Earth’s Mightiest Megastar: The Heroes Reborn roundtable, week two

Carla, Tom, Shane and JK assemble to discuss Marvel’s latest comics event.

We’re back with our second installment of the Heroes Reborn roundtable, where we break down the latest Marvel crossover issue by issue. This week Shane Bailey, Tom Bondurant, Carla Hoffman and I talk about Heroes Reborn #2, as well as the two tie-ins from last week, Peter Parker, The Amazing Shutterbug and Hyperion and the Imperial Guard.

You can read part one here.

So grab your copies and let’s jump in …

JK Parkin: Week two of the Heroes Reborn event brought three titles that helped to flesh out and reveal more about Hyperion. Let’s start with the main title — Heroes Reborn #2. I thought this issue was a big step in the right direction after last week’s issue #1, which I didn’t enjoy as much. I’m not sure if it really advanced the overall plot that much (except for the last few pages featuring Blade), but I did enjoy the focus on Hyperion and all his villains. Going back to what Carla said last week about the mixed-up/mashed-up origins being the fun part of these sorts of events, I thought this issue took full advantage of that aspect of the crossover. Plus we just got more on this version of Hyperion the character than we’ve gotten before. What did the rest of you think?

Carla Hoffman: Guys, guys… I have so many questions about that chicken leg in Peter Parker’s mouth.

He’s smiling and biting it at the same time? Is it a buffalo wing leg and not a normal chicken sized leg? Didn’t his aunt and uncle teach him better than to talk with food in his mouth? Or is this just what the kids are into these days? Talking around eating chicken? I mean, that chicken leg is smaller than his glasses! But we’ll get to Peter Parker, the Amazing Shutterbug in a minute.

Heroes Reborn this week was… fine, I guess. I like seeing how they’ve DC-ified some Marvel classics. It’s interesting to see how a mysterious stranger interacts with Earth’s Mightiest “Megastar,” Hyperion; things are fitting into place to tell you more about the new world and how it all fits together. It advances the story at a quick pace and, since it’s weekly, I am eagerly looking forward to next week wondering what’s going to fill the gap for a whole month (an issue or two I’ll get to in a minute).

However, as the first page pulled me into the camp grandeur of this new Heroes Reborn universe, I was pulled right on out with that two-page splash right after. Remember: Blade said last week that maybe this universe is better than the one that’s missing.

Tom Bondurant: Yeah, I have to walk back my optimism about the Squadron Supreme’s characterization here. I don’t know how benign the regular Hyperion is, but this guy is no prize (as it were). Regular old Superman is starting to look like a very fragile construct — tinker a little with his origins and you get something significantly different. Of course, here Hyperion is Superman taken to extremes, full of himself and fully aware of how much power he wields. I was kind of hoping that Heroes Reborn would be basically a JLA story that the JLA couldn’t solve, thereby requiring the Avengers to re-assemble and stop it. While that still could be the case, I guess the Squadders are reverting to form.

JK Parkin: My impression is that we’re seeing a team that is closer to the original Squadron Sinister than, say, the Squadron Supreme who came later. We know that Nighthawk, at least, knows this world has been changed to his benefit, and perhaps some of the others do as well. So their motives are definitely suspect.

Tom Bondurant: Oh, for sure. This issue definitely does a lot to raise the story’s stakes, mostly by giving us a closer look at Hyperion’s ego. (For what it’s worth, this week’s Wonder Woman #772 continues to dunk on Thor.) I am treating this like a crossover, when clearly it isn’t — but at the same time, I have to contend with 45 years’ worth of DC/Marvel crossovers lodged in my brain. That includes Superman going up against the Juggernaut, the Hulk and Galactus (among others), so it’s easy to make what may be unfair comparisons. Just had to get that out there.

