Overview

Helios: In With the New #1

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Helios: In With the New #1

Credits

  • Words: Jason Rand
  • Art: Gabe Pena
  • Inks: Transparency Digital Productions
  • Colors: Transparency Digital Productions
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Speakeasy Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Sep 28, 2005

In its first volume, Helios made some almost superheroic strides towards establishing itself in a genre that offers little in the way of elbow room. As gets noted frequently when discussing emerging comic books, there are an awful lot of them in the capes n’ tights variety. But Helios creators Mike Penny and Jason Rand got off to a very nice start indeed, blending the familiar super-powered themes with an extremely compelling and layered ongoing story that owes more to X-Files than X-Men.

The premise begins with the usual bang: a government-sponsored superhero team is losing ranks and support. Down to only three that haven’t been killed off, the Neo-Force is tasked with doing the hard jobs for the feds, but like all programs, is in danger of getting shut down. Amidst this, shadowy players plot sabotage and worse while parties yet unknown have been mysteriously augmenting the abilities of one member of the Neo-Force in particular.

Now Helios has returned with a second volume, In With the New. As the new volume opens, Blur, Sunstrike, and Façade have returned from a particularly puzzling encounter with an unknown neogenic, but before they have a chance to reflect, they find that sweeping changes have been made to the program in their absence including the addition of a whole new roster of neogenics.

The quality of the artwork and the crisp writing style have made steady improvements on this title from the beginning. What has helped keep this title’s momentum, though, has been its attention to character and plotting, something that usually falls by the wayside once the "team book" dynamic starts to become entrenched. We’ve seen this particular pitfall time and time again in comics. Team stories are tough to handle, and superhero team stories are even tougher because the temptation is there for writers to want to play with all the toys at once. When this happens, the momentum tends to suffer.

That danger looms over In With the New at times. What made the first volume of Helios so interesting was how compact its story was. The conspiracy and sabotage are intriguing additions to familiar territory and the small family dynamic of the three remaining Neos made for some thoughtful plotting. Now that the cast has more than doubled in a single issue, it’s not possible to give that same time and attention to those elements, and some of that narrative thrust is lost.

But what is a superhero book without its powers? At first blush, Helios seems to offer fairly conventional super-powered types. There’s the speedster, the pyrokinetic, the mimic, and now add ice, teleportation, invulnerability, mind control, and flight. What’s interesting, though, is the way Penny and Rand have chosen to utilize the powers. Of particular note is the character of Override, a telepathic manipulator whose mind control powers seem to be exactly what makes most people nervous about Charles Xavier. Lacking any real restraint or sense of decorum, Override’s abilities in action are actually a little shocking, and the indiscretion he employs when using them adds an ominous tone that helps elevate the book.

After a shaky start, penciler Gabe Pena seems to have found his style on the title, and it’s a pleasure to see the continuity of a penciler from one volume of a comic to the next. Pena seems to have an extremely solid hold on panel-to-panel narrative. For a relative newcomer, his work on Helios is clear and easy to follow. Some of the backgrounds are a trifle simplistic at times, but he makes up for it with the occasional dense tableau.

Though it’s a little rough around the edges, Helios is an excellent example of how an upstart comic is more than capable of running with the big dogs so long as it works hard to remain fresh and interesting. The strength of Helios continues to be its solid foundation in story and its attention to narrative and dialogue. Now’s a perfect time to join in. Sure things have suddenly gotten a little crowded, but Penny, Rand, and Pena seem determined to make their mark and come out swinging.

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