subtlety. Some panels push the character beyond believability, and the “hectic life as an art student” element of the narrative seems artificial. A few pages of awkward, unsolicited emotion-sharing sit between artfully rendered action scenes. Like a more two-dimensional version of Tobey Maguire (and a more pleasant version of Andrew Garfield), Hotshot contemplates responsibility and relationships with a new acquaintance, giving readers the sense that, for all his bravado, Hotshot’s version of a casual greeting includes sharing his innermost feelings. In this way, Hotshot is a wellspring of cognitive dissonance: readers know his thoughts, but they do not know him. Hotshot is detailed, but he is not nuanced, not multifaceted—and this inconsistency impacts Hotshot’s relatability.
Though the characterization of Hotshot is rushed, readers will enjoy moving from page to page. The comic’s artwork pairs well with its dialogue, and the colors are mesmerizing. Roy G. Biv appears on nearly every page, and the action sequences flow seamlessly, each punch and kick effectively placed within the narrative.
Legacy Rising Publications has created an elaborate superhero universe—one that, over time, could become a successful indie alternative to DC and Marvel—and Hotshot is an intriguing part of that universe. As a comic, Hotshot has flaws, but it also sports an undeniable charm, an underdog-ian magnetism that sugarcoats narrative irregularity as swift foreshadowing. And despite his brash characterization, Hotshot shines as a likable protagonist. I cannot help but root for the Saint Walker lookalike—even if I do not know exactly why. I am excited to see how Hotshot fits within the larger Legacy Rising universe, so I will continue to read this comic. And I will encourage my friends to do the same.
Writer: Cary Kelley
Artist: Michael Watson
Colorist: Veronica Smith
Publisher: Legacy Rising Publications