“How much do you want to be a superhuman?” Josh wanted it more than anything, and was willing to sacrifice anything to achieve that goal. Well, now that his skin and genitals have pretty much rotted off thanks to FX7, the drug that gives people superpowers, he seems to be having a few regrets. Wouldn’t you?
“No Hero” #4 continues the dark comedy into territories more associated with Garth Ennis than Ellis. While Ellis has always shown a keen sense of humor, some of the scenes here wouldn’t be out of place in “The Boys.” A freakish Josh -- no skin, everything else looking two steps from rotting away, eye bulging with no lids -- goes berserk over what he’s become, only to be informed that, yeah, he has superpowers, prompting a gleeful expression before he passes out. There’s something very genuine and simple about his reaction that, again, reminds me of the sort of comedy bit Ennis likes to use in his superhero work.
Ellis shifts between dark comedy, horror and serious drama here effortlessly. He also introduces the only member of the Front Line so far to actually appear sane and to maintain qualities often associated with humans. Ben Chisholm, formerly known as Redglare, comes off as the Front Line’s Captain America: clean-cut, moral, kind, the member of the group that the general population looks up to and respects. His codename was designed to appeal to the patriotic and he gave up hiding his identity years ago. Normally, he would be the character Ellis reveals some dark, hidden perversion about, but none are to be found here.
Juan Jose Ryp draws freakish and horrific very, very well. All of the impact of Josh’s transformation rests on Ryp, and he nails it. The image of Josh punching his bed and fragments of his arm coming off is jarring and hard to forget. Even with the degraded state of Josh’s face, Ryp also manages to get a full range of expression out of him, culminating in that fantastic picture of glee when he realizes that he has powers.
Ryp’s skill goes beyond the horrific, though, as he handles the scene between Chisholm and Carrick Masterson, the creator of FX7, with skill. Chisholm is casual yet alert, while Masterson is annoyed and, strangely, bored. That Ryp conveys Masterson’s boredom/impatience with Josh’s transformation-gone-awry so well is stunning. His art really helps to flesh out the characters beyond Ellis’s script.
“No Hero” continues, though, to move at a glacial pace and doesn’t read as well in single issues as it no doubt will as a whole. After all, it is billed as “a serialised graphic novel,” but even in issue-format, it’s gripping and entertaining. The comedic moments in this issue really help it from going too overboard into melodrama, and help break the tension a bit. It’s better to laugh at the guy with no skin than to cry for him, right?