Review: Super Human Resources Vol. 1

They may be becoming more of a cliché in the industry, but I, for one, remain a fan of books that explore the more “mundane” life of superheroes. It’s a treatment that can be played seriously, in a way deconstructing the ridiculum of the genre; or, it can be played for laughs, to varying to degrees of comedic success. But either way, it can often lead to some interesting/entertaining storytelling. Super Human Resources is one of the latest to tackle the conceit, following as it does, a young, unassuming man named Tim, after his temp agency screws up, and accidentally assigns him to Super Crises International (SCI), the chaotic corporate headquarters of the world’s preeminent super-team. And for the most part, it’s exactly what you’d expect, taking the lighthearted path I mentioned above in a wry take on office politics...but with superpowers. It’s pretty much the blueprint for that upcoming Powerless series with Vanessa Hudgens, but with a decidedly comic-strip sense of timing.

In fact, the whole of Super Human Resources Vol. 1 feels like a collected webcomic, from the urgent wit of its dialogue to its cute but generally unpolished visual style, with each completed page potentially standing alone as its own daily entry. As such, much of its payoff can be hit-or-miss, especially in the first half, while the loose plot finds its footing around its overarching idea and resident characters. I actually thought I might set it down and give it a pass after the first issue, thanks to a few misfired jokes and a general sense of “all-ages innocence” that I tend to avoid in my books.

SHR II AdAnd yet, as the book moves along, it’s almost impossible not to be charmed by its workplace wiles, with a series of running gags that genuinely get funnier with each encounter and character. For example, there’s Manboto 3.4, whose complete incapability to not sexually harass co-workers becomes a cringeworthy delight; or The Wombat, a creeper Batman pastiche who embodies everything that makes the Dark Knight feel so goddamn pervy. Then there is, in my opinion, the show-stealer: a sentient copy machine bent on raising a revolution against his fleshy oppressors. Genius stuff, that.

There are dozens more examples, interactions and sideways cameos (the height of which is a wayward weapon of Marvelous destruction) that pepper this book with true greatness. And for my money, these do enough to outweigh the more transparent, by-the-numbers attempts at Super Human Resources‘s situational humor.

Where this book is strongest, however, is, perhaps ironically, in its quieter moments: the offhanded asides, the sideways glances, the under-breath mutters; basically, when this book rolls its eyes at itself from the sidelines, that’s when it shines brightest. And its second half is when it feels comfortable doing so more often, which of course is when most of its shit hits the proverbial fan (narratively speaking), and the story itself gets rolling.

Another element that took some getting used to in this book was the art. Yet again, it feels like Justin Bleep is working within a very webcomic-esque aesthetic, with an angular, paper-doll look. It’s over-drawn on purpose for comedic effect, but sometimes complicates the layouts with far too overwrought an approach to figure work, at least in my opinion.

And yet, like the story, it’s a style that I found very quickly growing on me as I went along, and one that I feel ultimately works well with the concept; especially if you think of it as an extended webcomic. Like Marcus’ dialog, Bleep’s artistic innocence feels amateurish at the beginning, while at the same time seeming too overcomplicated at times. But its hasty, sharp edges also remind me (very weirdly, I admit) of South Park, probably just because I can see Super Human Resources being animated in a similar sort of way; that stiff but fun shadow puppet style movement.

In the end, even though this is not a book I usually go for, feeling like an all-ages title, aimed at working adults, I enjoyed Super Human Resources. Much of it is pure, unbridled silliness, but more than a few times -- again, thanks mostly to its liner notes -- it got me to chuckle, which is honestly more than I can say for much of its ilk. I’ll definitely be checking out its second volume, which has a different interior artist, and will be coming out this summer.

[button btn_url="" btn_color="teal" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="blank" link_rel="" icon_left="" icon_right=""]Score: 4/5[/button]

Super Human Resources Vol. 1 Writer: Ken Marcus Artist: Justin Bleep Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment Price: $14.99 Release Date: 5/4/16 Format: TPB; Print