Battle Hymn #1


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Battle Hymn #1


  • Words: B. Clay Moore
  • Art: Jeremy Haun
  • Inks: Ande Parks
  • Colors: Dave Bryant
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $2.95
  • Release Date: Feb 23, 2005

Ah, nostalgia. Back in the golden age when heroes were showing up for the first time, everyone was fighting Nazis, and fantastic adventures were on every page – that’s comic book nostalgia for you. So in the midst of a trend of re-starting classic stories in the modern era, we have Battle Hymn, a book that makes no bones about the fact that it is unmistakably set in the 1940s starring a cast of golden age-y superheroes. Well, at least that’s what it seems like from the outside.

The real hook of Battle Hymn looks like it’s going to be this: Those superheroes I just told you about? Not so super. Powers, yes, but not terrifically powerful. The speedster of the assembling group, for example, has to rig a race with a motorcycle to appear that he can travel faster than 45 mph. Nor are these heroes upstanding pillars of society. The Batman of the group tells big swashbuckling tales, but in truth just shot the two Nazi spies through a conveniently open window. That kind of thing.

Which is kind of awesome. Rarely are we offered a story that is more or less a peek behind the curtain into the way things really might be in the superhero world. B. Clay Moore’s retro vision of comic book heroics is mixed with an intriguing dose of candor and perhaps just a sprinkle of cynicism. It could make for a very interesting ride.

It’s a shame that Moore didn’t take it farther. Battle Hymn has a spark of originality to its story, and it’s an intriguing one at that. But too much of it is lost in a bizarre mix of parody and homage to some of the most established heroes from the same era it is mining for nostalgia. It is impossible not to mistake The Proud American for Captain America, Quinn Rey the Fish Man for Namor, the Artificial Man for Iron Man or perhaps the original Human Torch, etc. The likenesses are shockingly similar in an age where Marvel is suing City of Heroes for copyright infringement.

The best of the bunch, both in writing and design, is Johnny Zip. A spotlight-hogging egotist who’s not quite as fast as his publicist would claim, Zip is the kind of character the rest of the Battle Hymn heroes should be. He gets a good introduction and has a really cool costume that is both fantastic and totally in keeping with the aesthetics of the forties. But he’s the only juicy character in a sea of look-alikes.

As for the story itself, aside from the characterization conceit, Battle Hymn doesn’t seem to be bringing anything new to a table that, if you look around your local comics shop, isn’t lousy with team superhero stories to begin with. They’re being assembled by a shadowy government group, likely to battle Nazis. Prediction: they’re not going to get along as a team. Drama ensues. Crisis arrives. Team pulls together, overcomes character flaws. And so on.

In general Jeremy Haun does an excellent job with the pencils on this book. The art is clean and evocative of some of the great matinees and fantastic tales of the era it is set in. From the grim-faced soldiers of the front lines to the cigarette-smoking G-Men in their ever-present fedoras, Battle Hymn has a really slick look to it, one that is complemented nicely by Dave Bryant’s muted color scheme.

One blemish on the otherwise eye-pleasing pages, however, is the lettering. It’s probably an eventuality that fonts are going to replace men and women with exceptional penmanship, but that day is not totally here. The lettering looks like a font, and there’s something about this font that doesn’t totally jive with the pictures on the page. It seems amateurish.

It’s worth noting that no editor is credited on Battle Hymn’s first issue. More than anything else this book probably needed a little more steering and polishing from someone in an editorial position. It seems like it’s a good story, but the bumps in the road are in the details, and there are plenty of bumps in the road for this first issue in a new series.

- Jesse Vigil

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