Author: Mark Guggenheim
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: August 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Aryan
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
What happens when the never ending battle for truth and justice... ends? With crime and violence nonexistent, and the human race seemingly neutered of all aggressive tendencies, the superheroes of Halcyon appear to have completed their mission. But one member of the team isn't pleased with this new development, and will stop at nothing to uncover the catalyst for this global phenomenon.
I’ve been reading comics for a long time. It started with superhero comics and although I still read some today, the majority are in different genres. So with that being said, finding a new spin, or doing something clever and unique with the superhero genre, which has decades of stories, is not an easy thing to achieve. There are a few good examples, such as Invincible from Robert Kirkman at Image comics, Irredeemable from Mark Waid over at Boom Studios, The Boys from Garth Ennis at Dynamite and so on. Halcyon was something I’d heard about, missed the start of it and then promised myself I would catch up with it at some point in trade, and here we are.
Halcyon is a fascinating comic book for both those deeply invested and interested in the superhero genre and for those interested in a story about free will. In the story crime and aggression have been wiped out on a global scale. It started about a year before the events in the story with a steady decline in all forms of violence and crime and then it suddenly escalated to zero. The superheroes are left with little to do except try and combat natural disasters, such as fires, floods, earthquakes etc, but even those are not common enough to keep everyone busy all the time. So what do they do now?
Some superheroes started fighting crime because they wanted to protect ordinary people and some did it because they want to see justice handed out to all. There are a hundred other reasons someone might decide to put on a cape and cowl, revenge, fear, pride, ambition, but suddenly none of that means anything anymore. Halcyon focuses on the superheroes in this peaceful world and the question of, what do they do when the world no longer needs them?
Some are happy about it and for the first time in memory they are free from the obligation they feel their powers put upon them. Others can’t cope and don’t know what to do next with varied results, and others finally have time to focus their energy on other pursuits, such as using their advanced brainpower to help with advances in science and medicine. But then there’s Sabre. He’s an analogue of Batman essentially, or Rorschach from Watchmen, as all three characters share a certain level of mental instability and walk the line between sane and fruitcake like a tightrope. So, here we have someone without any real powers except for his unyielding sense of right and wrong, a thirst for justice, and with nothing to hit and no villains to fight.
However, as mentioned earlier, the move to worldwide utopia happened quickly and there have been no changes in government policy, the environment, religion or any other widespread forces that affect billions to explain it. People just stopped being aggressive. That bothers Sabre. A lot. The core of this book is should it bother him? Should he care? Or should he just be happy that human beings are now living in a relatively peaceful and carefree world? But people all around the world don’t change their mind overnight for no reason. So someone did this. Someone took away our free will and our right to choose. Sure, it’s only part of our free will, and the ability to choose to be violent in some way. But does that make it right? It’s a very grey area and that is what Halcyon explores.
I love Star Trek, in all of its incarnations, but part of Roddenberry’s vision of the future with the Federation was an Earth where money no longer existed and all humans were working together. I’ve always found that part of his vision naïve and difficult to swallow, maybe it’s the cynic in me or my inner Batman. Suddenly in Halcyon, Sabre is facing a world like that, and while others are happy to embrace it and see where the world goes, he just can’t let it go. So he digs and keeps digging. It’s not a situation I’ll ever find myself in, but like the best comics Halcyon did raise a lot of interesting questions and make me think about where I would draw the line and how far I would go.
Overall I thought this was a great comic which took the components and archetypes of the superhero genre and did something new, interesting and thought-provoking with them, which as I mentioned is increasingly difficult these days. A great standalone superhero comic book and a recommended read.