Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review - Head Smash

"All who oppose me are the sworn enemy of the horde."

A horde mentality is always good for the horde and rarely good for the individual. Sure, the individual wants to do their own thing, but they're trapped in a sense by the demands of the group as a whole. When one individual is turned on by the masses, it stands to reason that the individual doesn't stand a chance. Unless, of course, the individual has a name like "Smash" and gets some help from super serums in stories like Head Smash from Arcana Comics.

The TPB is written by Erik Hendrix (story by Vlad Udin), with art by Dwayne Harris and letters by Shawn Depasquale.

Ares is the city of despair in Head Smash, governed by a corrupt government who does little governing and more letting rival gangs run amok for control. The Horde is probably the most organized gang and has the best shot of running the entire city. As a member of the Horde Smash, is a young, rebellious orphan raised by Maurice to be the Horde's killing machine, until the Horde turn on him and leave him for dead. With a little help from a mysterious old man named Mako, Smash finds new strength in an experimental drug that makes him more powerful than anyone could imagine. What follows is a tale of violence, revenge and more violence.

While Hendrix does all the heavy lifting as far as the script goes, the idea behind Head Smash is all Udin. It's not necessarily a bad idea, but it's not really original either. What it boils down to is a man is named for death by the group he thinks he can trust, has everything taken from him and then goes on a mission to get it all back. Sound familiar? Well, if you're familiar with characters like the Punisher then yes, it should. The script actually has some fairly solid dialogue and Hendrix does well to move the story along at a reasonable pace, but the story itself just feels hollow.

Stories of revenge certainly aren't rare, but Head Smash feels more formulaic than anything. Smash is your typical orphan turned hero, fighting through waves and waves of Horde members in search of his pregnant wife Leyla. It's a simple enough motivation, but not one that's given the best explanation. For instance, Leyla wants Smash to stop running with the Horde (which he does), but not until he's done with the proverbial "one more job." The reader knows instantly that the job won't be cut and dry and can pretty much tell where things are going next. Smash is basically the Punisher who--fairly or not--readers are familiar with and will draw on when reading Head Smash.

Harris' art is sufficiently gritty, almost to the point where some panels are a little difficult to discern exactly what is going on. He doesn't really rely on detail for backgrounds; instead, presenting scenery that almost looks cel-shaded simply to give the characters spatial context. It's colored more on the darker side of things, which does fit into the dystopian world that Ares exists in, but sometimes makes things a little difficult to see in terms of what's going on. It does remind the reader that the sun doesn't always shine, both literally and figuratively. Fight scenes are clear enough where the reader can definitively tell what's going on.

Head Smash is an ambitious book, but it doesn't quite hit its stride. The concept behind the story is fairly formulaic and doesn't really offer anything new in the revenge arena. The script is one of the stronger points in the whole package, but it seems like Hendrix didn't have a whole lot to work with and made due. Smash spends most of the book, well, smashing and doesn't really do much to resonate with the reader beyond simple violence. You want to like him as a main character, but there's just not much substance there at all. If you like your books about revenge and nothing else, then Head Smash is just for you.

Head Smash is available on July 31.


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