April 6, 2012

,   |  

Halcyon & Tenderfoot #1

Written by Daniel Clifford
Illustrated by Lee Robinson
Art Heroes

Halcyon is one of the greatest heroes of his world, but he feels like a failure:  The world is a darker, harsher place, with defenders to match. He's going to try again to make the world a better place, using his son as the newest defender, Tenderfoot.  But when Halogen, an old villain, is released from prison, his plans may stop before they begin!  All actions have consequences, and the ones shown here might just might spell the end for Brink City's newest crime-fighting team before they start!

Putting "not another crime-fighting duo" is a dangerous thing to do on your independent comic, because there's a very good chance that might be the reaction of your potential reader!  That's actually something the authors address on their opening page, where they explain the purpose behind creating Halcyon and Tenderfoot.  The creators wanted to make an all-ages comic that featured characters that made mistakes and "believe in the power of good."  Another important point for them was to show that violence is not mindless mayhem--it has consequences.

It's a laudable goal, but did they pull it off?  And can you still make a good comic when you're trying to get a message across at the same time?  Too often, comics get preachy and end up a terrible, ham-fisted mess.  I admit I had my concerns as I turned to the next page, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Over the course of this first issue, Clifford and Robinson establish the world (using clever cut scene panels tossed around the main narrative) and Halcyon's disappointment with it.  Though Halcyon's powers aren't made as clear as I'd like, Tenderfoot's role as a super-speedster drives most of the action in the narrative.  His impatience slowly builds across the issue, and when it explodes, the results nearly kill him.  That's the cause and effect philosophy in action, and I thought it worked really well.  The idea makes logical sense within the story and the nature of the character.  Best of all, it even shows how one person's actions can effect others, all with a few key scenes.

Where the comic struggles a bit is in the portrayal of the villain.  Halogen is just too thin.  He's evil, with no motivation other than to do bad things.  I know he's designed to be a contrast to the noble Halcyon, but I would have preferred he get a bit more depth here.  This is an all-ages title, but I think even with a story of good and evil, kids need a bit more than just "he's bad."  Halcyon's nobility is not quite as simple, because it could be to protect his son, show the populace the better way, a reaction to a past problem with his fellow heroes, and so on--all of those ideas are possible, based on what we get at the start of the book.  Halogen, not so much.  He's been biding his time, and now it's time to be evil again.  I hope we can get more of his character as the series goes on.

Lee Robinson's artwork on the series reminds me of the kind of character design you might see in a comic adaptation of "The Incredibles."  Most characters have prominent torsos and thin legs and arms.  They are extremely round and fluid, which makes it easy for Robinson to show the action of the characters in dynamic ways, particular Tenderfoot's speed.  It works very well with the script Clifford has written, though given the book is in black and white, I think Robinson could use shadow just a bit more than he does here.

Halcyon and Tenderfoot #1 is a good start to a new series that is striving to be different from the other indie superhero comics on the market.  The book is centered out of the UK, so I don't know how available it might be to my US readers.  You can find in in their store here.  If you want to see a story grounded in reality that doesn't feature curses every other panel and mindless killing, give this book a shot.  I think you'll like it.

Thanks to Clifford and Robinson for the review copy!