The life of a Superhero has never been an easy gig. Fighting crime, saving the city, protecting the universe, all that comes easy! Being a Superhero and getting your bills paid? That’s an entirely different challenge and one Mark Russell (Prez, The Wonder Twins, Exit, Stage Left!: The Snagglepuss Chronicles) and Steve Lieber (The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, The Fix) begin to flesh out with the workers of HEROZ4U, aka the titled One-Star Squadron.
In this delightful blue-collar-based work environment, your favorite low-level Superheroes help citizens in more obscure or grounded ways that contribute more to the world than just saving the day. A superhero can consist of helping old-time superheroes, being an employee of the month, and maybe even hints of corporate subterfuge amongst your coworkers! Russell injects a comedic tone into the book from beginning to end. It’s the DCU that you know and love but through the lens of a workplace comedy or a Succession episode.
The opening pages put the focus on the business of HEROZ4U and why it isn’t the most glamorous job you would imagine for people that have saved the world a few times but Russell and Lieber put us firmly into the hearts and minds of our team of coworkers and other unappreciated heroes that this is a fully functioning business.
Our focal point character is Red Tornado and everyone’s favorite Android is having a bad day over his lunch. Lieber’s art on Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen makes him a prime choice to handle the expressions and kinetic conversations that happen around the office. Dave Stewart’s coloring gets the mundane and muted colors of the office coupled with the brightly colored individuals that populate it very well and adds to the impact of heavier scenes with the lighting. From Tornado attempting to eat while a coworker yells at him about his lack of shine, having a respectable reputation, to an old-time hero going through his own personal dilemma that carries the heartfelt but saddening main plot.
There’s a sadness in the way Lieber’s pencils capture faces in an especially heartbreaking scene combined with Russell’s writing specifically drives home other facets to being a Superhero and that’s what this series captures from the first page. The parts about being a Hero that goes unnoticed or what you normally wouldn’t think about in a sprawling universe filled with people trying to fight crime.
There’s a micro-focused quality as we follow this office, it feels personal as we read about the characters that aren’t exactly down and out but rather pivoting their talents elsewhere and it opens up questions about what exactly is a Hero in today’s world? Is it someone who does what’s right no matter the cost? Is it someone who pivots to help how they can, even in the face of capitalism and a changing world? Russell sprinkles moments of levity throughout as he presents Tornado with an opportunity that can either show what it means to be a Hero or ruin his current standings at work! The stakes are low but it’s an emotional center to balance the workplace shenanigans and the focus on what appears to be our other lead in Power Girl.
The One Star Squadron may be lacking in the Heroes4Hire Department but as far as #1’s go? They’re winning the hearts and minds of their customers with a great debut that’s far and away from whatever major crisis is happening in favor of a series about a different type of Superhero and what that means for the people in your life…and the workplace. Especially the workplace, because as the final page can show, you never know who’s watching your job performance…