“I AM A HERO” (Comic Book Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Svetlana Fedotov
The zombie apocalypse does different things to different people. Some people take up arms and blast away the undead with impunity, while others horde their resources and hide in the woods, and yet others simply turn into human chum bait and become more zombies. But then there is Hideo. When you’re already struggling with schizophrenia and paranoia, how can you really be sure there is a zombie apocalypse to begin with?
I AM A HERO is the newest addition to Dark Horse’s impressive manga comic line. Already a phenomenon in Japan and inspiring a live-action movie, fans in the U.S. finally get their first taste of this Far East nasty… and it definitely gets nasty. Mixing mental health issues with the human will to live in the face of unimaginable terror, the work goes hard on the reality of the end of days and what it really takes to be a hero.
As stated, the comic focuses on our protagonist Hideo, a manga assistant who suffers from some serious issues. The first chapter opens up on him having a conversation with a boy who is not really there while preparing his nightly routine of sitting with a shotgun in case monsters come to get him. While bizarre, it’s part of a routine that he had cultivated, splitting his time between protecting himself, going to work, and visiting his abusive girlfriend. Everything in its place.
One day, while coming home from work, he spots a fatal car crash where the victim simply gets up and walks away. Thinking he is just hallucinating, Hideo ignores the growing number of sick people around him or the government vans that zoom past and keep going to his girlfriend’s house. It’s not until he gets to her place and she punches through the door to bite him does he realize that something is really wrong. Finally, everything clicks into place and he quickly understands that the only thing standing between him and death is the shotgun he sleeps with every night. Will he survive the coming plague or will his mind sabotage him at every turn?
One of the most striking things about I AM A HERO is the artwork. Shying away from the standard idea that all Japanese comics are big eyed girls in tiny skirts, the creator Kengo Hanazawa goes the more realistic route, creating characters that look like people we might pass in everyday life. It’s perhaps this creative choice that makes the work (and the gore) so vivid.
The movements and facial expressions of the characters is very natural and once the zombies get on the scene, it becomes quiet terrifying. Bulging veins, horrid body angles, the stretch and fold of the skin, every detail is precisely accounted for in the work. Like a lot of manga, it’s also very slow burning, to which Hanazawa uses to his advantage to up the creep factor through paced reveal and growing wariness.
The story itself is very interesting by taking a WALKING DEAD-type of vibe where it’s less about the zombies and more about human culture after an apocalypse. Put on top Hideo’s growing schizophrenia, Hanazawa creates a work that flitters between sane and insane and where the line exists. The only drawback is that while the action is slow burning, a lot of the story is too. There is a ton of exposition that, while it shines light on Hideo’s life, doesn’t really add much to the overall story. Unfortunately, it’s fairly common in a lot of manga (any fan of DRAGON BALL Z Z could attest to that), but the beautiful art really helps it move along. Also, manga’s don’t tend to be very word-y, so readers tend to find themselves breezing through the slower parts.
All in all, I AM A HERO is an amazing work for not only manga or comic fans, but any horror fan in general. For an extra bonus, Dark Horse is releasing I AM A HERO in omnibus format and have combined the first two books into an all-you-can-read blood splattering mania! That’s a lot of bang for your buck. Look for it on shelves this April.