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Helen Killer #1 Review

Arcana Comics’ Helen Killer #1 (which is out next today in New York! Next week everywhere else!) is an interesting comic, in that the premise of the comic is so bizarre that it could be a really interesting comic, if written as a comedy. However, writer Andrew Kreisberg seems to be playing the story completely straight, which is a bit odd, as the concept is rife for parody of high concept action stories. Instead, it apparently is the sort of high concept action story that only SOUNDS like a parody.

The concept of the book is that Helen Keller, when she is a young college student, is given a device called the Omnicle, which allows her to see and hear and increases her physical abilities, making her an extremely effective secret agent. In the first issue, she is hired to help protect the President.

I certainly do not begrudge Kreisberg for trying to use an established character such as Helen Keller to tell an adventure story. Far from it. In fact, I think Kreisberg is definitely on to something when he discusses his inspiration for the comic, he explains that he was struck by a description of Keller’s early life, when she was cut off from the world – she gave herself a separate identity – “The Phantom,” as she felt she was a “no-person” until her teacher, Anne Sullivan, taught her to communicate. As Kreisberg smartly notes, that is an area filled with interesting supernatural ideas – what if Keller actually DID connect to some supernatural force? Stuff like that. Fascinatingly clever stuff. That is a great starting point for a story by Kreisberg there. Except, he uses this idea to make Helen Daredevil in a petticoat, which I don’t think works well for the type of comic Kreisberg is otherwise attempting here, a serious book where he is using real-life people and situations as much as he can.

Whatever misgivings I have about the story, however, I have none with the artwork. Matt Rice does a very nice job with the comic, depicting the famous “water, Helen, water” scene with just as much style and grace as the scenes where Helen is kicking people’s asses.

Here is the water scene (click on all pages to enlarge)…

And here are two fight scenes…

Some real talent there from Rice, and I imagine he’s only going to get better.

I really wish Kreisberg had not made the story so darned straightforward. His work with dialogue is strong, and I appreciate the character work he does with both Helen and Anne – but then he ruins it by plopping them all into the middle of a ridiculously uninteresting scenario. The action parts of the comic are so bland – and Helen’s new Secret Service partner? He’s so stiff that he makes statues appear lively.

But I guess if you just really dig action scenes and nice art, you might want to give this comic a try. Their heart certainly seems to be in the right place, but I think you’d be better off waiting to see what their follow-ups might be, as there is some clear talent here.

Not Recommended.

16 Comments

You realize Helen Keller was a real person right? To me this seems a bit inappropriate.

Apropos of nothing, “Helen Killer” was one of the great names from the old West Coast punk scene.

If you think it’s inappropriate to reference real people in an irreverent way, you’re too uptight.

Andrew Collins

April 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm

You sure this came out today? Because my shop didn’t get it in and I don’t see it listed on Diamond’s shipping invoices for this week…

Brian lives in NEW YORK, Andrew, so he’s special. It’s not on the list and we peons out here in Mesa didn’t get it either, so I bet Brian’s pact with Mephisto covers getting comics early as well. Damn him!!!!!

If you think it’s inappropriate to reference real people in an irreverent way, you’re too uptight.

Agreed, which details my problem here well – as there seems to be TOO much reverence for a seemingly irreverent book.

And yeah, folks, I must have been looking at the wrong release schedule, because the website says next week.

I got it today, but again. I live in NYC.

Yeah, Dave, I stopped by the local shop to see, and I saw it was out in New York. So I’ve corrected my correction! :)

Andrew Collins

April 23, 2008 at 9:01 pm

New Yawk Citeeee!?!?!?!? Shakes fist at you damn yankees…

Oh well, hopefully we’ll get our copy out here in the sticks next week…

This isn’t about basing a character off of a real person, it’s someone exploiting a woman’s life for no other reason than her name makes a clever pun and he can build a hook around her disabilities. Making that character a murderer certainly doesn’t help.

I may be a little uptight, but you can’t argue that its crass.

@Ian

I read the comic earlier today, and what surprised me was how much respect he gives Helen Keller in the book. She is a hero in this book (though the title would suggest otherwise), and we don’t laugh at her, we are meant to be wowed by her. Kreisberg expresses his respect for her in the afterword, which again wasn’t the approach I was expecting. You could argue that the title is incredibly inappropriate, but I mean come on, that’s why I bought the book in the first place. Believe it or not, crass, the book ain’t.

I’d recommend this book, because even though Kreisberg hits an odd balance of serious storytelling and bombastic Daredevil-esque adventure, I think the juxtaposition enhances the experience, at least for me.

Yeah, the book is quite respectful to Keller.

It’s also a really silly comic (in the bad way), but respectfully so.

I don’t see anything wrong with this kind of an AU scenario. The real-life Helen was always a bit rambunctious even after learning to communicate — she was not the china doll people might think. She was a high-energy person who loved adventure, horseback riding, tobogganing, wild storms, going up in airplanes. However, another thing she was known for throughout her life was her witty sense of humor. That could have been used to great effect here and kept her from coming off as an icon. Still I’ll read it, just to see what it says.

Yeah, the comic’s not good, you shouldn’t use Helen Keller as a comic . It would probably hurt her feelings.

You know, considering how hard she worked for proper education and empowerment of people with all kinds of disabilities, I think she would be honored to be a kick ass super spy murderer lady. Also, terrible comic, but it’s almost reverent of her actual life. Get your panties out of a wad and stop sucking on lemons, guys.

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