The pilot of Heroes starts out on a bad foot – it opens with that guy who played Jesse on Gimore Girls, who played pseudo-Jesse on American Dreams, and who generally we do not like here at Nat’s TV.
Now this is a superhero series. And according to a piece that Mrs. Nat’s TV read, the creators were out to make something like has not been done before, and something that wasn’t comic booky. Problem was, they thought that the way to do this was by not reading comic books. And so, in the piece it is admitted that they ended up with something with some strong similarities to X-Men, featuring powered young folk who are actually the next step on evolutionary chains, and who will come together despite powerful folks out there who would stand against the evolution.
What they didn’t admit, and seemingly didn’t know, is that their execution is very comic booky. It’s just that it’s modern comic booky, rather than the default 1960s/’70s image that folks who haven’t read much in the way of comic books assume comics to be, from whatever parodies they’ve seen. Texture-oriented storytelling, slow to get to the plot, the look and feel… these are not astonishing things.
But comic-booky is not a bad word here. We like comic books. So is it good? There’s not enough here to say. It’s a bit generic, for the comic book fan.Â We’re dealing mainly with four apparently-powered individuals – the guy who can fly, the cheerleader who heals almost instantly from anything, the painter with visions of the future, and the Japanese salaryman who can teleport and can control time (at least that’s what he believes; for any reasonable theory of time, he seems to be simply moving through it non-linearly, not effecting time itself.) None of these powers is shocking (and, in fact, allÂ can be found in the pages of X-Men.)
Which actually leads nicely to an example of the ways this thing is sloppy. Apparently someone cued them in on the X-Meness of it all before they filmed, and they have the salaryman actually make a reference to a specific event in X-Men 143. Except that its highly unlikely that the Japanese individual would have read that comic, much less that his less-geeky friend would recognize the reference… and besides, they got the issue number wrong (the storyline referenced is X-Men 141-142, the classic Days Of Future Past). But that’s detail stuff.
More important is the sloppiness in storytelling. The cheerleader is horrified by her powers, because they will make her an outcast – something that doesn’t seem justified by anything that is going on with her. If she had some visible power that others would detect without her specifically trying to show it off, that would be different. (And thing is, there would be all kinds of justifications for her power having visible problems. Problematic hair and nail growth could be justified in these circumstances.) Or even if the character were just drawn more richly, this emotional stress could be made to be understood. But they just don’t sell it here.
All in all, it’s not-bad enough that it’s hard to give it a fair judgment from the pilot… particularly since they’re being modern comic-booky, and thus ending the episode not with the conclusion to anything, but with a revelation regarding the guy and flying. It’s a revelation which is an effective surprise, and if it’s not one of those where you look back and realize how inevitable it was, it’s also not one that leaves you thinking it’s unfair.