Shane Bailey: Today on Twitter I talked about the Millar method of writing comics where you take a basic idea, throw in a bunch of cool moments that you want to have in the book and try to make a story that connects them all. Jason Aaron is using that method here and there’s not much story there between those moments. Because of that I thought this was worse than the first issue. Look what I did with this villain, oh no, the imperial guard is infected with the brood, look there’s Peter Parker but he’s not Spider-man, that’s literally all it was, along with some broody Hyperion that didn’t advance the story any, except for that last section of the book that could have been added on to issue 1 easily. I was just really really let down here. It’s all filler. So far I think this whole event could have been one single giant sized issue.

Also it’s dark AF. It’s more Age of Apocalypse than we thought.

I think these guys are supposed to be the Squadron Sinister from Secret Wars Warzone or whatever that book was right?

I’m with you though, I kinda wanted more of a JLA analogue, this all seems like it’s heading in a more black and white, the Squadron is evil, Avengers are good direction that I’m really not interested in seeing.

Does anyone else feel like this is written for a 12 year old? There’s just no depth there. It’s all surface. Maybe Aaron is trying to channel Liefeld’s Heroes Reborn here after all?

I only really found one book really entertaining this week and that’s Hyperion and the Imperial Guard and that takes place way before the events of the main book. I wanted to see more of the backup in there, but I’m assuming we’ll get to that in a bit.

Carla Hoffman: Oh, we will get to the two tie-ins, trust me.

The fact that there’s two stories in the second issue makes me wonder if this was a larger event being cut into a shorter time frame. There’s a lot of work to do to set the scene and explain these characters that’s happening pretty fast. I’m glad we got to know Hyperion and his general theme of single minded nationalism, I guess. Whether this is more like Squadron Sinister or Supreme or Power, I can’t be sure. Again, they are not my bag, kinda hate the group as a whole in the modern era, can’t say it’s worth trying to tie this into larger Marvel lore due to how the series is being handled. We could read more into it, but Heroes Reborn #2 is just telling me that the cover is there to judge the book. Shane’s right, this is a story for a 12-year-old.

A 12-year-old who likes splash pages full of exploding Galactus heads. Gross. I know more about the inside juiciness of Galactus’s head than I do of how Steve Rogers reacted by being unfrozen by a vampire.

Shane Bailey: I’m more of a “does Galactus poop asteroids” kind of guy than a what does the inside of his head look like. Everyone knows the Surfer poops little chrome nuggets.

And yeah that two story thing and the abrupt changes in art really bugged me in a few of the books this week. This is supposed to be a major event and so far it feels like a fill in story.

JK Parkin: Couple of points; first off, I don’t have a 12-year-old but I do have a nine-year-old who likes comics, and this isn’t one I’d give him to read for the reasons you mentioned, Carla — the Galactus head scene is pretty brutal, as is the Hulk scene. It’s the same reason I didn’t let him read the first issue of the Robin series; he loves Robin, and I know he’d dig it, but the last page where Robin’s standing there with a hole in his chest made me think, “Nope.” He can keep reading InvestiGators and Dog-Man and Miles Morales and the other things that are written for those younger than 12 (or at least aren’t so graphic) as long as I have some control over what he reads. I know that’ll change at some point, sooner than I’d like.

Second, the vibe I started getting from this was more akin to those early issues of What If? Many of those ended on some really dark/downer notes; I’m still waiting for the resurrected Jean Grey to destroy the Marvel Universe. Especially with the two one-shots this week, which both had very What If?-esque endings.

So let’s move on to them, shall we?

Carla Hoffman: Hyperion and the Imperial Guard #1 is both fascinating and boring at the same time.  The bad news is that it’s Superboy and the Legion with the serial numbers filed off and yet so very bloody and dark.  As if to say, “Yeah, this is a super obvious DC concept that we’re making horrific and dark ‘cause we’re different!”  I could care less about these cardboard cutouts of the imperial Guard as fodder to make Hyperion… kneel on the ground and shout no?  Seem upset this issue?  I don’t know what this does to enhance his character and it obviously doesn’t matter as in the current series he just… fought them and put ‘em back in the Negative Zone in a splash page.  Whee.

