It's fascinating to me that "Creator Owned Heroes" #1 has the same release date as the premiere of "Before Watchmen." The idea behind "Creator Owned Heroes" seems to exist to combat that exact kind of thing. Not that you can't love both, but I definitely found myself more inspired to put my money down on the creator-owned venture. I do think the title is rather terrible -- but it's honest and so is the book, which is one of the best things about it.
"Creator Owned Heroes" contains two 11-page full color stories that serve as the beginning of longer pieces, a few interviews with the creators that got this idea going, some photos from cons, an interview with a costume designer and her twin sister cosplayer/model, as well as an interview with the barely human legend that is Neil Gaiman. The book is really part comic, part comics magazine and it's interesting. The interviews are good -- particularly inspiring is Palmiotti, Gray and Niles explaining why they took on this project.
All that said, I'm going to focus on the comics, since that's what most of us are here for, but make no mistake, at 22-pages of full color story and another 25 pages of content, this is a lot of bang for $3.99.
"American Muscle" by Steve Niles and Kevin Mellon is part one of six and has a great dystopian feeling going for it as we are plunged directly into the action while a series of people are escaping from something (or to something) in cars across the desert landscape. One part horror story and one part "Mad Max," "American Muscle" is off to a good start. The characters have a wonderful variety, especially in their visuals, and the story ends on a cliffhanger worthy of any horror-meets-dystopian comic book. The art is slightly inconsistent, which is too bad, but in general the energy and sublime character design compensates for the few places that feel weak.
The second story, "Trigger Girl 6" by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray with art by Phil Noto is part one of four and has a completely different feeling in every way from the first story and yet the two somehow fit together nicely. "Trigger Girl 6" opens with a naked girl seemingly awakened in a bubble underwater. Then, as if on autopilot, she exits the pool and dresses and it's gorgeous. The first six pages are very light on words and three pages are entirely silent, but this is something at which Noto excels. If you're going to have some nudity in your opening pages, but want to keep it from feeling off-putting to readers, Noto is your guy. The pages are gorgeous, but matter of fact. There's no excessive titillation, it's just telling a story, which is exactly right. The only problem with the "Trigger Girl 6" is toward the end it becomes a bit confusing. This could easily be solved in future installments, but ideally it would be a bit clearer here in what is going on and even who is talking to whom in one scene.
On the whole, "Creator Owned Heroes" is a wonderful idea and one I'd not only like to see succeed but like to be repeated over and over by all sorts of creators (and publishers). Though the interviews are fun and will hit some fans' sweet spots, I'd rather have a third great story in there. Regardless, it's inspiring and exciting and if they can keep this level of quality, I expect they'll do well.