Given the sheer volume of comics and books released each and every week, it is very easy to miss out on a top-notch title. It’s not that your trying to avoid these top-notch titles. I mean, we all look through the 500-page Previews catalog each month – how could we miss out on something good. But sadly, it happens. So you have to rely on word of mouth from time-to-time to get you to pick up something new.
That would be my exact experience with David Rubin’s The Hero Book One from Dark Horse Comics. I knew nothing about this book. Nada! Zilch! I was manning a table for the podcast at the Elite Comics’ Batman Day celebration last September. Friends of the show Michael Byers and Josh Epstein were at the table talking books, and both of them landed on this book, and just started raving about it! They were both so passionate about this book, I just knew I needed to give it a look. On my next trip inside the store that day, Michael had already pulled a copy of the book off of the shelves and had it waiting for me at the register.
I bought The Hero that day, but it got added to my infamous “To Be Read” pile in my basement. (And referring to the TBR stack as a pile is being generous at times, but that’s a subject for another day.) Every time I would stop in at Elite, Michael was quizzing me to see if I had read it yet. But you know how it is – so many good books to read, so little time. But finally last month, I had had enough and I moved The Hero to the top of my pile.
I must say, I was totally amazed by this book. Outstanding! David Rubin is a Spanish creator who is most familiar for his work on The Rise of Aurora West for First Second and The Fiction for Boom! But with this book, Rubin is doing it all – writing, illustrating, coloring and more. The Hero is modern re-telling of the very first super-hero according to myth – Heracles (or Hercules for us westerners)! This volume (and the recently released Book Two) recounts Heracles completing the Twelve Labors. He is sent out on these assignments by Eurystheus, a mad tyrant who was supposed to be born after Heracles but was moved to the front of the line in a typical Greek-tragedy twist.
What makes this unique is the modern touches added to the story. Heracles listens to an iPod on his tasks, he rides a bus, he uses a shaving razor to keep his beard under control. But the additions are so subtle, you don’t even realize that they have been added to the story on your first read.
Rubin is not afraid to poke fun at other comic book tropes. Many of the iconic DC Comics heroes are presented in this volume, in particular Wonder Woman with her Greek heritage. (Along those lines, but much like Deadpool is not a kid-friendly movie, this is not a kid-friendly book. We see a lot of Heracles, Eurystheus, Wonder Woman and more au naturel and doing adult activites.) The rivalry between Heracles and Eurystheus often feels like a Thor and Loki relationship. Imagine Loki ruling Asgard and forcing Thor, who naively believes his step-brother is altruistic in his actions, to go out on deadly missions.
Rubin has a unique style and color palette to the book. The Hero reminds me a lot of David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp in terms of the art, but not necessarily the color. Asterios Polyp was limited to two colors, while The Hero is fully colored. At roughly 280 pages, this book could very easily be read in one sitting.
I have Book Two on order and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. I can guarantee it won’t spend much, if any time in the TBR pile. While I can make some guesses as to how this story might end, as I still recall the Greek mythologies, I fully anticipate Rubin to throw in some other tweaks and changes to keep me guessing for the entire book.