Hell Yeah #1

Written by Joe Keatinge
Art by Andre Szymanowicz
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

After reading Joe Keatinge’s first issue of Glory, seeing his name attached to the new series Hell Yeah made instantly intrigued. After all, if he could make Glory an interesting comic, what would an original creation of Keatinge’s look like? What I found was a book that feels like it’s attaching itself to the trend of of "real world superheroes with violence" but in a way that’s worth picking up a second issue.

Like a lot of comics these days, Hell Yeah is set in our world with a single divergence point. In the case of Hell Yeah, it’s having superheroes appear during the first Gulf War twenty years ago. From there, we’ve ended up with these super-powered being trying to improve the planet, even as special academies are created for the next generation of heroes.

Our main character is Ben Day, the son of the soldier who was rescued by the superheroes when they first made their appearance. Keatinge right off the bat starts hinting that we don’t know Ben’s entire story; his (presumably super-powered) mother is heard but never seen, and Ben’s got a mysterious bar code on the back of his neck. It’s a slow build, and I think Keatinge handles that aspect of Hell Yeah well.

Ben himself isn’t quite as interesting of a character as the events surrounding him, though. Right now he’s the typical belligerent young man; getting into fights and believing that he can do anything. As a personality hook, though, that’s not much to go on. (Even his girlfriend Sara seems somewhat unimpressed with him at times in the first issue.) If I had to guess I’d say that Keatinge’s planning on Hell Yeah slowly showing Ben’s maturation, but based solely on the first issue he’s not that compelling of a person. When at the end of the first issue he decides to run into where a strange explosion happened to see if the people are all right, it feels almost random; everything up until that point draws him as someone who would be uninterested, so this sudden caring about others moment feels grafted on. At this point, it’s Hell Yeah‘s basic world-building that feels more interesting than the protagonist within it.

Andre Szymanowicz provides the art, and it’s also a little uneven. There are panels and pages where I think Szymanowicz nails the look perfectly, like that opening page where we first see Ben. He’s drawn in a crisp and clean manner, and the little touches like the trickles of blood and the bruise under the eye feel realistic without being a cliche. Other moments aren’t quite so well-drawn, though; the scene in the principal’s office feels remarkably wooden, for example. The principal feels not only stiff but even a little mentally vacant, with the repeated panels of him not helping matters. The panel at the bottom of the page with both Ben and the principal is also unhelpful; Ben’s sprawled in the chair with all of the poise of a Barbie doll. It’s frustrating because I think in a lot of places Szymanowicz is turning out strong, solid pages, but it’s not as consistent as it could be. Hopefully with a little more time and some more issues under his belt, Hell Yeah will have strong art from start to finish.

Hell Yeah #1 is a slightly above-average opening issue. I found myself interested enough in the final moments of the first issue that I want to see what Keatinge has in mind next, but in general the book could use a little boost in both the main character’s personality as well as the art. I’ll certainly keep an eye on Hell Yeah, though; I think there’s a lot of potential here just waiting to fully bloom.

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