Monday, December 1, 2008

The Helm #4

Ever find something at a garage sale that's so completely, ridiculously obscure, you absolutely have to have it? Matt Blurdy had one of those moments just recently, with the object in question being an aged Norse helmet that just so happened to start talking once he'd got it home. And the things this magical piece of head gear has been telling him… that he's the next big hero, that the forces of evil are closing in, that his old boss at the video store is an evil necromancer… they're enough to send any self-respecting nerd out on the warpath.

In Matt, The Helm's protagonist, writer Jim Hardison has pieced together a good approximation of the innocent gullibility and self-conscious apprehension that most AD&D-playing dweebs share. Is that helmet really talking to me? Am I really the chosen one of my generation, or am I lost so far in my own imagination that it's high time for a trip to the psychiatric ward? The age of wonder is well behind us, and nowadays if a golden helmet with voice and locomotion were to surface in someone's living room, I have to imagine its reception would be a bit different from the one it received back in the middle ages.

I remember adoring Bart Sears's work on the early issues of Wizard Magazine, and later with Alan Moore on the underappreciated Violator mini-series before I lost track of his career. Or maybe I just lost track of his style, because outside of the cover his work is borderline unrecognizable. Sears has reinvented himself since I saw him last, cutting a great deal of the elaborate detail that had become his calling card and transforming himself into a smoother, cleaner, more animation-inspired artist. I can still see a lot of the old Bart Sears in there, particularly in his love for deep, fluid shadows and the gentle curves of his linework, but what he's become on the surface is something entirely different. In the past he had the nasty tendency to get hopelessly lost in the specifics of his work, producing heroes who were muscular beyond the limits of good reason and postured so awkwardly, I think they may have been punishing themselves. Now he may have overcompensated, simplifying his efforts so much that his artwork no longer seems like the labor of love that it once was.

For the most part, this story is light fare with little real surprises. It's an imaginative concept, fleshed out by an average supporting cast and an identifiable lead character, but it never takes any risks and as a result isn't terribly exciting. It's worth flopping through if you're about to go on a long road trip or need some last-minute reading material at the DMV, but there isn't enough substance here to make me a repeat customer.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 3.5

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