The good news!  I like how this first story feels like it’s part of a real alternate timeline, with back issues and editor’s notes and a letters page.  This more effort to this time traveling alternate universe than any of the other issues that have come out so far.  While the ultimate outcome of the story wasn’t for anything, it did sell me on the overall theme of Heroes Reborn v. 2.

Also, I want the backup story with the Starjammers as a regular series.

Shane Bailey: Yeah, it was less a story of The Imperial Guard and more of a story about Hyperion, Oracle and Gladiator. I actually wanted to see more about their relationships as I felt it humanized the characters more. Hyperion especially seemed more interesting here. The others? I kinda didn’t care about. The problem is this doesn’t really pay off when he runs into them in Heroes Reborn #2 like you said. You would think he would actually feel more since he was the one who had to basically condemn them by trapping them into the Negative Zone, but that doesn’t pay off, so this doesn’t serve any purpose. It’s just an extended version of those one pagers in Heroes Reborn #2. Here’s a few more pages to show how they became infected with the Brood! Now, snap snap snap, look over here at the next thing! Nevermind that our main character just condemned his best friend and love of his life.

And yes, I LOVED the Starjammers, even this alternate reality version. Young Scott and Alex with their Dad is pretty cool. I absolutely wanted more of this. This is what this type of event should do, get you interested in books or characters that could spin out of this! I highly doubt we’ll ever get a Starjammers ongoing though.

In a lot of ways the Starjammers backup reminded me of the Cyclops series a while back, when Young Cyclops from the past left to go off into space with his Dad for a while. If you can parse that sentence, you’re a comic fan.

Carla Hoffman: The pirate family Summers seemed like such a fresh take and had a certain amount of adventure that reminded me of Firefly (minus the racist overtones and lingering stench of Whedon). It even ended on a cliffhanger that would lead into a pretty fun series!

JK Parkin: I agree on the Starjammers “preview” love; in an alternate timeline, I think Starjammers could have been as big as the Guardians of the Galaxy. And I remember that Cyclops series, Shane, which was written by Greg Rucka — it was great stuff!

As for the main story, I liked the use of the Imperial Guard here, since they’re basically Marvel’s riff on the Legion of Super-Heroes, and having a younger, Superboy-esque Hyperion teaming up with them was fun. Until, of course, the really dark, old school What If?/Age of Apocalypse ending that was broadcasted if you read Heroes Reborn #2 first. But I did like that we saw a different side to Hyperion here, and I think the takeaway was that this tragedy and the loss of his friends and girlfriend influenced the character we’re seeing in Heroes Reborn. I can see it being what made him into the person he is.

Of the two tie-ins this week, to me it was the most successful and way more fun to read, even with the dark ending.

Shane Bailey: I’ll agree with that.

Tom Bondurant: Folks, I have had an epiphany, and it is that Heroes Reborn 2021 is Marvel’s Flashpoint. I read just about every issue of that event 10 (!!) years ago, and they too trafficked mostly in a combination of “look how different” and “wow how grim.” Plus, both revolve around characters who are emblematic of their comics Ages — the Silver Age Flash and the era-spanning Captain America.

So, all that said, I agree with John that the Imperial Guard special solidified for me why Hyperion is so no-nonsense in the present day. I don’t have much to say about the Legion parallels otherwise, except to note that Brian Michael Bendis and Ryan Sook have made Superboy and Saturn Girl a couple. I also liked the Starjammers installment a lot, and that’s without being familiar with about half the characters. It did come close to spending too much time on overly-cute introductory captions, but once it got going it was pretty fun.

JK Parkin: I haven’t been reading Legion, so I didn’t know about Saturn Girl and Superboy being a thing. That’s awesome!

Shane Bailey: I haven’t either, I only read the first couple of issues.

JK Parkin: I hope the couple is happier than poor Hyperion and Oracle.

Shane Bailey: Well considering he’s back in our time and she’s in the future … but at least she’s not a Brood. Broodling? Broodie? Brooder?

JK Parkin: This may be a discussion for another time, but isn’t there a way to cure someone from being infected by the Brood? I remember Wolverine’s healing factor saved him and then Binary, if I’m remembering right, saved the rest of the X-Men when her powers manifested. But it seems like that’s something lost in this new continuity — finding a cure for them instead of just locking them away in the Negative Zone. I think it speaks to the harshness of this new world.

Speaking of harshness, that’s a great segue into Peter Parker, the Amazing Shutterbug. This is one of the rare times when I don’t think I can find anything positive to say about a comic. First, it was such a missed opportunity — Jimmy Olsen + Spider-Man? Come on! Let the Silver Age shine and have some crazy fun with it! But this didn’t shine in any way … it was one depressing scene in the life of Peter Parker after another. I mean, Hyperion basically killed Aunt May, and Peter Parker is his “best friend?” Yeah. I didn’t like this at all.

Carla Hoffman: Of all the tie-ins I was looking forward to, Peter Parker the Spectacular Shutterbug was the top title on the list. The idea that our touchstone hero was a kid photographer looking up at the world of larger than life heroes seemed like a great opportunity to get some Marvels-like depth into this new universe (uncapitalized); if anything we’d get some solid Parker humor and see who he would become sans Spider-Powers. We got… SO MUCH LESS than that.

Shane Bailey: It was supposed to be Jimmy Olsen if he had Peter Parker’s luck, I guess. I kept waiting for this to get better page by page until that awful ending. I feel like this is a book you will be able to hold up as an example of how this whole event went wrong. 

Tom Bondurant: I can’t say that I enjoyed reading PPTASB, but I did like how it reframed Peter’s appearance in HR #2. This was the issue which got me thinking about the Flashpoint comparison, and specifically its treatment of Superman. Flashpoint Supes was basically a test subject raised from infancy in a lab away from direct sunlight, so only at the end of everything did you get a hint of what could have been. Similarly HR Peter Parker makes him into twisted Silver Age Jimmy Olsen, taking all kinds of crap from the world around him and giving him a very cynical core. I also liked Uncle Ben’s “you don’t need great power” speech, and I got a chuckle of him pretending to be Hyperion’s buddy. It was almost a weird reversal of Flash Thompson’s hero-worship of Spider-Man. Actually, it reminded me of the MAD parody of Superman, where Lois keeps calling Clark a creep under her breath, and when he reveals he’s Superman she says “… you’re still a creep!”

Shane Bailey: I guess it did what it set out to do, but what it set out to do I pretty much hated?

Tom Bondurant: That’s fair.

Carla Hoffman: Were they friends?  When did they meet?  Did Parker just cry out randomly to Hyperion when danger struck?  What is this?!

Shane Bailey: They share a love of chicken.

Carla Hoffman: … I feel like that could be a valid answer. And did Mary Jane die?  Was she a figment of Peter’s imagination?  She gets two panels and I don’t understand why he wished he could have known her.

Tom Bondurant: I thought she just moved away and he never saw her again.

Carla Hoffman: Again, on paper, there are some good ideas.  The concept is great, the places they take it aren’t what we want but they’re still valid but in execution?  I paid $4.99 for this?

Shane Bailey: They were just never friends I thought, Peter was just pretending they were.

Carla Hoffman: She was talking to him from the window, right?

Shane Bailey: I don’t think she was actually there.

Carla Hoffman: GHOST MJ!

Shane Bailey: He was imagining what she would have said if she was.

Carla Hoffman: What in the Sixth Sense is going on?!

JK Parkin: Yeah, I thought that scene was weird; they were neighbors, apparently, like in the Tobey MaGuire movies, and friendly enough to talk to each other through the window, but not really “friends,” I guess? Although I like the theory that maybe he just imagined talking to her.

