I didn’t know Bryan Hitch was writing comics now, but here we are. The Ultimates and Authorities artist has decided to go ahead and make/satirize the widescreen action comics he helped popularize alongside frequent collaborator Mark Millar in Image Comics’ Real Heroes #2. In fact, squint a little and Real Heroes could be confused for a very Millar-ian pitch:
On an alternate Earth, much like our own, the superhero team the Olympians are our last line of defense against Brainchild and his army of mutants. The problem, as we learn in the second issue of Real Heroes, is that they didn’t quite survive their last battle, leaving that Earth last line of defense-less against the mutant menace.
Cut to our universe, where a group of actors portray the Olympians in a series of big budget movies only to be dragged to this other universe where they’re asked to suit up and pretend to be the real Olympians in order to help broken some kind of peace with Brainchild.
Blending a little bit of The Three Amigos with glossy, Millar-style cynicism, Real Heroes is actually kind of clever, even if it takes the bulk of the second issue to wade through a bunch of resisting-the-call-to-action nonsense from our “fake” heroes. Hitch captures the allure and pants-wetting terror of being a superhero for a group of actors who don’t seem to have a whole lot else going for them besides the crushing grind of fame.
It’s that Millar-ness (and for once, I’m not using that as a dig against a book) that makes it work, and that Millar-ness (now I am) which holds it back. See, more than a decade ago, the kind of larger-than-life suspicion of the rich and famous high life felt funny and incisive, especially when paired with big, explosion-heavy action. Now, a year after getting a Superman movie where our hero straight up snaps a dude’s neck (no, you let it go), this mode of storytelling just feels like heightened posturing.
It’s unfortunate to see Hitch recycle some of his Ultimates ribbed costume designs (although I love the rampaging mass of mutants and Brainchild – more of this, please). Part of me is hoping that by the time the next act in the story rolls around, we’ll get new looks for the heroes that survive the goofy/cool thing that happens at the end of this issue.
Which is kind of my roundabout way of saying that first impressions aside, I want to know where Hitch is going with Real Heroes. We can connect the dots with this kind of thing (cynical non-heroes become frightened but enthusiastic saviors), but I’m curious about the route he plans to take to get there.