Image Comics' marketing and public relations officer, Sarah DeLaine, deserves accolades for soliciting jacket promotions from Warren Ellis and Mark Waid forHalcyon.Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters now join their ranks with this book, achieving the originality and energy of Waid's Irredeemable and Empireand Ellis' Planetary and The Authority. Praise from Waid and Ellis sets an extremely high watermark for Guggenheim and Butters that is elevated further by the writers' own admission in the introduction about Halcyon's relation to Alan Moore's Watchmen. Indeed, these titles cast very long shadows in the industry and readers can point to the failed knockoffs and copycats who have traversed the same genre pool and failed miserably. Not so with Halycon.
Although Halcyon recycles the often worn tropes of the superhero team composition--speedster, brooding vigilante, alpha-level invincible Superman-type, patriot-driven super soldier, and an intelligent ape--Guggenheim and Butters still invest the figures with intrigue through a well-paced and intricately scripted narrative. Part of the enjoyment comes from the immediacy in which audiences can connect to these characters due to their being based so closely on company-owned brand names. Yet at the same time, Guggenheim and Butters do not simply take a Flash or Captain America and place them in an "alternate" reality or situation. Similar to Grant Morrison's efforts with his Earth 2 Justice League counterparts, readers receive a fresh and innovative spin on the tried and true.
Central to Halcyon's plot is addressing what heroes do when all crime and violence has ended in the world. Complicating this further is the fact that any investigation into why this has transpired leads to intensive physical and psychological trauma. Complacent and content in an environment where such a constructed utopia exists, most heroes and villains immediately buy into this new paradigm; however, some of Halcyon's strongest moments arise when the Dr. Doom-esque villain, Oculus, turns his attentions to curing disease while the roguish Rorschach type, Sabre, pushes forward to decipher the source of this worldwide transformation.
Complimenting this narrative are the artistic efforts of Ryan Bodenheim on pencils and Mark Englert on colors. Bodenheim employs line style wholly original yet, in moments of intense facial profiles, calling to mind the work of Frank Quitely or Chris Burnham, Geoff Darrow or Scot Kollins. Englert's strengths lie in his use of lighting and ambient hues to accent the mood and emotion of a scene. The majority of the book possesses a colder feel in the palette Englert utilizes, which makes his infusion of intense warm tones all the more significant.
A testament to how the superhero genre has evolved since the formation of the Justice League in the 1960s, Halcyon is a refreshing interpretation for a new era of team dynamics.
Reviewed by Nathan Wilson on August 30, 2011