No Hero by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp is a cynical look at the superhero genre much like Ellis’ Black Summer or Garth Ennis’ The Boys and he throws in a good dose of suspense and mystery for added measure. For all the ways that Ellis likes to tease a mystery and he does do so here, the title is aptly named for you would be hard-pressed to find any sort of hero present within these pages with these flawed human beings. He does come close, on numerous occasions too, and there are times when he gives you a little hope, yet only does so to drag it right back away from you. Ellis, along with Ennis and a few other writers have been writing quite a few books along these lines for a while now. It is almost like they take great pleasure in tearing everyone’s four-colour childhood down and the strange thing about it all is that you end up enjoying it immensely. At the end of the day, there will still be a Superman or a Spider-Man, but for a moment you can revel in what they might possibly do if they were bad. No Hero ends up being the antithesis of these stalwart superheroes and Ellis does his best to give them and have his super-powered beings commit every sin there is.
Interestingly enough, the characters in this book are also more real-world because of it. Carrick Masterson is a megalomaniac, a man intent on ruling the world and a man who has secretly done so for many years. Redglare is a man and a hero who believes in what is right, at least so long as he can cash his cheques at the end of the day. Everyone in this book that has a power, whether given or not, has a reason for doing what they do and while at first those reasons might have started out as pure, they do not always stay as such. Lastly, there is the lead character of the book, Joshua – the hero as it were. He wants to do well and will do anything to do so, a man eager to please. It is as diverse a bunch of people as one can think of and Ellis brings them together for a very specific reason, weaving the threads here and there until that very shocking finale.
As a book meant for mature readers, Ryp fills it to the brim with as much action, violence and gore as he possibly can and while almost disturbing at times, it is also a visual treat to see him go to town on Ellis’ scripts. Each page is incredibly detailed, so much so, it is hard to look at Joshua after he goes through his transformation. While Ryp has moved on to other companies of late, his work at Avatar still stands as some of his best and his collaborations with Ellis being truly excellent.
It is a shame that Ellis’ work at Avatar is usually overlooked in favour of that from the Big Two when almost all of it is just as strong, if not stronger. Though Black Summer might be just a little bit better, No Hero is no slouch and if looking for something a little different to the usual superhero fare, then this is exactly the book you will want to read.
4 out of 5