If I recall correctly, Heroes was intended at one point to be a new ongoing series, to replace the ailing Shadow Cabinet series. But in the midst of the Milestone implosion (which also claimed Xombi, Kobalt, and The Blood Syndicate) it was reduced to mini-series status, and delayed.

I was disappointed to see my fave superhero universe fading away, so it was a pleasure to finally see “The World Needs… HEROES” emblazoned on the cover of #1 this past Spring. As is my habit with series of this length, I read the first couple issues, decided it was worth collecting, then bought and shelved the remaining issues to read in one sitting.

This is the story of a few refugees from the Shadow Cabinet, a covert organisation dedicated to saving humanity from itself… through questionable means. Fed up with that mode of operation, they and some allies establish themselves as an above-ground superhero team. The Heroes include Blitzen (speedster), Donner (strongwoman), Iota (shrinker with a bag of shrunken hardware), Payback (your basic mutant monster), Starlight (a “human pulsar”), and Static (teen with electric powers). The mini-series covers how they became a team and their first major crisis together.

I laughed out loud many times while reading this series. The lighthearted (and non-sensational) treatment of the lesbian relationship between speedster Blitzen and strongwoman Donner was the source of several of these laughs. Static’s reaction when Blitzen referred to Donner as “my lover” was priceless, as were the couple’s friendly bickering over how and when and where to disclose the nature of their relationship.

The humour (of which the lesbian gags were only a small part) was one of the delights of this series. (See also the scene in which Static gets Blitzen to try The Flash’s run-on-water-like-a-skipping-stone trick… unsuccessfully. “Hmm. Guess I’ll save the time treadmill idea for later…”) It made this story actually fun to read, which is all too rare in modern superhero books. This was good old-fashioned superduping,
albeit with a modern “90’s” sensibility.

Yes, this is a Milestone comic, and it does feature a multi-ethnic, female-inclusive cast of heroes. But it does so in a way that neither draws attention to, nor belittles that fact. When a letter-writer mused about dropping Static and Payback to make it an “all-girl” team, that was the first I’d noticed that most of the team are women, because they were all presented as characters with powers, not Static-Boy, Blitzen-Woman, Starlight-Girl, etc.
I’m not quite sure what their ethnic or racial identities are, but colorist Julia Lacquement used a variety of hues on them.

There are a lot of people who never tried reading any Milestone books when the company was launched, many of them doing so because they perceived it as a “black” or “PC” line of books. I’d recommend that they pick up this series and give it a read. It compares favourably to much of the early Milestone books (as many recent issues of their ongoing series do not), and typifies much of what Milestone is really about: good stories featuring good characters with (usually) good art.

The art did fall apart a little at the end. After four issues of very good ChrisCross/Rollins, we got an issue of James Fry and several inkers, which was consistent enough with the previous issues and itself. But the last issue, with Fry and Keith Pollard sharing “breakdowns” and a gaggle of “finishers” and inkers, the art ranged from “good” to “who’s that?”

But the storytelling and characterisation remained solid. And when it was over, I wished that it weren’t. I wanted Heroes #7. Because this book ranks right up there with Icon, The Blood Syndicate and the first year of Static as the best of Milestone’s line.

During the run of this series, Milestone held a contest for the best answer to the question: “Should Heroes become an ongoing series?” I neglected to enter, so here’s my belated answer: “Yes… because the world needs Heroes.”

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