02 May 2005

REVIEW: 15 Minutes #3

"In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes." In this era of 24-hour news channels and Reality TV, Andy Warhol's prophetic quote has practically come true. Why should superheroes be any different?

That's the angle Bob Elinskas comes from with 15 Minutes, an appealing combination of Troy Hickman's Eisner-nominated Common Grounds and Marvel's Great Lakes Avengers played straight, featuring poignant snapshots of D-list superheroes and villains, as told through the eyes of the everyday civilians whose lives they affect. While the basic premise isn't terribly original, the execution is near-perfect as Elinskas packs more emotional subtext into each short story than most writers manage in multiple story arcs.

This issue features only two stories, the third replaced by artist David Hedgecock's Sketchbook, which includes insightful tidbits on the various characters from the first two issues that smartly doubles as an enticing "what you missed" promo. Hedgecock's style is graffiti-esque, cartoony but not unrealistic, and Mike Kelleher's inking nicely complements his work. Anyone that can look at Captain Frogfish, an 80-year old Captain Freedom, or the Amazing Puma -- whose story in #2 stands out as the best of the series so far -- and not be intrigued is even more jaded than I am.

The lead story, "After the Fall," focuses on an unnamed, self-proclaimed "newest hero in town" -- Cary Mitchell, wife and mother of two, whose first mission ends in tragedy. Elinskas presents a wonderful contrast between Cary's wannabe superhero and the everyday heroism of the police, represented by Officer McCleen who has to deliver the bad news to Cary's husband. McCleen, also a wife and mother of two, ponders why a woman like Cary would "put on a costume and stand between two robbers and the door?" and Hedgecock effectively uses a full page of silence to let it all sink in. This easily ranks as the second best story in the series to date.

The second story, "Secret Identities," is a much more light-hearted look at life as a superhero as normal guy, Walter, believes he's stumbled upon the secret identity of the American Avenger when he accidentally opens the wrong locker at the gym, finding the unmistakable costume hanging in his friend Lance's locker. "What do you do at that moment? These are my fifteen minutes, even if no one knows it." At a time when superheroes are getting their heads blown off, and women are raped and tortured for shock effect in crass attempts to capitalize on a presumed thirst for even more darkness in our post-9/11 world, this is a welcome spin on an identity crisis that doesn't end in tragedy.

Three issues in, Elinskas, Hedgecock and Kelleher are delivering as enjoyable a comic book as anything on the shelves right now, and if Hickman can snag an Eisner nomination for Common Grounds, this trio should clear a space on their shelves for their own trophy next year.

15 Minutes #3, (SLG Publishing/Amaze Ink, April 2005; $3.95); Written by Bob Elinskas, Art by David Hedgecock, Mike Kelleher.

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