Tom Bondurant: Also, according to a headline in HR #2, Peter survives falling off the building. He just broke “all 8” of his legs.

Shane Bailey: Wow I missed that, Tom.

JK Parkin: I missed that as well. I assumed he died at the end.

Carla Hoffman: Is it weird that I was hoping he actually died?

Shane Bailey: But in this book you don’t know that. That’s dumb. So yeah, it’s Jimmy Olsen weirdness with Parker luck. Which should be fun, but this ain’t it.

JK Parkin: Nope — and I wish they’d had more of that, and maybe earlier in the book.

Carla Hoffman: This is all so confusing. From the concept, to it’s execution, to the really plain trade dress… I just don’t know what I’m reading.

Shane Bailey: And the artist changes in the middle of the book.

Tom Bondurant: Someone saw the Mark Millar/Bryan Hitch Fantastic Four trade dress and was like YESSS!

Shane Bailey: Also, about this whole event… It’s just Hyperion all the time? Or is next week going to be about another Squadron character?

Carla Hoffman: Next week promises Speed – the Silver Witch and Blur.

Tom Bondurant: I’m guessing each of the main miniseries issues will focus on a Squadder.

Carla Hoffman: I’m sure he’ll rip off Wanda’s arms and beat her to death with them …

Tom Bondurant: I’m curious to see how the Blur and Doctor Spectrum will be treated. It’s easy to characterize Hyperion and Power Princess as haughtier, more arrogant versions of Superman and Wonder Woman, but what do you do with a less-good version of Flash or Green Lantern (Guy Gardner and Sinestro excluded, of course)?

Carla Hoffman: Doctor Spectrum gets played as a Military Man in Supreme Power and I keep confusing the Blur with Smallville.

Tom Bondurant: Also, am I wrong to emphasize the DC-ness of it all? I feel like I come into this with a particular set of biases….

JK Parkin: No, I don’t think so, Tom. The books themselves have been set up that way. Over the course of the event we’re getting a Legion riff, a Jimmy Olsen riff, an Outsiders riff, a Suicide Squad riff and probably more that I’m forgetting.

Carla Hoffman: No, please do Tom! It’s one of the reasons I’m so disoriented by all this. Why do a DC-esque story now? What is going to be the purpose of all of this? Not just to the story and continuity but to the reader. I can’t wait to look back at this and find an answer to why.  Why was this made?  Why was it produced like this?

Tom Bondurant: Well, if Flashpoint was really their inspiration I may have some bad news for you.

Carla Hoffman: Oh dear God.

Tom Bondurant: HIGH COLLARS!

Shane Bailey: I feel that way about the whole Avengers run. I love Aaron’s Thor but this just doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere or have a purpose.

So … we’re all loving the event so far, right? [laughs]

Carla Hoffman: I just want to know why!  I feel like I’m missing something, like I don’t know enough about DC or current Avengers to get the big picture on why this is happening at all. I’m not mad, just disappointed. But hey, maybe it’s the next issue that will tie this all together and bring the bigger picture…

Maybe, yes – I would like a nice Hawaiian Punch…

JK Parkin: I imagine the rest of the miniseries will likely continue as this issue did — telling the story of one of the Squadron members, with a few pages dedicated to Blade and Captain America’s quest to reassemble the Avengers. It all ends with Heroes Return, and we may not get any answers as to why this happened until then.

I think with this structure, having different artists on each issue makes sense, especially if you choose artists who line up well with each character. And having McGuiness drawing each of the segments featuring the Avengers provides some continuity between each issue. But having one artist draw half an issue and another doing the second half just seems sloppy, like maybe this event was rushed out the door and no one had time to draw a full issue.

Shane Bailey: Do we get the equivalent of the original Heroes Return creators after this? If so, I’m sold.

 

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