April 19, 2012

Off the Shelf: H.E.R.O.: Metamorphosis

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis
Author: Kevin Rau
Artist: Kevin Rau
Publisher: Independent

The new era of independent books from the Kindle Renaissance and the subsequent explosion of superhero books has been a welcome one. No longer are superheroes confined to either comic books or film. However, superhero books have a long way to go before they grow up. Most of them are stuck in the golden/silver age, with most being nearly identical to Superman, Batman, or The Justice League. When I picked up H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis, my fear was that it was going to be yet another YA DC golden age homage book. Fortunately, from start to finish, it’s a very different book than simply tights and capes.

Rather than being similar to The Justice League, HM is closer to X-Men and those 90s style X-Men teams. But to be fair, it’s not a rip-off of our favorite mutants; rather, HM is like X-Men meets The Justice League. One of the creative aspects of this that is rarely used in superhero fiction, is the fact that the heroes physically change when they get their powers. Some get overly muscular, others change their hair color or grow claws, and there are those that mutate and become nothing more than mindless beasts.

Aside from the original premise, the story also has an interesting style. Rather than view it all from one perspective, the story is told through the three main characters. Lance, Stephanie, and Rael all have a chance to tell some chapters in first person. Occasionally there will also be a chapter written in the third person perspective.

While the characters might not be Spider-Man or The Hulk, they are memorable, which is an indication that they were written well enough. While they haven’t copied any Marvel/DC hero, they do fit a certain archtype commonly found in brawler games (Streets of Rage, X-Men/TMNT arcade games, etc.). There’s Lance, the somewhat All-American who’s the strongest and buffest of the three. Rael, whose mutation makes him more freakish with a long face and long claws (the fastest of the three). And Stephanie, who can release pheromones and cause people to do what she wants, as well as fly (the “mage” of the three). All three were friends before they got their powers, and while love triangles have become a dime a dozen in YA, it does give the characters a more complex dynamic and keeps them from being dull.

As far as the tone of the novel goes, this is on the entertainment side and certainly doesn’t take itself seriously (not to be confused with being goofy). For those of you who want something along the lines of Alan Moore, this is definitely not for you. But if you’re just looking for a fun novel that’s light on the themes and heavy on the (well written) action, then you’re probably going to enjoy this.

However, there are a few drawbacks. While the tone of the book is a great enjoyment, there are times when I wondered how it could’ve been if it was darker/deeper. Also, there’s quite a few chapters that could’ve easily been omitted. Especially the third-person chapters, most of which could’ve been cut out or put into one of the characters’ perspectives.

With that being said, H.E.R.O. – Metamorphosis is a fun, entertaining read, with The Justice League combined with X-Men/WildC.A.T.s, and is perfect for anybody looking for a superhero novel that isn’t so big on the typical tights and cape cliches.

Andrew Hudson



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