“Hell Yeah #6”

(w) Joe Keatinge
(a) Andre Szymanowicz
Image Comics
32 pgs, $3.99

I come into this second volume of Hell Yeah with great curiosity. The first volume (issues #1-5) openly wore  pop culture/comics influences on its sleeve providing a charm and intangible energy to the book both in the artwork and the interesting bits of the story. With all that energy and enthusiasm coming off those first five issues, Keatinge always left me feeling like there was some more (in a good way) to explore. So, in reading this issue, the start of a new five-part arc, I am most intrigued with the possibility of where it will go stylistically and conceptually. I will let the book catch you up on the plot of the first volume (which it does nicely on pages 11-12 and 17), as that is not of what is of  interest to me with the book at this time, rather I want to discuss a few brief examples of what I think makes Hell Yeah interesting in this upcoming volume of the story.

“Hell Yeah #6” is in a bit of a tight spot as the creators have the task of not only hooking new readers but to let those who have been patiently waiting pick up where they left off so many months ago. So often in monthlies and ongoing mini-series a comics reader is bombarded by messages of  NEW STORY ARC and GREAT JUMPING ON POINT! yet can feel lost right away in the opening pages. Sometimes editors will put in a one-page recap, as Marvel has done for quite some time now, but that doesn’t always translate well in comics—it’s a visual medium, so to fall back on a prose intro is often a let down. Keatinge and Szymanowicz seem to have thought about this problem and using their tools wisely take the opening page to help new and familiar reader induction to occur not only with the first image but the first words. As one opens the page, we have a dialogue box in the top left corner declaring “This is the world I live in.” As your eye moves about the well-designed page work of  Szymanowicz, the visual information lets the mind make inferences based on pop culture: guy with a cape (hero) and sidekick fighting a scary looking guy (villain) with a huge steam punk sci-fi robotic hand all flying above a cityscape. For new folks I would think it lets the mind relax, as the visual indicates you have obviously plucked a superhero title off the shelves, and your first reaction is that the guy in the cape is having a bit of the old inner monologue while battling evil (there are of course a few more inferences that can be made for a new reader, but I will let you think about those or leave some in the comments section for further discussion). For those familiar with the series, the page acts as a questionmark as Keatinge does not give away who is talking, and there is a moment of doubt here about where the narrator may be, as the lower right hand corner dialogue box provides a transition based on curiosity. I read enough sub par hero titles to know that such first page introductions do not happen with any frequency, and I like that there is an effort here in attempting to show how a page can communicate something to people coming into the story at different points of entry.

With superheroes can come super sci-fi. Some of the most lauded stories in comics have always been when the creators play with the physics of things. In my opinion, as a sci-fi fan, when stories use time travel and multiverses, things just get more exciting. An important component of a time travel and dimension hopping narrative is often the need of a vehicle of some sort, and those that excel, like Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s concept of fighter planes in The Red Wing, create that extra layer, that little push, to help sell the reader on the world being built or the concepts that are being presented (for more on this, check out my “Time And…” column here at Capeless). Keatinge and Szymanowicz present their take on the dimension hopping vehicle in this issue with the introduction of The Spheres. This is Keatinge’s TARDIS, the famous traveling police box of Dr. Who fame, a ship able to travel through time and space while itself being a self-contained infinite space (and yes, The Spheres are bigger on the inside).  The Spheres will no doubt serve as a functional (and perhaps even integral) part in the narrative keeping alive a tradition that the modes of travel in sci-fi can be characters.

“Hell Yeah #6” is an indicator of exciting things to come. While the main story will probably not hold tremendous surprises (and I am leaving room to be surprised), the fun is in the details of how this comic is being put together by a creative team that is taking the craft of putting a superhero title on the shelves very seriously and with the utmost respect and love for the genre.