Heroman, Vol. 4 sat on my shelf for a few weeks before I was willing to pick it up. I hated Vol. 1 (Click here to see what I said). When I pulled Vol. 4 out of the mailbox and opened the envelope, I sighed in despair. I didn’t want to read another 200 pages of awkward garbage. But negative reviews can be fun to write, so I pulled out a big bucket of snark and cracked it open.
And it wasn’t so bad. Ohta has taken several strides forward in storytelling, composition and dialogue. I made it through the entire volume without flinging it down in irritation. I actually smiled when he expertly executed an action shot or character moment.
That isn’t to say that Ohta has mastered everything. He still struggles with action sequences. Just not as often as before. I had to reread a few sequences, but most of them worked. Ohta’s problem lies in his choice of camera angle and how far he sets the “camera” from the action. He often zooms in too close and shoots characters at angles that reveal little about what is going on. But things are better. His panels are more open and less claustrophobic. Characters and action have more room to breathe, and the story is free to shine through.
It’s much easier to follow the story from panel to panel, now. Things feel natural and unforced. As if Ohta has gotten more comfortable with the Heroman world and the people who inhabit it.
A lot has happened since they teased an alien invasion at the end of Vol. 1. I didn’t read Vol. 2 or Vol. 3, but you get the idea from the beginning of Vol. 4. Joey and Heroman are secretly helping to rebuild Center City after repelling the Skrugg invasion, Joey and love interest Lina have grown closer, and a new robot has made its way to Center City. The new robot is called “Mr-1” and it’s controlled by the ambitious, wannabe genius, Dr. Minami.
Ohta uses all of these elements to his advantage, piling the tension onto Joey and driving the story, while adding a few new developments to make Joey’s life hard along the way. Joey’s guitar-slinging sister comes home early on and harangues Joey at every opportunity. The United States government takes an interest in the mysterious entity (codenamed ‘Ghost’) that defeated the Skruggs and sends a man in to investigate.
Lina’s kidnapping kicks off the action and things move forward from there. Joey and Lina go on an awkwardly-sweet date, followed at every step by Joey’s sister and friends. And then Joey and Heroman battle Dr. Minami a few times. The first battle leads to a false news report saying that Heroman is a villain. The second battle takes place when Joey’s friends try to smuggle Joey and Heroman out of Center City to avoid prosecution. They are chased by Dr. Minami, Mr-1 and the military. The last battle goes on for several pages, but there are enough character moments (cheesy as they may be) and plot developments to keep it moving.
In the end, Heroman and Joey are national heroes. It’s a bit too saccharine-sweet for me, but I’m happy to see that Ohta has made progress. I love writing snarky reviews, but I’d rather read good comics than bad comics.
Heroman, Vol. 4 has a 5 out of 10 chance of waking Cthulhu from his eternal slumber. I almost gave it a better rating, but then I realized that even though Vol. 4 is better than Vol. 1, I still wouldn’t buy it.