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Comic Review: Hell Yeah, Vol. 1: Last Day On Earths
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Hell Yeah Vol 1Hell Yeah Vol. 1: Last Day On Earths
Written by Joe Keatinge
Pencilled by Andre Szymanowicz
Inked by Andre Szymanowicz & Fabio Redivo
Colored by Jason Lewis
Lettered by Dougles E. Sherwood
Edited by Ron Richards
Book Design by Vincent Kukua
Ceated by Keatinge & Szymanowicz
Image Comics
Release Date: Oct. 3, 2012
Cover Price: $9.99

Joe Keatinge‘s new Image Comics series Hell Yeah has been described as a sort of “Sequel to the 90s.” That strange period in cape books when Superman could for-real-no-kidding die (just kidding), characters like Cable could pop-up out of nowhere to lead a teenage gang and it was every artists duty to top their last issue big issue with something bigger and weirder.

In contrast to many of today’s comics, which are dedicated to examining and re-examining old characters and storytelling tropes – a.k.a. post- modernity, the 90s were about conjuring the new and unfamiliar, finding what’s cool and sexy today (and, yes, I’m totally generalizing, get over it).

Collecting the first five issues Hell Yeah Volume 1: Last Day On Earths introduces us to Ben Day, a scrappy, troubled teen currently attending a prestigious school for super humans – but he’s not your typical teen titan, he has a legacy to live up to. Y’see, the good guys arrived in 1992, swooping into Kuwait during the middle of Operation: Desert Storm. One of the Strange Visitors from Another Planet and the young US soldier who first made contact with them are Ben’s parents. It’s twenty years later and his life consists of getting into clubs and hanging out with his platonic ladyfriend when a multiverse-hopping-super-powered girl band trio crashes into his school looking for him. Turns out one of the girls was involved with him in her own timeline until he, and all the other Ben Days they’ve run across in the multiverse, were bumped off one by one. Now our hero is on the run while an unlikely assassin is knocking off alternate reality versions one by one.

But all that’s kind of beside the point. For me, the story’s largely just there to show off some really cool pages. Gleefully depicting exploding heads and laser beams cutting through limbs with red globs combusting over the frame, Andre Szymanowiczs art can feel just as comfortable with teenagers taking a late night walk through downtown Portland, Or. or at a rock concert filled with moshing teens. For a book where the inaugural storyline goes all Infinite Earths there are some cool little visual shorthands for the hero – “Bat-Mite” Ben Day, the Silver Age Ben Day, etc. Szymanowicz is in that strange place between untutored, quirky indie book and big two big event, and it moves like good manga yet colorist Jason Lewis gives it a distinctly European palette. Come to think of it, it’s a whole lot of what I think makes Lenil Yus work so cool. Except that it looks nothing like Yu.

At his best, Keatinge’s books lovingly blend indie sensibilities with straight up superhero narratives (Come to think of it there’s a whiff of Scott Pilgrim the character in Ben Day) and while I don’t know if it’s a great comic book, I do dig it so far. The problem is that it hasn’t proven yet that it’s not going to also absorb the more obnoxious ’90s superhero comic book traits – stilted characters, unfinessed storytelling, and generally going big with out anything really to say.

Last Day On Earths didn’t feel quite like it had set the stage properly, the way really good first volumes do. It’s not clear what the stories trajectory is just yet. Side characters with cool names, costumes and/or powers haven’t quite emerged as unique, well, characters. And yet, there’s an undeniably cool sensibility permeating through much of the book. Like when I read the first issue, I walked away from this volume feeling that the jury’s still out on Hell Yeah.

But, y’know what? Give it a shot. Five issues for $9.99? That’s the kind of deal that’ll makes you say the title of the book out loud.

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