In the first two collections of Hero Cats, readers were introduced to the team of cats who have tasked themselves with keeping Stellar City safe; Cassiopeia, the newest team member from whose perspective we see the story, leader Ace, mind reader Belle, tough Rocco, skittish Rocket, and mysterious Midnight. Throughout the previous titles they have battled mysterious criminals and super villains who have unexpectedly started threatening the city, and they’ve formed an uneasy alliance with superhero Galaxy Man and his sidekick Cosmic Girl, now known to be Cassie’s family, Professor and Suzy Quest.
Throughout their adventures, there have been hints at a more powerful foe who is orchestrating the events in Stellar City and in this collection of issues 7 to 9, the villain begins to play his hand more clearly. The Crow King is an evil and mysterious creature. They will need all their skills to fight him, including the talents of Cassie’s brother, Bandit, who reappears after a long absence with secrets and abilities of his own. But when the Crow King’s power sends them all into a dream realm, will any of them have the power to escape or will they be trapped in a nightmare forever?
There’s an interesting change to the art in issues 8 and 9 in this collection. In their dream, the Hero Cats have become human and the artists must translate their feline characters, coloring and personality, into a human representation. Cassiopeia becomes a somewhat naive and clumsy but sweet girl in orange and white that mimics her coloring; Ace is a young, silver-haired Navy captain who is dedicated to defending his queen and country. Each of the characters are recognizable by their traits, coloring, and physical features but their “human” aspects in the dream also give more insight into their characters. Heavy, colorful clouds bordering the panels signify the dream world and their color changes as the Crow King’s influence becomes more marked.
This collection also shows an interesting side to Belle, whose powers come into play and show her as one of the more powerful team members, rather than a reluctant tag-a-long, as in previous adventures. While some of the characters remain one-dimensional or stalled in their development, like Cassie and Ace, readers can hope for future issues to flush out their stories a little more.
As usual, there are a number of ads, notes and sketches, and fan art and costumes included in the comics. However, the ads include more mature comics in this collection, First Hero, Venture, etc. This may be why a rating system for the comics is included, from E to M, but only some of the ads have the age rating on them. I’m also skeptical of the ratings anyways, as Cyrus Perkins and the Haunted Taxi Cab, a murder mystery with blood spatters on the cover, is rated A for ages 9 and up. This may seem irrelevant to the actual content of the comic itself, but by including ads for their other properties, the publisher is marketing these to the readers of the comic which, in a public library, will be primarily children.
As these titles are available only in paperback and the layout and binding is less than stellar—whole chunks of text are lost in the gutter in one explanatory sequence—they’re not a top choice for libraries. However, the stories themselves are very kid-friendly and readers who enjoy Warriors, Zita the Space Girl, Super Pets, and kid-friendly superhero comics will devour these titles. Be prepared to buy the whole series and future sequels, as each comic and collection ends on a cliffhanger.
Hero Cats of Stellar City: The Crow King Saga, vol 3
by Kyle Puttkammer
Art by Marcus Williams, Ryan Sellers, Omaka Schultz
Action Lab, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages