Hell Yeah #1
Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated by Andre Szymanowicz
Colored by Jason Lewis
Lettered by Douglas E. Sherwood
Release Date: March 7, 2012
Cover Price: $2.99
There was an interesting conversation in a lot of comic book communities a few months ago when DC rebooted its titles regarding what makes for a good first issue. Self-contained story or cliffhanger ending? How much character do you reveal? How much world do you need to build? How much do you save for later?
All very good questions we should ask ourselves, but what wasn’t properly addressed in that conversation was what challenges do independent creators have on titles that aren’t reboots of well-established franchises? What’s the hook going to be? When so much of the superhero appeal relies on interpersonal relationships it’ll almost always be an uphill battle for the new, indie title where there’s no established continuity.
Hell Yeah #1 is set in its own unique superhero universe. The heroes arrived from… out of nowhere in 1992, their first act saved the life of a marine, Daniel Day, during the gulf war. Twenty years later, the world seems to be going well. These strange visitors have brought advanced technologies and fixed up our ecosystem. Soon other people began getting powers… somehow. Enter our hero, or anti-hero, Benjamin Day, son of Daniel, a minor celebrity attending a prestigious college for superheros in Portland, Oregon. Gifted with “Kinda strong, kinda tough” powers and a mysterious tattoo when he was a teenager, everything is going for him, except he has a penchant for getting into fights.
If any of that sounds vague and unclear let me say that the feeling is mutual. And while I certainly feel that writer Joe Keatinge (writer of Glory and editor of Popgun) is holding some of his cards close to his chest, the pacing feels a little off here. Despite an awesome opening scene I can’t say I got a three-dimensional feel for Ben. What makes him stand out from other teenage superheroes or teenagers in general? And that whole aspect about a worldwide superhero community? That’s largely told and not shown. There’s a notably long passage where Benjamin and his superhumanly smart friend Sara discuss his mysterious tattoo, with dialogue that feels largely like raw exposition, while taking a stroll through downtown Portland.
But the stroll itself is quite lovely. The way it’s drawn, that is. Illustrator Andre Szymanowicz and colorist Jason Lewis bring a spunky energy to the page. It exists somewhere between a big DC event book and a personal little xeroxed mini comic. That’s a feature, not a bug, in my book.
That said, another thing I find attractive about the book is just how unapologetically superheroey it is. I may well be eating my words as the storyline reveals itself in the coming months; but at a time when so many new titles are mish-mashes of different genres, Hell Yeah seems like a pretty straightforward superhero title. There’s intrigue and teen angst, but that’s standard operating procedure for the capes and tights crowd these days. What it brings to the genre that feels fresh is just how very Portland hip the whole delivery is.
As for what makes up a good first issue, the answer, for me at least, is that every story is different. Every writer does things their own way. There are no concrete rules. Keatinge has said repeatedly that he’s been working on this story for a number of years. It looks like he’s got big plans down the road.