All-Ages or Small-Ages #13 (Future Heroes #1 by Estevão Ribeiro, Vitor Cafaggi, Paulo Crumbim, Caio Yo et al.)

See all of the past entries of All-Ages or Small-Ages here.

There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

Future Heroes is a digital first anthology comic that was released on Comixology in December of 2015. Writer Estevão Ribeiro spearheads the collection by teaming with a fresh and exciting new art each on each individual story. Everything from the pencils to the colouring comes together to kick-start a series that is, for lack of a better descriptive phrase, simply delightful. Each individual tale reinterprets one of your favourite Marvel heroes and recasts the protagonist as a young child. With the creators putting their own spin on the origin while also grounding it all in reality, it's going to contain story beats that you'll instantly recognise. However, you’re also going to come away feeling like you’ve read something truly fresh.

Ribeiro has shrewdly extracted the aspects of the pre-existing continuity that you're most likely to recognise. For example, the story affectionately titled “Web Head” features an enthusiastic brown haired boy taking on a group of young bullies, all as an attempt to save a passing redhead that he’s fallen for. Not content to stop there, artist Vitor Cafaggi brings in some phenomenal design work to take some of those iconic Spider-villains and scale them down to a believable, but instantly recognisable, plainclothes costume design. Anyone with a working knowledge of the characters in the Marvel universe will be able to look at this series and find reference after reference; it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

I’ve come to realise that I’ve got an unrelenting fondness for any art that translates childhood make-believe into real-life heroism; knowing this, it should come as no surprise that this cover has been my phone background for about six months now. I can’t imagine that I’m the only person with this strange attachment so, if you’re of a kind with me, then this book with absolutely scratch that itch. It contains a sense of wish fulfillment that only children can aspire to and it's immensely cathartic.

This issue provides you with the genesis of each superhero journey, but then cuts off at the end of their first adventure. As much as I loved each and every story, I do hope that they remain as self-contained in future editions. Part of what makes this issue work so effectively is its succinct nature. If each character were to receive an ongoing plot, then it would lose its voice as a love-letter to superheroism and become something else entirely. If you’re coming into this story looking for a strict continuity reboot then you’ll be disappointed. Paraphrasing Jay Edidin of Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, this is an ideal distillation of character instead of a dilution.

As previously mentioned, the art team changes for each chapter of the book. While some are moreso than others, there’s a deliberate simplistic and, entirely positively inclined, childish feel to a lot of the artwork. Emotions are exaggerated and entire scenes pop with a brightness and vitality that you might expect from an all-ages book. As would be expected, here it has the effect of putting you firmly in the mindset of viewing the situation from a child’s perspective. With a limited knowledge of how to process the world, they only see the things most relevant to them. All of this gels to create an overall stylisation that corresponds perfectly with the story itself.

Not a single word of dialogue is spoken throughout the course of this issue. Instead, à la Artie from the X-Men, speech bubbles are instead a picture that summarises the content of the speech. Although this raises the suitability of the book for a younger audience, there’s a greater innocence to be found when reading this book when you’re older; it’s an adult picture book in its purest definition. On top of that, you get a chance to see the creative approach that each individual artist takes to deal with the same problem. Ribeiro knows how to push and stretch the artists that he works with and it shows in the final result on the page.

Superheroes are traditionally inspirational tales of heroism that we all aspire to. There are so many parents out there striving to find a superhero story that that can give to their children as a motivational goal, but get held back by the innate darkness that has permeated through the genre since the 80s. This book would serve as an ideal representation of what heroes, and superhero comics in particular, used to be. Even as someone who doesn’t aspire to actually be one of these children, it’s a breath of fresh air and innate positivity that I’ve come to realise is woefully lacking.

While there’s a certain commitment to the original material to consider, the decision to push as much diversity and relateability into the stories as possible is laudable. While all of the characters are stripped down to victims of some form of bullying, I want to draw particular focus to the Iron Man analogue. The character is framed as a disabled child that transforms his crutches and leg supports into a basis for his armour; if this doesn’t sound unquestionably heartwarming then I honestly think that you might be part-robot.

The way that this issue pays homage to, yet remains a comfortable distance away from, its source material demonstrates how much love these creators have for the characters. This isn’t being put forwards as a cash grab on existing intellectual property; it’s a story that has been put forwards as an attempt to drive the genre back to its roots. Inspirational stories of children pretending to be heroes is always going to draw me in, but the collaborative and consistently ongoing nature of this series pushes it into the upper echolons of that. There are enough subtle and slightly more oblique references here to satiate any level of interest in the superhero genre, making it all come down to one simple question: do you like to be inspired? Then go and buy this issue immediately.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at or head over to check out the podcast that I co-host You Know What I Like...? on SoundCloud.