John Hinckley, the man who almost killed President Ronald Reagan, revealed to the world that individuals now exist in our society who have strange abilities not unlike the denizens of many a comic book universe. Instead of taking a shot at Reagan with a pistol he tried to fry him with bolts of electricity from his hands. Crazy, huh? Well in the real world of The First Hero, these strange and wonderful powers drive those afflicted with them absolutely insane. Stripped of their rights, and executed on site by the Extrahuman Task Force, these "extrahumans" are more than pariahs, they are Public Enemy No. 1. When US Marine Jake Roth discovers that he has superpowers during a particularly bloody battle with a sniper in Afghanistan, but is NOT insane, what is Roth to do? Save those around him, or risk being shot on site?
The most burning question raised in The First Hero #1 is not what the source of these superpowers is, why they drive those afflicted with them insane, or even what Roth is going to do next (although these are all good questions worth coming back for The First Hero #2 in attempt to find the answers to). The real question is: Is everyone who is afflicted with them REALLY driven insane or does the Extrahuman Task Force just enforce their lethal judgements too quickly to determine if some extrahumans, like Roth, might in truth, not really be driven insane by these powers. Even more frighteningly, does the Extrahuman Task Force carry out these executions in this manner on purpose and under orders?
Underneath the surface of what looks like a mash up of X-Men type persecution storytelling mixed with the ever prevalent sense of Watchmen-like ultra-realism, might be some deeper and more unique themes. Writer Anthony Ruttgaizer is leading us down this storytelling path hopefully, because if he is just rehashing X-Men and Watchmen stories, then The First Hero will get really boring really fast. Somehow I think that Ruttgaizer IS up to more here than borrowing from the aforementioned comic book universes though. Some visual clues are embedded in the artwork supporting this theory.
Speaking of the artwork, Phillip Sevy does a solid job bringing Ruttgaizer's story to life. His characters are kinetic and dynamic in the sense that they flow and move across the panels effortlessly and realistically. He also has a very fine eye for detail, and that's a plus. There's no generic backgrounds here, something that can really cheapen any work of sequential art.
The First Hero looks like it can be a breakout hit for Action Lab with it's smart and tight storytelling mixed with a little of that historical revisionism/reinvention that is all the rage these days (see X-Men First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past). The First Hero might borrow heavily from the X-Men and Watchmen universe of ideas, but is looking to strike out on its own...and I for one want to see where this story will go because of that single fact.