Writer: Max Bemis
Artist: Eryk Donovan
Colourist: Cris Peter
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Heavy follows the story of Bill, a kind of mercenary tasked with punishing the bad guys throughout time, space, and different dimensions. How did he land such a sweet job I hear you ask? Well he died, his wife’s ex-boyfriend, Slim, putting out a hit on both Bill and Sharon (his aforementioned wife). Turns out if you’re not good enough for heaven, or bad enough for hell, you find yourself in ‘The Wait’ taxed with working the job you’re most suited to in an attempt to balance the karmic scales and ‘climb’, securing yourself entry through those famed pearly gates.
The first issue of the series ends with the sort of twist you can see from a universe away, when Bill agrees to have a partner in his karmic balancing duties, but who could his recently deceased partner be? It’s Slim, it had to be really though didn’t it?
It’s at this point where you start to think that Heavy is going to become some kind of strange bedfellows type situation, where the pair have to work together despite their hate for each other. Both with the same goal, getting into heaven to see Sharon again, Bill wanting to be reunited with his wife, and Slim wanting to apologise for being such a garbage person, and presumably for killing her and Bill(?) For a few wonderful pages it feels like that is what we’re going to get, an insane action film in episodic form as the duo bounce from one insane situation to another resolving everything from an evil Leonardo Di Vinci running wild to helping children with abusive parents.
Yet in no time at all there’s another twist to the tale, as we meet Moore, a former heavy turned reality threatening terrorist. Moore believes that the whole deal of being a heavy and working in The Wait is a ruse, afterall how does doing bad things correct the karmic balance and get them out of purgatory? Surprisingly Moore does manage to get into Bill’s head, making him question the nature of the wait.
Look, I know at this point I’m just telling you what happens in the first five issues of Heavy and that’s not really going to benefit anyone. So here’s what I’m trying to say, at least two volumes worth of plot are crammed into these issues, which is maddening. You can see the sheer amount of potential that’s being wasted, there’s no room for character development or for the events to play out naturally, which makes for an incredibly frustrating read.
Eryk Donovan’s artwork does suit the story being told, capturing both the human moments we see in flashbacks and the over the top, action movie violence throughout this volume. The Wait looks completely unearthly, which I suppose is exactly how a version of purgatory should feel. I also think Cris Peter’s colouring is a major strength for the series, creating a dreamy and surreal atmosphere with his fluorescent and pastel palette. Taylor Esposito’s lettering work remains as consistent as ever, particularly shining in a panel where Bill’s manager Kyle hurls insults at him, filling up a lot of the space available.
Whilst I haven’t been very kind to Heavy I will admit there’s heaps of potential here. There’s all the pieces of an interesting supernatural action movie here, Die Hard after death, or something like that. The art, colouring and lettering are all hitting the mark with me, but I can’t help but struggle with Bemis’ writing and pacing. This could’ve been a really engaging series if it had been allowed more room to breathe, opening up the three distinct storylines that play out in the space of one, and in doing so allowing for the ludicrous combination of action and comedy that’s scattered throughout to really shine, and be backed up by this unique take on the afterlife.
One of my most frequent complaints when it comes to first volumes is that creators seem to feel the need to force every idea they have into those initial issues, almost as if they’re terrified that if they don’t the reader won’t come back for more. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that’s really necessary with creator owned work, a lot of the time I feel like the readers who are interested in creator owned books, the entirety of Bigger Than Capes included, aren’t so quick as to write off a book after only one issue. The author can afford to take their time and tell the story the way they want to, not trying to throw everything at the wall. Perhaps I’m thinking too much into it, and this is the way Max Bemis wanted to tell the story of Heavy, but for me this felt like a race through every idea at breakneck speed, with no second thought on how the series would read.