Let’s talk mysterious ways, says Tony Fyler.
Heroes Vengeance #1 told us much of what we needed to know about Oscar Gutierrez, the EVO who fights to make a difference in his East LA community as the masked vigilante El Vengador.
At least, we thought it did. But that was coming to the Heroes Vengeance comic-books as an utter Heroes newb. Now we know just a little more. The Oscar Gutierrez of the comic-book series is the elder brother of Carlos Gutierrez from the Heroes Reborn TV show (and the previous owner of the El Vengador mask that Carlos takes on in the show). What Heroes Vengeance is becoming then is an expansion of a very specific part of the Heroes Reborn universe.
The second issue revisited many of the same points as the initial origin story, but moved the contemporary story on, with Oscar breaking up what he thought was a drugs shipment, but which in fact turned out to be a human trafficking operation. Overwhelmed and suddenly with lots of ragged, exhausted people turning to him for help, Oscar does the only thing he can – he turns to the church.
Issue #3 makes up for a lot of what felt like padding (or at the very least, body armour) in issue #2, dropping us right into the story from panel one, Oscar desperately turning to his local priest, Father Mauricio, and uncovering far more mysterious ways than he could ever have imagined. The storyline here is concise, tense and – not to put too fine a point on it – entirely different from issue #2. It involves the formation of an underground railway to help the trafficked people get free of those who would sell them or do them harm. It’s a shift in focus from El Vengador the technical ‘superhero’ to Oscar Gutierrez the EVO determined to make a difference however he can. In confessing his actions – and his identity – to Father Mauricio, he also learns the lesson not only of great fictional heroes since at least Sherlock Holmes, but also of real life heroes who ran underground railways for oppressed people in the past, and those who do it to this day in a world where difference can bring hatred even from those with every conceivable advantage. The lesson that one individual prepared to make a difference can be powerful, but that two or more acting together become exponentially stronger, more capable, more empowered.
Without spoilering the story too far for you before you read it, the creation of an underground railway is one thing. Getting trafficked people to safety on it is quite another, and depends, as Father Mauricio beautifully puts it in this issue, on ‘knowing the right kind of sinners.’ The right kind of sinner is how we learn the heavy realities behind the life of an anti-gang vigilante in this issue. Yes, El Vengador might have made a difference, in that he’s put one gang either out of action or beyond the pale in terms of the biggest deals and contracts – but that doesn’t mean those deals and contracts won’t still go ahead. Again, the lesson of the power of the many is hammered home, here from the opposite side: a gang is nothing but the power of the many personified, an empire, be it national, corporate or criminal is merely a larger expression of that idea. Allegiances shift, power moves – new players rise to take the place of those cut down or cut off. Oscar and Father Mauricio may both know the right kind of sinners to help mount some sort of discrete fightback, but there’s difficulty at every stage. Especially given that the people being trafficked by the gangs aren’t being moved from country to country for anything as mundane and horrifying as crime or the sex trade. This is a shipment of particular people, with particular skills, that lead the reader to wonder who would ultimately want them, and for what nefarious purposes. There’s a bigger picture hovering on the borders of Heroes Vengeance, at which we can only guess from the relatively lowly position occupied by the likes of Oscar and Father Mauricio. But still – rather than simply accept they can do nothing, these two set about doing whatever they can. Making the small, specific differences they can, getting these people to freedom, away from the designs of those who rounded them up and sold them.
Of course it wouldn’t be Heroes Vengeance without at least a little flashbacking, and here we learn about the first fight Oscar ever got into, in support of his grandfather, the original El Vengador (yes, really, there are three – El Vengador that was, El Vengador that is, and El Vengador that is to come, it’s all terribly Catholic), and we learn about the different approaches to conflict in the Gutierrez family, as Oscar’s son appears to take after not Oscar but his violence-shunning father, who let some gang members beat him up rather than fighting back.
Oscar though is set on a path that (as fans of Heroes Reborn will know), is valiant but ultimately too dangerous to survive. In a way, this issue takes the danger to whole new levels – we’re somehow desensitised to the risks of a man in a costume putting his life on the line to fight gang members; it’s become the stuff of popular legend, and such people are to some extent our own mythic heroes. But to become not El Vengador but Oscar Gutierrez, vital link in an underground railway freeing people from the gangs and from those who want them for some very particular reasons, feels like an altogether different, far more edgy level of danger – especially when the newly-appointed head of a taskforce looking into ‘the EVO problem’ is none other than James Dearing, the crooked cop paid off to allow the trafficking to go through smoothly. It’s getting hot out on the East LA streets, and we wonder how long Oscar Gutierrez can survive – and whether El Vengador will in turn be there to save him.
In issue #3, writers Seamus Kevin Fahey and Zach Craley have delivered a vital push forward in terms of storytelling, and redressed the balance of the comic-book in favour of action in the here and now, rather than flashbacks. Rubine’s artwork continues to deliver solid atmospheric world-building, though the shift in the nature of the threat robs this issue of the big wrestling-based set pieces of previous issues. He does get a couple of neat EVO sequences here though, so there’s still plenty of intricate imagery to look at. Certainly though, in terms of hooking the reader and pushing the story on, issue #3 is a flying scissor-kick in the right direction. Apparently, gods, wrestling vigilantes and comic-book writers all move in mysterious ways after all.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk