Those of you who have been paying attention might recall that a few months ago, Benito Cereno–who received a PhD in Awesomeology from a highly accredited university–pointed out a solicitation for a book called Helen Killer, and I promptly declared that this–a story where Helen Keller is given a machine by Alexander Graham Bell that not only lets her see and hear, but gives her super-human strength and agility that she uses to protect President McKinley–was the single greatest premise I have ever seen.
And that’s why I was pretty excited when I was contacted about getting a review copy from the publisher.
Excited, and pretty curious. After all, as much as I love that premise, I’ve read enough comics to know that a fantastic idea doesn’t always make for a fantastic comic, especially when it involves taking a look at historical figures in what I think we can agree are pretty unusual circumstances.
For every Tales From the Bully Pulpit or Five Fists of Science, there are other projects that fall flat because they take themselves too seriously and try too hard to come off as grim and badass. So while I’ve been pretty outspoken in my support of the concept, I’ve been withholding judgment on the actual product.
Now, though, I can say it with certainty: Helen Killer is awesome.
The story’s presented as a serious affair, but there’s an underlying self-awareness that Andrew Kriesberg and JLD Rice bring to the table that showcases the fantastic goofiness of the project. I mean, for one thing, the review copy included an extended solicitation where you find out that Bell’s Omnicle also grants Helen the power to “see into men’s souls” (which is rad), and for another, this is a comic where Helen Keller has berserker rages.
I’ll repeat that, as it bears repeating: This is a comic where Helen Keller has berserker rages.
It all plays out in the first issue like a tribute to Man Without Fear, and when you find out that Kreisberg’s been a writer for Boston Legal and Justice League Unlimited, it starts to make sense that he’d come out with something that’s essentially Frank Miller’s The Miracle Worker. What’s shocking about it is that it all works, and as funny as it is to see the story hit those same beats, it feels like more of an homage than a parody, and it makes for some very entertaining comics.
As for the art, Rice is better than I ever would’ve expected, and considering that the centerpiece of the book is a six-page fight sequence, it’s all I can do to keep from just posting scenes from that and calling it a night.
Ah, what the heck. Here’s one:
And that’s the least of it. And yes: Leon Czolgosz does make an appearance.
So yeah, consider this a wholehearted endorsement from the ISB, and if the rest of the series can live up to the promise of the first issue, then this is unquestionably the first great mini-series of 2008. Ask for it by name, and tell ’em I sent you!