Helios #1-4 Review

Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: N/A

Written by: Jason Rand
Penciled by: Gabe Pena
Inked by: Chris Dreier and Transparency Digital Productions
Colored by: Transparency Digital Productions
Letters and Graphic Design by: Spehar, Dreamer, and Troy Peteri
Editor: Mike Penny
Publisher: Dakuwaka Productions

It took me a couple of months, but I finally got on the bandwagon of Small Gods. The stories by Jason Rand were exceptional. The world of Small Gods was fully realized, with the concept (a world where mental powers were commonplace) pulling me in almost immediately.

I’ve heard a lot about Helios, another book written by Jason Rand, the past few months. A superhero story by Rand with a bit of a twist was hard to pass up. Unfortunately, my local shop wasn’t carrying the book, and I didn’t have a chance to pick it up anywhere else. Thanks to Dakuwaka’s main man, Mike Penny, I’ve been given the opportunity to review the entire first series of Helios. Considering all that I’d heard about Helios, I was ready to go when the package came in the mail.

First, let me say that this is a cool looking book. I’ve enjoyed Gabe Pena’s work since his days at Marvel Comics. He’s got a cartoony technique, but one that’s a bit different from most artists that we’d put in that style. Pena has a great hand for rendering action sequences and character designs are one of his strong suits. Pena has done some of his best work on Helios. This book really pops off the page. Transparency Digital’s coloring really heightens that pop. This is a big world with larger than life characters. Pena definitely presents that on the printed page.

As far Helios‘s story is concerned, the first four issues were a little spotty. The general direction of the series is sound and the characters are intriguing. There was a clear point that Jason Rand and Mike Penny were trying to reach at the end of their first arc. They got there, and color me interested in seeing the continuation. Yet, the book seemed to be very light on plot at times. While the first issue took some time to read, as the books progressed they became a little too heavy on action.

Helios focuses on the Neo-Force, which is a government run team of super-powered (called neogenics in the series) individuals that polices their own kind. At times the book felt like GI Joe with superheroes. The government run team of heroes has been done many times before, but Rand/Penny/Pena do a nice job of differentiating this book from the crowd that’s come before.

Helios deals with some real issues in its super-powered fictional world. I find it very interesting that governmental cutbacks have relegated the powered characters on Neo-Force to only three. First, the fact that the government would pare down a highly-specialized peacekeeping team to such a small number borders on absurd, which makes it all the more likely as something our government would do. Second, the use of only three members at the outset keeps the character base small and allows the reader a chance to get to know everyone quickly.

The world of Helios centers on our three heroes: Jason, Kyle, and Ashley–also known by their codenames: Sunstrike, Façade, and Blur. The group is led by Commander Shiels, but Senator Strickland clearly has his eyes set on making some changes. As the four issues progress we are treated to some of the most brutal super-powered fight scenes I’ve ever seen on paper. The battles are epic, large scale, and boast real consequences for our heroes. The governmental maneuverings take a backseat to the action at times, but they’re never too far below the surface.

There’s quite a bit going on throughout Helios 1-4. Jason Rand and Mike Penny clearly are taking the readers on rollercoaster adventure through uncharted super-heroic territory. The first miniseries seemed to be spaced out a bit too much. I would have liked a little more meat in the stories. While a lot went on it was condensed rather tightly in spots, leaving other portions as nothing more than fights.

A lot of great books took a little time to get up to speed. Starman, Hitman, and Peter David’s Hulk are only a few all-time great runs that didn’t come on until a handful of issues were already in the can. Helios has a ton of potential, but it was never quite realized in the first miniseries. That’s okay though. This storyline serves as a very strong foundation. A prequel if you will to the greater adventure. I have no problem with giving a talented creative team some time to pave the way for future greatness. I’m sure Helios: In with the New will build on the groundwork this initial series laid and take this series to great heights.