The Last Heroes
Written by Steven Grant
Drawn by Gil Kane
Published by iBooks; $18.95 USD
The Last Heroes began its life in the '90s as part of the Malibu Comics creator-owned imprint called Bravura. Originally titled Edge, it’s the story of a group of heroes, The Ultimates, who have achieved rock-star like status in the world, influencing everything from politics to fashion. Engineered by Professor James Carnell, the group was conceived as the next step in the evolutionary process, a way to rid the world of its ills, to bring peace once and for all. But, after the death of Professor Carnell, the team sets their own goals, helping those they see fit to help, and only when they can benefit. Now someone is after them, and seeing them for what they truly are, Edge is determined to put the so-called heroes in their rightful place.
In his introduction, writer Steven Grant points out the most obvious comparison (displayed on the back as well), its slight similarity to Alan Moore’s Watchmen, saying that once Moore opened that particular door (examining heroes in a real world setting), it was impossible to just close it. While the similarities are there, The Last Heroes isn't nearly as demanding of its readers, which occasionally works to its advantage, but more often than not, it leaves you wanting.
The characters are very uncomplicated; instead, it’s the world and the situations they are placed in that are the only complexities. Their motives are obvious, be it a hunger for power, revenge, status, ego, glamour; you know the good guys from the bad guys. Not that it’s a simple story, far from it in fact. The plot holds quite a few genuine surprises, but because of the compressed storytelling, we don't have any connection to the characters, and there’s no real distress about it, other than the initial surprise.
Kane’s art feels a bit out of place a good bit of the time as well. While there’s no denying the man’s talent, the characters garish costumes and the straightforward, typical “stand-offish” action sequences make the book look more like something from the early '70s. The coloring is a big part of that, the book may have benefited from a more noir-ish look, adding a much needed air of mystery to the characters and their surroundings.
The Forward and Afterward by Grant, along with a text piece with accompanying art prove to be far more interesting than the four issues of the story. The ideas both he and Kane had are fascinating, and the brief description of where the story was headed does make you wish the series had continued.
The book could have greatly benefited from one particular element found in almost all of today’s books, a longer story arc. Had we the time to get to know the characters and care whether or not their intentions were good or bad, the impact of the story would have far greater resonance. As it stands it’s a curious take on the “real world super-heroes” style of story telling, and even though there are books published today that are far better, The Last Heroes stands as a forefather to those stories, one of the first steps towards a new sub-genre in the world of super-heroes. Grade: 3/5
-- Logan Polk
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