Review: Super Human Resources

Super Human Resources:  Season One.  Ken Marcus (story).  Justin Bleep (art).  Joey Mason and Antonio Campo (colors). Jaque Nodell (letters).  Ape Entertainment.  $12.95 US.

I really hate writing this review, because I really wanted to love this comic, and while I liked it, it did fall short for me on a couple levels.  I can’t remember how it came on my radar, but when it did I visited the website (which is great), and looked for it at my local comic book shop, and when I didn’t find it in single issues, I started looking for it as a trade (and was happy to hear it had made it to trade paperback status…as that doesn’t always get to happen for more independent books).  Eventually I did find one copy at my local shop, and was excited to read it.  I thought this book was going to be a hilarious mix – one part Office Space (or The Office, whichever tickles your fancy) and one part Superhero parody.  And it is.  But only sometimes.  And not consistently enough that I can fully get on board.

The art.  I like it.  Mostly.  The character design for the most part is unique and appealing, and the book has a really strong visual identity, which unfortunately cannot be said for many many books, especially little books without giant publishers.  The color was solid throughout and really worked for the tone of the book.  Another plus is that the art is incredibly consistent throughout with the exception of some obvious and deliberate evolution in the character design between the first two books.  It’s really hard to find consistent artwork in comics, so this is commendable.  The art was so consistent in fact, it almost looked like some crazy futuristic digital effects or something – like the entire book was conceived and drawn by a machine – which gave it a perfect but sometimes soulless quality.

Ironically I preferred the slightly toned down version of the character design in the first issue to the evolution that appeared later in the collected volume, but it wasn’t a big deal.  One little design nit I had with the later evolution, was that all the characters remind me a little bit of bugs because of these two lines the Bleep draws extending dramatically off of characters eyes (and heads).  It annoyed me more as the book progressed, but is a pretty superficial complaint, as complaints go.

A bigger complaint I had about the art is that the inking lineweights all feel the same, or at least similar…and with so much going on in every panel, that often made it difficult to understand what was going on.  I think the artwork overall could benefit from some much more confident and dramatic inking which would help the clarity of individual panels.  But it’s obvious Bleep is still evolving as an artist (which is of course true of most artists) and so I’ll be interested to see where he goes.

The biggest thing that didn’t work for me in this book, is the pacing, and that’s a problem of both story and art.  And it’s hard to tell who is dropping the ball here or if it’s both of them.  I tend to think it’s the artist’s job to get the panel pacing right so that the words work in their most effective way, but especially on an indie book, where creators are more likely involved in the eachothers’ processes, it feels a little like a shared problem.

There are some great little jokes in the script – in-jokes that are really enjoyable if you have ever worked in an office, or read a superhero comic, and they work really well together for some good times…but several of the jokes are nearly lost to the previously stated pacing issues…and it just isn’t funny enough overall to carry the book’s other weaknesses.

I think the biggest of those weaknesses is that the characters are pretty broadly sketched, we’re never able to attach much to any of them or to care about them beyond their ability to bring home the joke.  Now, character building, especially for a large cast of characters in an office setting is hard to do and takes time…it’s easy to fall into cliches and hard to do unique things, especially when you’re already deliberately playing with cliche and parody, but I feel like Marcus should have given us at least someone to root for in these first four issues.  It’s obviously supposed to be Tim that we’re rooting for, but he’s such a dull guy that I can’t find much to get behind.  There’s no sense of humor in him like there is in everyday characters like Jim from The Office or Peter from Office Space…but when I look around to find someone else to connect to – there really aren’t any characters worth connecting to.  Except Wombat.  Wombat, a blatant and hilarious Batman parody is awesome, but mostly for jokes, and not for any emotional connection.

And while EVERY book I read doesn’t have to feature or star women or be “the best thing written about women since sliced bread” I find the female characters here to be pretty lacking. There’s a fairly interesting “office manager” named Helen that all but disappears as soon as she serves her function (introducing Tim to the craziness that is SCI in the first issue); the token “hot” superhero/alien Plasmarella complete with big boobs and sexy low cut clothing; another office worker named Sarah that gets a page or two of dialogue; and in a particularly bad move, there’s a giant female called Statuesque and you never see her head.  She’s usually only shown (because of her size) in the torso/ass/breasts area (and a couple times down to her feet) but you never see her head.  I get the joke, and I probably wouldn’t mind it so much if there were other more fully realized female characters in the book, but as there are not, it seems like a really big misstep to me.

