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Monday, April 17, 2006

Anthem, published by Heroic Publishing, Inc., 32 pages, $3.25

A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to see something on the spinner rack at a bookstore I hadn't expected to see; a comic written by Roy Thomas. For those who don't know, Roy is a highly-respected figure within the comics industry, having been writing and/or editing since the'60's. Not having penned a story in a number of years, however, Anthem #1 is fairly solid proof that there's no rust on that guy.

Anthem is the story of seven World War II superheroes who are awakened from a type of suspended animation during America's most desperate hour. A bit derivative, I'll admit, but not without its share of imagination. Thomas leaves lots of questions to be answered, peaking the reader's interest. Not to mention the state of the war; let's just say it's not a version you'll find in the history books. Thomas does a respectable job of pulling readers in, with some well-placed action at the beginning, some startling revelations in the middle, and a cliff-hanger ending.

Artist Daniel Acuna's work, despite appearing a bit "clunky" at times, with slightly rigid, sometimes awkward figures, reveals a great deal of insight into storytelling and characterization. His imaginative use of panels, along with his expressive characters make the book as nice to look at as it is to read. It would be interesting to watch his art develop, but, judging from the credits on a reproduction of the cover for the second issue, another artist will be replacing him. In my opinion, this is never a good thing for a book that's just starting out, as some level of consistency is necessary in order to keep readers' attention. But, I'm hoping Anthem can overcome that particular challenge.

Anthem #1 is a good start, and recommended for those who enjoy superhero action in the tradition of D.C.'s Justice Society of America and Marvel's Invaders. Look for it at comics shops, bookstores, or online retailers and auctions.

Mark Allen