While the second season of NBC's Heroes may have failed to build on the success of the first on almost every conceivable level - the addition of Kirsten Bell keeping it from being a complete failure - the accompanying webcomics, now collected as Heroes, Volume Two from DC Comics, shows the potential for what we could have had - kind of.While this collection of the 46 web-shorts that accompanied the show's second year on NBC's official Heroes site shares some of the basic flaws of the first volume - In particular, a over-reliance on the show to give particular stories any meaning or impact whatsoever - it's also a massive improvement over its predecessor in a number of ways. For one thing, it's actually reasonably enjoyable. Yes, the stories are still either vignettes based around particular episodes of back story for characters from the show, but this time around, they're given the added benefit of being interesting and, for the most part, carried out well, with the less explored characters getting the majority of the screentime (The Haitian's origin, and backstory for Adam Monroe are both highpoints of the book). The addition of creators with comic book experience - specifically the Men of Action team of Steven Seagle, Joe Kelly and Duncan Rouleau - reigns in a lot of the flabbiness and aimlessness of the previous book's writing, and manages to make this book more of a tie-in and less of a cash-in to the previous volume; there are even a couple of plot threads that I would like to see followed up on the TV show, if the writers there are ever stuck for ideas. Artwise, this time around has a few names more familiar to comic fans (Alias' Michael Gaydos and Thunderbolts' Tom Gummett both contribute some nice-looking work), but the art, for the most part, still tends towards the pedestrian with the lesser-known, more generic artists. Despite being better than the first book, this Volume Two has the main problem of the first - Namely, it's hard to see who it's actually aimed at. The hardcore fans who'd appreciate the very-in-continuity nature of the stories have, presumably, already read them online, and the more casual fans would likely balk at the $29.99 price tag, no matter how well-designed the hardcover is. As with the last book, the publication date of the book seems to be very intentional - This book makes the perfect holiday gift from a confused relative who knows that you like comics and watch Heroes, but doesn't want to put too much more thought into it. So, if it turns up in the stocking or gift delivery device of your choice, take a look - It's a slight book, but more fun than you might expect at first look. Heroes, Volume Two hits stores today.
I did start reading the first wave of online comics, until I found out that they'd be publishing them in printed form. Then I just waited and picked up one of the hardcover copies (the other day I noticed that they reissued it as a paperback). Less hassle that way, quicker read for the multi-part stories, and I don't have to worry about the site being taken down someday.