(This review may contain spoilers for the story content.)
Introduction: After writing an earlier post on a comic from an independent publisher, I found that my interest in indie comics had elevated. As such, after a referral by Brant Fowler (a founder of Last Ember Press), I looked into Short Fuse Media Group, a publisher that has a number of imprints. I decided to purchase and read Hotshot from the imprint Freestyle Komics. Because the first five issues composite a singular introductory arc for the title, I decided to review Hotshot #1-5. Hotshot (Michael Watson) is a young man in his initial years of college as an art student who is trying to live as a hero.
The creative team for Hotshot includes Victor Dandridge as writer, Michael Watson as penciler, Bernard Binder as inker, Danny Cooper as letterer, and Sanju Nivangune and Heather Breckel as colorists. In case that detail slipped by you, yes, “Michael Watson” is both the name of the titular hero, an art student, and the name of the artist for Hotshot. This situation is a little tongue-in-cheek, and I personally love it. What is the connection between the artist and the lead character? Why was it decided for Hotshot to use his name? Is the character Michael somehow a version/facsimile of the artist Michael? I want to know the story here, and I hope I have the chance to learn the answers to these questions someday. Okay, now that I have said that, I suppose I shall continue with the actual review.
Plot Summary: Michael Watson, a freshman art major in college, is traversing the city streets after his love interest Carla breaks up with him for cheating on her. The issue with that reasoning is that Michael was not cheating on her—he was absent so much because he was out and about being the government-sanctioned superhero Hotshot, and he kept that identity secret from Carla. When Michael suits up to stop some mild crime, an “extra-human” named Void starts attacking the city. Hotshot begins rescuing civilians when he comes face-to-face with Carla. After taking Carla to safety, Hotshot squares off against Void. Hotshot wins the battle for the moment, but he is damaged.
Michael returns home and is confronted by Carla, who has discovered his dual identity as Hotshot. Michael tries to patch up their relationship by confessing his heroic origins, but Carla instead becomes even more perturbed when she learns the girl she suspected Michael was cheating on her with, Maria, knew Michael was Hotshot. Carla goes home to think things over, and Michael has a rough next day at school. As if to add to this bad day, Void comes back for another round and starts waylaying Hotshot. Even with the help of the famous superhero Vigilance, Hotshot is in serious trouble. Void claims that he is darkness and that his purpose is to kill the one chosen by the light, Hotshot. After a long battle, Hotshot and Vigilance defeat Void, and Hotshot learns that there may be more to his origins than he had originally thought.
Plot Analysis: An aspect of Victor Dandridge’s writing that I would like to praise is his skill in world-building. In the midst of Hotshot’s personal story, Dandridge provides some history from the comic’s setting. People with powers, from whatever origin, are known in this world as “extra-humans.” There were 40 known extra-humans before an event that occurred one year prior to this story, called The Zero Event. After this event, only three of those extra-humans remained, but new ones began to emerge, including Hotshot. I admired how I was able to perceive a level of history to this world in just the five issues I had read.
If I had to be critical of an element of the storytelling in Hotshot, I suppose I would say that the pacing could have been better. Many people determine how they feel about a comic title after the first issue. I can understand how it may be possible that people would not be hooked by the very first issue; however, the first issue does note that “A Hero’s Welcome” is a five-part story. As such, I think it would be a mistake to judge the comic too quickly. After having had read all five issues of this introductory arc, I can attest that the story pans out well. Each issue simply adds another layer to the plot, and I can handle a slow-build approach when the payoff is worthwhile.
Characterization: Hotshot presents an interesting cast of characters, each with a distinctive power set and/or personality. For the sake of time, I shall only describe the primary extra-humans from this story.
- Hotshot: Michael is depicted as a guy who is trying to be the best hero he can. Gifted with powers of flight, strength, durability, accelerated healing, and powerful pyrokinesis, Hotshot can bring the heat in more ways than one. In turn, Michael also has a bit of a heated temper at times, as he momentarily lets his circumstances get the better of him before recovering himself and handling the situation better. Additionally, Michael keeps his heroic identity secret from Carla to protect her, but she (and Maria) tell Michael that this decision was a mistake. In essence, Hotshot is an example of the imperfect hero. He has to keep himself in check. He makes mistakes. In a way, these aspects to his character make him seem more human to me. Michael is only in his first years at college after all. He does not have the wisdom he needs just yet, but “A Hero’s Welcome” indicates that he may be about to undergo character growth to counter this flaw.
Void: Whereas Hotshot had a degree of three-dimensional characterization, Void was an example of a classic, one-dimensional villain. Void committed these acts of terror, including murder, simply because he enjoys it, because he views himself as “The Wicked,” as darkness. And he is proud of it. Similar to Hotshot, Void has flight, behemoth strength, and durability, but he also has telekinesis and a level of mind-control that lets him turn civilians against Hotshot. Void constantly refers to himself as Hotshot’s antithesis, despite Michael not even initially realizing that they are connected in some way.
- Vigilance: An attractive female superhero with a high-standing role in the government, Vigilance appears to be the calm voice of reason and patience. However, Void reveals that she and he are both powered by darkness, and the darkness in Vigilance temporarily takes command of her actions, and she becomes more aggressive when battling Void. This characterization offers a character with opposing personality traits, and I enjoy dichotomy. In the end, Vigilance punches through Void, killing him, but she looks mortified, showing that life carries weight with her, which I respect. Apparently, Vigilance has her own comic title, and I am intrigued.
Art: I am not an art expert, so critiquing art is not my greatest strength. I can, however, describe elements of the art used throughout Hotshot based on my own observations, and any of you reading can decide whether you enjoy those types of art devices. For one, I notice that many panels, particularly during battles, have no detail in the background. Instead, there are just colored backgrounds with the characters fighting in the foreground. This choice helps progress the action sequence, allowing readers to more quickly shift from scene to scene and witness the battle in full swing, unencumbered by unnecessary detail in the background that could be distracting. Nevertheless, I can understand how some people may would prefer all panel backgrounds to have some level of detail. As far as the character drawings are concerned, Michael Watson (the artist not the character…although the character is an artist) pencils these characters in dynamic ways. While the characters are not inherently drawn in the proportional, realistic style I tend to favor (more evident when they are in civilian clothes), the images have a sort of kinetic feel to them—as if the way characters are positioned helps readers understand how characters are moving from one panel to the next. I can admire that from Watson’s work.
Final Remarks: All-in-all, I found “A Hero’s Welcome” to be a solid introductory arc for the Hotshot title. Readers are allowed to learn as much about Hotshot as the character himself knows, but then a mystery regarding Hotshot’s origins is presented as a means of holding our attention and making us want to read the next story arc. I think the plot was really well-done, and I found the characters to be interesting. To make one final criticism, I will say that some portions of the story had fight scenes that lasted for many, many pages. I tend to prefer a fight with a swifter conclusion, but I understand this qualm to simply be a matter of preference. Despite my criticisms, I can confess that I am now a fan of Hotshot, and I encourage others to give the title a chance—although, I would like to reiterate that the initial story arc is best enjoyed when read altogether. So if any of you decide to read Hotshot, I encourage you to read all of issues #1-5.
Closing: I know I have said a lot about this story, and I hope you have enjoyed what you have read. If you have any thoughts on the comic or on my review, feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, and I hope you have an amazing day.