Joe Cape – Issues One & Two
Story and Art by Sam Webster
As superhero comics go, this book seems at first glance pretty straightforward. A group of capes work for a company policing society but you have to pay for their services through a pay subscription every month. The situation is complicated further by the fact that the ‘heroes’ are acting illegally if they use their powers outside of work hours when they are “off duty”.
Issue One sets up the status quo and introduces the reader to a small set of characters, but Issue Two seems to go all dark and gritty and has a change of pace. The titular character goes ever so slightly rogue and starts acting without clearance. The issue ends with a fight scene and then a nicely created cliff-hanger.
You can see that lessons have been learned after the first story and the second issue seems more narrative driven and focused. Issue One seemed a little too full of exposition and place settings on a too full a plate. Issue Two slows down and we get some more character development. It becomes more than an elevator pitch and this is most welcome.
Upon a second read, though, it became clear that this is a pastiche. In fact it hits me over the head and a second reading provides a different, yet richer, experience. All credit to Sam Webster, both writer and artist on the project , who you have to admire the guy for putting it all together himself. It’s an impressive package and looks like it’s created by a pro outfit.
Issue Two even has Nightwing and Wolverine analogues on the cover and within. On my first run through I missed some of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink, moments. Sam clearly has love for the genre but isn’t afraid to take some swipes at the politics and clichés of the superhero genre. (I certainly spy some Invincible homages within?)
Intrigued, I reached out to Sam online and asked him about the riffing on the genre.
‘Yeah, there’s a fair bit of parody going on,” he acknowledged. “my first thought was Superman with a lot of red tape so there’s a lot of ripping of superheroes.”
Some of the best fiction can be read on a couple of levels and this book mimics that approach really well. On one level, you can read it as a straight up superhero tale. The art is heavily manga influenced and splash pagey. But compare this to some of the 1990s output from Marvel or Image comics and the ink blot slowly leaks into your eyes. You realise that there’s an irony under the story. It was never to be taken seriously but now has a bit of a post-modern edge to it. Superhero clichés butting their heads up against modern day media driven advertising.
This is a superhero tale that seems to take a swing at the bollocks of adverts like ‘Lawyers 4 U!’ Or tripe like ‘We Buy Any Car Dot Com.’ (I’m sure you know what I mean).
It’s the darker, down and gritty tone of issue 2 that is combined with street level superhero pastiche and parody that made me smile. Right down to the hero being surprised when the Wolverine analogue scratches his chest (see above).
The artwork could do with a little brush up here and there and the colours, especially in Issue One, feel a little garish but it’s well worth a punt. The lettering at moments was a little too small for my old eyes but that’s a small niggle. I’ll be interested to see where the creator goes next, you can see the growth from page to page. It certainly had me trying to second guess directions it could take.
– Tony Esmond aka Professor RipTide
Many thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @Ezohyez. So pop over and say hi
• You can find Sam Webster online at www.sjwebster.net or SJWebster.deviantart.com or on Twitter @SJWebsterArt His books can be found through his website and are available both on Comixology and Comicsy