I will admit that it’s likely I’m overly sensitive to this issue – considering I actually write a column on CBR’s Comics Should Be Good called “She Has No Head!”.   The concept for the article is broadly “women in comics” and it’s safe to say I have strong feelings about the idea of women being so insignificant in comics that they seem to be nothing more than objects of desire that quite literally don’t need heads.  And so Statuesque is a really unfortunate coincidence, and I urge you to take my criticism of this particular aspect of the book with a grain of salt.

I think overall, because the characters lacked much emotional charge for me, the story also lacked an emotional charge.  The basic set up is that Tim (our “hero”) is a temp sent to SCI to work in “Super Human Resources”.  He is surprised and at first put off by this idea, thinking it must be a mistake, but is quickly brought into the fold of regular folks, superheroes, villains, aliens, etc. that work there.  [SPOILER]  The four issue plot is basically that “corporate” is trying to get SCI shut down so they can farm their work out to cheaper Indian labor.  Tim discovers a conspiracy in corporates’ attempt to get SCI shut down and is able to thwart it and save SCI.  At the end of the book he is (naturally) viewed as a hero and given a full time gig at SCI. But I don’t really feel happy for him…and I’m not really sure why he wants to stay there…or why they want him to stay, as other than being a hero, he hasn’t really made any connections as far as I can tell.  And perhaps most importantly, other than him being a template ‘good guy’ I’m not sure why he feels compelled to save SCI in the first place.  And that is a failure.

The book just didn’t work on the all the levels it needed to…and with the exception of the laughs, some of which were great,  I was pretty disappointed overall.  I do hope Marcus and Bleep keep working and putting out books, and I will anxiously look for their next project, if only to see the next evolution.

I’d like to give it more, but unfortunately 2.5 Stars is the official 1979 Semi-Finalist rating.


  1. ken’s avatar

    Hi Kelly. Thanks for the review. All of your points are well made and valid. You give us a lot to think about going into the second volume, especially regarding our female characters. I don’t feel like we over-sexualized our ladies –given our art style–but I can see your point. Especially with character design . The “no head” thing was a weird coincidence. We really weren’t intending that to be a commentary on anything other than she was tall. Stupid, I know.

    We did change colorists and inking methods as the book went on and I think that was reflected in your criticism.

    As for the the characters laking depth or warmth, I think that’s probably fair. I had hoped we would root for Tim more by the 4th issue, after he gets over his fish out of water act. I do like that he puts his personal self interest aside for his friends and co-workers, but might not have been enough.

    But in our defense–to be honest–all I really wanted to do was have a funny book.. We weren’t out to be a deeper character driven or even story driven comic. While this is a comic and has a “story,” I’d like to think we have more in common with animated shows like Venture Brothers, Futurama or the Simpsons, than other comcis. I’m not saying SHR is at that level of quality by any means, but the kind of joke-driven plots. Versus character or story driven. You’re not watching those shows for deep characterizations (although some are great on those shows to be fair) but simply to have fun. That’s all we were really going for.

    Anywho, thanks for reading and for the review. I’m a first timer at this, so we still have a lot to work on.
    Super Human Resources

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Hey Ken

    Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you’re taking the criticism in the constructive way it was intended. I do want to agree with you that while I felt your female characters were a little lacking in depth/screen time, I agree that they definitely were not over-sexualized…which is a triumph in and of itself these day. I thought on the whole the character design was very good – especially in that regard.

    I also think the “no head” thing, was just a really unfortunate coincidence, and that’s why I tried to phrase it that way…and I think it will probably bother almost nobody…but given the title of my column I was hard pressed to ignore it.

    I agree with you on the whole Venture Brothers, Simpsons, Futurama thing…and those shows have certainly had a long time to build up character love (way more than 4 issues) but I do feel like those shows, though built on jokes, are rather brilliant at getting you to love their characters. If there was anything I would suggest on improving for future issues it would be that – because I think you have the humor already nailed – a great fun style that works far more than it doesn’t work – but I still want to love (or hate, or both) those characters.

    Speaking of future issues…will there be more SHR coming our way in the future? Other projects?

    As I said in the column, I’m anxious to see what you guys do next – I suspect I’ll be seeing a lot of both of you.

    ps – more Wombat. The “hush my sweet thrush” stuff was brilliant.

  3. ken’s avatar

    Cool. Totally agree on the show thing. Simpsons didn’t starting getting great until season 3. But you still have to like the characters. Btw, check out Frisky Dingo if you haven’t already.

    Yep, we hope to have another second volume out next year. I think I bit off more than I could chew with the number of characters. A lot of shallow holes. So I think we’ll have a story in the second volume that’s a little more character-driven, now that we’ve established the whole thing.

    Thanks again for the encouragement. Look forward to your stuff on Comics Should Be Good. Brian is great and you’ll fit right in.

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