It's a comic book set in a world where superheroes really exist. Or, at least, one superhero.
Stop me if you've heard this one.
Because, yes, it feels very very familiar. Even the name of the hero in question, Zenith, was the titular star of Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's celebrity superhero of the eighties.
What makes Hero Worship different, is that – initially at least – it's not about the hero. It's not even about the world at large. It's about the superhero's fans and the way they feel rather familiar. And it's about a world that can take its only superhero for granted. Apart from a few fans who remain as excited about him as they were when they were children. Even if it gets in the way of their social life.
By showing us details of a world and its ingrained superhero, much is left unsaid, it's just the way things are. Spelling out "What Would Zenith Do" would feel unnatural, and the audience are invited to fill in the blanks ourselves from our own world's reference points. It's a tiny thing, but it makes a difference when portraying a world influenced by this man. It feels so… natural.
If feels, at its core, the way a world would be with a superhero. And the way we would react to him after decades had passed. And an attitude very familar to any comic book reader, or anyone who is a fan of anything at all. The understandable obsessive rather than the mocked obsessive. It's amazing how little the former is explored, when relating to pop culture, rather than sports, say. Hero Worship does just that. There is some mocking of course…
…but its one that feels very relateable, and is as just as self-critical. There are no victims here. The balance that, say, The Big Bang Theory repeatedly fails to tread.
This is also a new look for Avatar Press. There's one scene of semi gore, and a photorealistic painted look from Michael DiPascale throughout that tries to ground the book in reality. It mostly succeeds, but some facial poses look unnatural, frozen in time, rather than organic. Mind you, the same is often said about painted superhero books, if you can cope with Kingdom Come, this should be fine.
At its heart, it's the comics pro and the comics fan, the film actor and those that stand at the premiere barriers. The sports star and those in the cheap seats. Those that do the work and those who keep the flame alive.
Then the comic twists, and suddenly it's about crossing that barrier. About getting that first gig. About making the move from the wannabe to the alreadyis.
There's also a scene which is extraordinarily like one in Chronicle, and you wonder exactly when this comic was written, and whether or Zak Penn had seen it or not. It almost seems like a storyboard for that scene. But, you know, so did the beginning of Walking Dead to the movie 28 Days Later and that didn't harm it at all.
If you like superhero comics, Hero Worship may give you one with an unusual wrinkle you've been missing.
Hero Worship #1 by Zak Penn, Scott Murphy and Michael DiPascale is published by Avatar Press tomorrow.