Tony takes a longer sip of vengeance.
There’s a marked difference between reading the Heroes Vengeance comic-book in its episodic form and reading this collected edition.
In the issue-by-issue format, there was always hope to propel the reader through – hope of learning significant backstory for Carlos Gutierrez, the TV version of El Vengador, the EVO in the Mexican wrestling outfit.
In hindsight, the volume feels of more value as a piece for the dedicated Heroes-junkie, because in essence, the El Vengador we meet here is a completely different person to the TV version – it’s not Carlos, but elder brother Oscar who takes up their grandfather’s fighting persona and tries to reclaim the night from the gangs that make life miserable for the innocent citizens of East LA.
While we get some initial insight into their shared childhood, the shared revelations about the unfortunate necessities that led their grandfather to leave the ring behind, and the fallout from that decision, both for the community as a whole and for the relationship between the men of the Gutierrez family, the very fact that we follow Oscar, not Carlos provides a very odd disconnect right at the end of the story. For the most part, there’s some heavy lifting done by writers Seamus Kevin Fahey and Zach Craley in terms of setting the El Vengador origin story in a very specific time and place, to make sense of what Heroes creator Tim Kring describes in a handy one-page extra here as a significant departure for the Heroes series – the addition of a traditional style masked hero to the Heroes universe, which always fought shy of such conventions. El Vengador only works as a bridging of the longstanding comic-book superhero tradition and the Heroes ‘unmasked’ EVO tradition because of that specific time and place of his origins, so the heavy lifting is necessary. What feels unnecessary though is the accompanying heavy weather the pair make of the storytelling. Oh, the sturm und drang of manly honour, family honour, and family discord brought about by that fighting mask, that persona of El Vengador.
Looked at with some distance and hindsight though, Heroes Vengeance does assume a grander scale than it managed in its episodic form, so there is some logic to buying the collected edition – the history of the mask and the persona feels more like a real thing as one collected volume expressly because there are no breaks, no chances to look away and distract yourself, so the intensity of the family legend has a greater chance to embed itself in your consciousness, and the idea of ‘what it takes to be a hero’ makes more of an impact, being translated through four members of the Gutierrez family, from the grandfather, the inventor of El Vengador the masked wrestler, through his son, who stayed as far away from that world as possible, raising and caring for his family, as the ‘quiet variety’ of hero in a world going swiftly to hell, to Oscar, who tries to do both – raise his family, and take El Vengador out into the world as a masked vigilante, using the alter ego to make a grand stand against the encroachment of gang crime and police corruption, and on to Carlos, serving in the military, and due to take on the family mantle of El Vengador in Heroes Reborn. As the only technically masked hero in the show, he deserved a solid origin story, and issue by issue, as the story focused on Oscar and his exploits, it was increasingly easy to get disillusioned, unsure whether there was enough from Carlos, our on-screen El Vengador.
It's only with the release of the collected edition that you can really take a step back and see everything falling into place – like many of the comic-book genre’s greatest masked heroes, the point really is that it could be anyone inside the mask – so it doesn’t need to be Carlos Gutierrez’ story we read in Heroes Vengeance. It’s the story of El Vengador, the legend, both in the ring and on the streets, that we get here, ready for Carlos to put on the mask and take that legend and that story forward in the TV version, and that only really makes sense in the collected edition.
Is it perfect? No, not by any means – there’s still a storytelling imbalance in Oscar’s story. He doesn’t make the discovery of a black market in EVO slaves until relatively late in the day, leading to a final fifth that feels intensely rushed, and as though someone pressed the fast forward button. That gives his end, when it comes, an unfortunately incidental feel, something almost missed in the speed with which the story rushes to its final panels. So Fahey and Craley’s story could still have benefitted from once more through the editing process, with perhaps just a few less full-page shots of El Vengador in action from Rubine, great as they are at establishing his look and his nature as a masked crime-fighter. But is the collected edition of Heroes Vengeance worth spending money on?
That depends. If you’re a hardcore Heroes fan, then yes, because whatever the issues with the storytelling balance may be, it’s an origin story for El Vengador, and that’ll be worth having on your shelf. If you got the episodic issues of this series and were disappointed by the ending and you still haven’t gotten over it yet, then sure, pick it up – there’s a better sense of scope and sweep when you read the whole thing as one uninterrupted story. If you’re a casual comic-booker, or just dipped a toe into Heroes because the premise was interesting, we’re betting you’re over the disappointment of issue #5 by now, in which case, there’s no real need to spend extra cash on this collected edition at this point – for you, and probably for us, there are better comics out there to spend your money on right now.
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