Hero House certainly has a premise that I had not come across before: What if there was a frat house of super-students? That is the group that freshman Nate Hedges soon finds himself pledging. As a hometown hero, Turbine the Turbo Teen, Nate has a lot of adjustments to make when he gets to college and drops the superhero duds for the first time in years. He needs to deal with life outside of the limelight, but he is not really good at anything else. Nate has no desire to return to his expectant hometown anything less than the best. He resolves to stick it out at college instead of returning home a failure. Of course, Nate’s past doesn’t stay there, and he soon finds himself being conned into this raucous frat and joining his super-powered peers in a series of escalating adventures.
Hero House is a very safe read. It brings together a super team with the backdrop of college, but doesn’t necessarily push the boundaries of that story. There are some fun skirmishes, attempts to date girls, and a little drinking, but nothing about the read really surprises you. The villain and eventual main conflict of the story are presented very early, so the big reveal at the climax loses that jaw-dropping factor. These sentiments also follow the art. Dimayuga does everything so well, that is comes off a little lifeless. It falls short of being is own style because it is all so correct.
There are inventive ideas present in the story. The ensemble of powers featured in Hero House is a unique combination. You’ve got a poltergeist, a student who can go back a couple minutes in time, and a guy with the weird ability to make his flesh extend like tiny ropes all over his body. Even when discussing the heroes with more familiar powers, (growing large, super speed, turns into animals) there is the real emphasis on making the powers unique to the character. For instance Animale, the frat brother that turns into animals, always picks something tactically unwise to turn into. Among his choices are a hummingbird, kitten, and monkey. It is definitely lighthearted, but it is also a choice that makes perfect sense for the character.
It is frustrating to see qualities in this book that are very strong, but are let down by the plot that carries them. At time the caricatures are so comedic, that it seems that Hero House is intended to be a parody, but then the narrative will turn and ask the reader to take it seriously. Had this story placed all of its effort in one area, either being a well-thought -out story of a super frat, or the great parody of comic tropes within the context of a frat, it could have been very effective. As it stands, it tries to crisscross these lines so frequently, that the effectiveness of either approach is lost and the story lands right in the tired and tried middle.
That said, I found myself taken with the story the characters had to tell. It may not blow your hair back, but there was a sincerity in Nate’s tale that made it worth the time that I put in. If nothing else, it is a fun twist on familiar genre.
by Justin Aclin
Art by Mike Dimayuga, Ed McGuinness, Frank E. Stone, Brian Gabrillo