"Terminal Hero #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Piotr Kowalski
2014, 24 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on August 6th, 2014
Rory Fletcher has had a tough life. He watched his older sister suffer through a terminal illness before dying far too young. Now he's got an inoperable tumor in his brain that will kill him in two months. His friend and fellow doctor Raz has an idea though. There's a radical treatment that was covered up after some accidents a few years ago, but they showed positive results. Raz digs up the plans and Rory gives it a try, only to find out that he now has super powers. It turns out that this miracle drug taps into the part of the brain that would control things like psychokinesis and psychometry.
This all sounds pretty awesome and if this were your average super hero book, Rory would be off to join the Avengers or something. That's not the case with Peter Milligan's Terminal Hero. This is a dark comic and things turn bad very quickly. Rory can't control these newfound abilities and bizarre things begin to happen. He's at a restaurant where a little girl begins crying. He can't stand it and all of a sudden the girl's mouth is literally sewn shut. (That sound you hear is my editor looking for this drug on the Internet.) Rory begins to lose his mind. He's suffering from hallucinations and resorting to cocaine and other recreational drugs to keep this darkness in check.
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I'm sure you've heard the bit about how the side effects of a treatment could be worse than the disease. That's definitely a possibility in Terminal Hero. Any way you slice it, cancer sucks. It's an awful disease that completely destroys people. If you had the option to prolong your life at the cost of your sanity and potentially the lives of those closest to you, would you do it?
Terminal Hero is close in tone to Death Sentence, a comic in which super powers are received as a side effect of an STD, resulting in the victim dying within six months. This is far more straight forward and easier to jump into. There's no beating around the bush. Rory's life goes from bad to worse to god awful and he can't control it.
Artist Piotr Kowalski balances the darkness in Rory's life. Ironically, the comic is bright and full of life when he first receives his diagnosis. Things get progressively darker as the book continues, until Rory is shrouded in chaos. Flames begin to erupt from his head, at first just replacing his hair before engulfing his face as he loses control.
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Rory's hallucinations take the form of the little girl with the sewed up mouth and his deceased sister. The former is one of the scariest images in the book. Kowalski perfectly captures the look of absolute terror on the poor girl's face as thread begins poking through her lips.
Terminal Hero works fast and quickly takes Rory's few remaining days into a horrific spiral. Getting super powers sounds awesome, but in this case the consequences are dire. There's no telling what can happen to this man now that he's started down this path. Milligan has created a dynamic origin story that is far more interesting than any of the cliché super heroes out there today.