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Boy Meets Hero

boymeetsheroChayne Avery writer, artist
Russell Garcia writer, colorist
Bruno Gmünder
$30.99 (numbered and signed) includes shipping when bought from BMH website. Less at Amazon.

Where can a comics reader tired of multiversal crises and Earth on the brink of doom from alien invasion find a book that deals with neither, and if not Utopia bright isn’t encrusted with grittiness? Gay fans may find the world of BOY MEETS HERO created by Chayne Avery and Russell Garcia is one that fits the bill.

Golden Bay City, surely a stand-in for San Francisco, is the fictional metropolis of Avery and Garica’s story. In their four-color world a celestial event sparked the appearance of the first superheroes in the 1940s. A small band of these crusaders formed the World Hero Organization, a management company that in time grew to become a large corporation, thanks to marketing savvy and a hero-worshipping public. WHO dispatches its heroes to fight villains more motivated by jealousy than hell-bent on wreaking chaos and death. Blue Comet (Derek Maxwell) and Sunstar (Jillian Summers) are two of WHO’s most popular heroes. They’re the hot new super couple whose adventures and relationship make them media darlings. Like many real world celebrity relationships, theirs is an act Don’t be cynical! There’s no room for that with BOY MEETS HERO. Blue Comet offered so Sunstar wouldn’t be paired with Zap-Man, WHO’s resident horn dog, in a marketing campaign (again with the cynicism). Things just got out of Derek’s control and the fake relationship is cover for his real one with young, blond Justin, brother to Jillian who’s in on the charade.

The setting may be current day but the tone and feel of Avery and Garcia’s story borrows a lot from happier times in comics. Costumes, villains, and to a degree the heroes seem reminiscent of the 80s. In a deconstructed world an organization that made a profit by turning heroes into commodities would be played as suspicious and manipulative. Quite the opposite here with WHO as a venerable institution in the public’s eyes and an occasional minor inconvenience for its heroes.

Aside from being an entertaining read, the obvious reason for a story like BOY MEETS HERO is to explore what a gay relationship can be like in the context of the superhero genre. Derek and Justin kiss, hug, go to the beach, tease one another, and live together, which poses its own situations since Derek is not out to his family either. Humor and respect make the situations a delight to read rather than a maudlin, overwrought affair to slog through. In a trial run, Justin persuades Derek to hold hands while walking in public. When two slightly younger guys start trash talking gays, Justin confronts them loudly and threatening to “totally kick [their] scrawny asses!” And the offenders scurry away apologetically. Contrast this with the Terry Berg fag bashing storyline from several years ago in Green Lantern. Granted, Judd Winick’s story, one that needed to be told, spoke to a lot of readers for different reasons, but it’s much more satisfying to have a gay character stand up rather than being beaten. Bravo, Garcia and Avery!

There is nudity in the story, most of it is used for playful and romantic scenes with Derek and Justin, while a shower room scene at WHO headquarters is used for tension. The reader is invited and teased to watch the boyfriends, but only up to a point. An explicit voyeurism would be out of place with the aesthetics so well established with the main characters and the rest of the story. These guys are playful, loving, and totally devoted to each other, kind of what I imagine Peter Parker and Mary Jane were like before that deal with Mephisto.

Of course a superhero comic needs tension and action. It’s provided nicely in several scenes; one is a flashback recounting how Justin met Blue Comet. Old Sunstar villainess Cold Snap and new baddie Zack Savage conspire to exact revenge each for the own purposes against Blue Comet and Sunstar. Cold Snap enjoys Parisian vacations and is accompanied by her dumb, loyal, and bare-chested bodyguards. Savage is a scientific genius and social misfit who promises Cold Snap something she can’t resist. Being a mismatched set brings tension to their team up, a good deal of which is played for laughs though one brief scene feels at odds with a big reveal that happens during the climactic fight scene. Minor quibble though. Avery and Garcia turn the old “damsel in distress” convention on its head for the aforementioned showdown between Blue Comet, Sunstar, Zack and Cold Snap. To say more than this would be to spoil a nice surprise.

If I were limited to one adjective to describe the tone of BMH it would be optimistic. That buoyant feeling is carried through in the art where Avery and Garcia do double duty as artist and colorist respectively. The contour line drawing style and bright, cheerful colors are a good complement to the retro homage ambience. Production wise the book has several good points. Pages are bound by stitching instead of the less expensive and less durable “perfect” bound method of glue. The book design benefits from a thicker, matte paper that is also an asset for the coloring. Some people prefer a slick, shiny paper but I find that it often creates an annoying glare from light.

Try BOY MEETS HERO with its optimism and romance as an antidote to the Final Crisis aftermath and Secret Invasion Dark Reign overkill.

Buy either from Chayne and Russell or Amazon.

September 24, 2009
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