Arcana Comics' Helen Killer #1 (which is out next today in New York! Next week everywhere else!) is an interesting comic, in that the premise of the comic is so bizarre that it could be a really interesting comic, if written as a comedy. However, writer Andrew Kreisberg seems to be playing the story completely straight, which is a bit odd, as the concept is rife for parody of high concept action stories. Instead, it apparently is the sort of high concept action story that only SOUNDS like a parody.
The concept of the book is that Helen Keller, when she is a young college student, is given a device called the Omnicle, which allows her to see and hear and increases her physical abilities, making her an extremely effective secret agent. In the first issue, she is hired to help protect the President.
I certainly do not begrudge Kreisberg for trying to use an established character such as Helen Keller to tell an adventure story. Far from it. In fact, I think Kreisberg is definitely on to something when he discusses his inspiration for the comic, he explains that he was struck by a description of Keller's early life, when she was cut off from the world - she gave herself a separate identity - "The Phantom," as she felt she was a "no-person" until her teacher, Anne Sullivan, taught her to communicate. As Kreisberg smartly notes, that is an area filled with interesting supernatural ideas - what if Keller actually DID connect to some supernatural force? Stuff like that. Fascinatingly clever stuff. That is a great starting point for a story by Kreisberg there. Except, he uses this idea to make Helen Daredevil in a petticoat, which I don't think works well for the type of comic Kreisberg is otherwise attempting here, a serious book where he is using real-life people and situations as much as he can.
Whatever misgivings I have about the story, however, I have none with the artwork. Matt Rice does a very nice job with the comic, depicting the famous "water, Helen, water" scene with just as much style and grace as the scenes where Helen is kicking people's asses.
Here is the water scene (click on all pages to enlarge)...
And here are two fight scenes...
Some real talent there from Rice, and I imagine he's only going to get better.
I really wish Kreisberg had not made the story so darned straightforward. His work with dialogue is strong, and I appreciate the character work he does with both Helen and Anne - but then he ruins it by plopping them all into the middle of a ridiculously uninteresting scenario. The action parts of the comic are so bland - and Helen's new Secret Service partner? He's so stiff that he makes statues appear lively.
But I guess if you just really dig action scenes and nice art, you might want to give this comic a try. Their heart certainly seems to be in the right place, but I think you'd be better off waiting to see what their follow-ups might be, as there is some clear talent here.