Book Review: Icon: A Hero’s Welcome

June 24, 2010

When you can fly, there’s no burden you can’t bear.  When you can fly, gravity can’t touch you.  When you can fly…you can do anything.

I love the cartoon Static Shock, and so I was hoping against hope that my library either had Static in stock or had it available via ILL. Sadly, it did not.  But!  Icon: A Hero’s Welcome was available, and since I love Dwayne McDuffie (creator of Static Shock, one of the writers/producers of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, and now a writer for Ben 10) (also, and not to put too fine a point on it, he started his own comic book company because he wanted to be able to write the stories he wanted to tell), I figured reading Icon was practically the same as reading Static.

The basic premise of I:AHW is “What if Superman was black?” Augustus Freeman IV crash lands on earth during slavery, imitates the looks of the person who finds him (a slave woman), and then lives a really long time.  He decides to become a superhero after a teenage girl, Rocket, tells him how helpful it would be for other African-Americans to know they have a hero of their own.

What I Liked

– Rocket is kind of amazing.  I love that Augustus is inspired by her, I like that she sees so much more for herself and the people she knows, I like that she calls Augustus on his inaccessible man on the hill persona (he’s a lawyer).  She becomes his sidekick not because he takes her in, but because she pushes him to do more.  That’s kind of cool.

– There’s a lot of commentary on race, gender, and class in the book.  Rocket, as an African-American teenage girl, has more possible complications for her life [she gets pregnant] than, say, Dick Grayson.  She is not an orphan but lives in the projects, so sees her relationship with Augustus as a way to access so much more.  And it’s not just his wealth that attracts her, but his access to education.

Race-wise, Rocket and her friends try to rob Augustus because they assume it’s a white person’s house, and they initially mistake him for the butler.  When Icon and Rocket show up to help the police, they try to shoot him.  Because, obviously, he must be a bad guy who is part of the plot against the mayor. Superman never has these problems.

I already mentioned some of the class effects re: Rocket, but there’s another subplot that discusses a community forgotten after a major riot in Dakota.  The book addresses turf wars, helplessness, and politics.

The book also operates as a commentary on what’s missing from the traditional superhero story that focuses on white, male characters.

What I Didn’t Like

– Calling it a dislike is strong, but the artwork is kind of dated.  The colors are very purple and yellow and, you know, 1990s’ Cross Colours.  So it’s fitting for the time, but dated for the now.  I still liked it overall.

In conclusion:  Solid characters, fantastic premise, and a solid story make this a very nice introduction to the Icon brand and Milestone Comics.  I really wish I could get my hands on Static now.  Moreso than before, even.

POC Reading Challenge:  14/15; YA Reading Challenge:  21/75

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