Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated by Andre Szymanowicz
THE LAST GENERATION OF HEROES IS HERE!
Twenty years ago, the first-ever superheroes debuted without warning and forever altered our global culture! Now, the generation born in their wake fight to claim their place in a world evolved beyond them! Written by Eisner & Harvey award-winner JOE KEATINGE and illustrated by ELEPHANTMEN and POPGUN’s ANDRE SZYMANOWICZ, HELL YEAH combines the over-the-top excitement of the original Image Comics launch with modern, innovative storytelling. It all begins with a giant-sized first issue containing a full thirty-two pages of story with no ads for the regular price of just $2.99!
How many of you have fond memories of all the ideas for comics and other creative endeavors you imagined while you were just wee youngins in High School? How many of you have stuck with those ideas for literally decades, growing and developing them until finally being given a chance to bring them to life? Joe Keatinge has, and the result is Hell Yeah.
Click on down for a spoiler-free review, and learn more about this story almost a lifetime in the making (and on shelves March 7th).
Personal investment on the part of the creative team in the comic they create is both a hard and an easy thing to track. When writing a comic is more than just a job for a creator, the work takes on a different type of personality than a book being churned out to fill shelves and move units. When a creator truly cares about the story they are telling, the characters they are telling it with, and the morals and lessons they wish to convey with it, it is impossible to not know since, truly, everything in the book will appear to matter. There will be no fluff, no misplaced or awkward dialogue, no excessive side-plots or dangling/unlikely plot threads. This is what true precision and intentionality looks like in the comic book world, and is also, in so many words, an accurate description of Hell Yeah.
Keatinge has clearly been developing this story for a very, very long time, and the first indicator of that fact is the immediate familiarity developed for the protagonist of the book. Not since Robert Kirkman brought us Mark Grayson has a young comic book protagonist become so familiar and welcome as Benjamin Day. While the influences on the development of the character are blatantly apparent (since let’s face it, the news on any given day of our lives features a rebellious progeny of a once productive member of society fairly prominently), but the way in which they are utilized is precise and reserved. Ben’s choices in the opening few scenes of the book establish him not only as a lovable trouble maker, but the world building happening around him served to place him in a general life situation that is both familiar and entirely unique.
Similarly, his supporting cast, while standard for a book about a rebellious teenager (weathered but approachable parents, overly intelligent and snarky best friend, overbearing school principal, etc), seems tailor made for Ben. A lot of times, writers will try to shoehorn in character types in order to fill holes in the story where that type of character is needed, however it is clear that each character was modeled specifically into this universe and was given just as much thought as our spunky protagonist. No individual moving part of the book is superflous. Every single person, place or thing that appears is given purpose and definition, and it only helps the story.
However, the true highlight of this book is the world building itself. For a solid debut issue, especially for a new character and ESPECIALLY in a comic published independently, building a world with a sense of familiarity to your audience while still being fresh enough to draw the audience in is of utmost importance. The book takes a swing at the “super hero as messiah” concept, but it does so in a way that is entirely believable and valid given the current state of the world. Using that concept as a backdrop and foundation, Keatinge builds an environment for his characters that is just as defined and precisely crafted as his characters. It is a futuristic setting but not overly so, and every divergence we see from our modern times is justified within the framework established for the world. On top of that, it has a certain rebellious and vaguely punk-ish aesthetic to it that works well with the personalities floating on the table.Continued below
However, a debut comic is only as good as its ability to make you want to read past the first issue, and that means it better be damn good at seed planting. What is the secret underpinning the seeming utopia of the world? WHAT, exactly, is Ben? These questions and more are the backbone of the major mystery presented here, and it appeals on a very basic level. It implies depth to the story, but doesn’t beat you over the head with it, and that is a sign of immensely thoughtful craftsmanship.
Ultimately though, the story would not be half as affective as it is without Andre Szymanowicz’s pencils bringing it to life. There is something very specific about his clean Tom Raney meets Frank Quietly style that syncs up perfectly with the story being told. The clean, angular nature of his work fits the polished exterior of the world the characters live in, but also shows hints of the deep impurity I have no trouble believing will make itself apparent in the months and (hopefully) years to come in the book. He also brings a distinctly modern style to his characters that, while still reflective of a futuristic style, also embodies many different corners of modern day youth culture that is absolutely vital to the story being told.
Overall, Hell Yeah #1 is a fantastic start to one of the most promising new series seen from Image in a good while. The company is really bringing its all during its 20th anniversary year and with books like Fatale and Alpha Girl already breaking through this year, and with books like Hell Yeah waiting in the wings, this will be one of the best years for independent comics since the company was founded in 1992. And that is a fact.
Final Verdict: 9.5 – Buy