Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Swan Tunes In: Heroes

Over at The Nexus of Improbability, the Mysterious Cloaked Figure — MCF to his friends throughout the blogosphere — recently created fantastical renderings of his favorite bloggers as comic book heroes. Needless to say (a stupid turn of phrase, really — if it doesn't need saying, why say it?), I was both honored and charmed to be included in this artistic enterprise.

Behold SwanShadow, the superhero:

Although I haven't appeared nearly this svelte since, say, the Carter administration, I admire the way that MCF captured my essential heroic qualities: stealth, inscrutability, sharp wit, and a fondness for immense bladed weaponry. It's as though the man read my mind. Or saw my knife collection. Of course, he is a Mysterious Cloaked Figure...

Speaking of superheroes, the show I've anticipated most this fall television season premiered last evening. In case you've been off-world for the past two months and have somehow missed the incessant previews for it, Heroes is the dark, twisty tale of a group of otherwise unconnected people who suddenly discover that they possess superhuman powers.

[WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW. If you TiVo'd Heroes last night (or plan to catch the rebroadcast this evening) and don't want key elements of the storyline revealed, bid us farewell for now, then drop back around after you've watched the show.]

Wisely, the series creators chose not to introduce every member of the show's Legion of Super-Heroes in the first one-hour episode. So far, the cast of characters shapes up like this:
  • Character: Hiro Nakamura
    Performer: Masi Oka (Scrubs)
    Occupation: Office worker
    Abilities: The most powerful of the characters, Hiro can manipulate time and space, enabling him to alter the flow of time and to teleport over incredible distances (in the first episode, he transmits himself from a Tokyo subway to New York's Times Square).

  • Character: Claire Bennet
    Performer: Hayden Panettiere (Racing Stripes, Ice Princess)
    Occupation: High school student and cheerleader
    Abilities: Has a healing factor that enables her to recover immediately from any injury, no matter how severe. (Think Wolverine, only without the claws.) She also appears to be impervious to pain.

  • Character: Niki Sanders
    Performer: Ali Larter (Legally Blonde, the Final Destination films)
    Occupation: Webcam stripper (doesn't every show need one?) and single mother to child prodigy Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey)
    Abilities: Hard to tell at this point. Niki has a dual, Jekyll-and-Hyde persona, the hidden half of which appears to be violent in temperament and superhumanly strong. What we don't yet know is whether the visible Niki shares the same body with this invisible persona, or perhaps projects the persona in an astral form. In other words, she may be Dr. Strange, or she may be the Hulk. Time will tell.

  • Character: Peter Petrelli
    Performer: Milo Ventimiglia (Gilmore Girls)
    Occupation: Home care nurse
    Abilities: Not what he thinks at first. For most of the first episode, Peter believes he can fly. In fact, his power is an empathic connection with his older brother Nathan, who actually can fly.

  • Character: Nathan Petrelli
    Performer: Adrian Pasdar (Profit, Mysterious Ways)
    Occupation: Politician
    Abilities: He's the Petrelli sibling who can fly, though he doesn't know it until he has to save his brother, who walks off a rooftop thinking that he's the one who can fly.

  • Character: Isaac Mendez
    Performer: Santiago Cabrera (Empire)
    Occupation: Artist
    Abilities: Experiences precognitive visions that enable him to paint pictures of events before they occur. I'm hopeful that at some point he'll paint the following week's California Super Lotto drawing, or the finish line of Friday's fifth race at Golden Gate Fields.
Although they don't make their debut appearances until future episodes, this random collective of superfolks will eventually include:
  • Character: Matt Parkman
    Performer: Greg Grunberg (Alias)
    Occupation: Police officer
    Abilities: Telepathy

  • Character: D. L. Hawkins
    Performer: Leonard Roberts (Drumline)
    Occupation: Incarcerated felon
    Abilities: Phasing through solid matter
Tying the group together are Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a genetic researcher from India whose late father may have held the key to these superhuman manifestations, and Simone Devereaux (Tawny Cypress — one of the coolest names in show business, right up there with Kimber Rickabaugh), a beautiful young woman with personal connections to several of the other characters.

Based upon the first episode, I'm pleased with the development of the series thus far. All of the characters are intriguing in their various ways, and the creators have built a nice sense of mystery into the show by not displaying all of the surprises at once. We know just enough about the protagonists and their powers to want to learn more about them. And, as noted earlier, it was a smart move not to cram all of the intros into the first installment.

A caveat: Heroes, though comic book-influenced, is not kid stuff. In the first show alone, we witness several horrifically violent incidents, most of them involving the indestructible Claire, who tests her newfound talents by (a) hurling herself face-first off a grain elevator, earning herself a dislocated shoulder and compound rib fractures; (b) running into a burning warehouse, setting herself on fire in the process; and (c) plunging her hand into a garbage disposal while the device is in operation, mangling said appendage in gruesome fashion.

Remember, children, superheroes are professionals. Don't try these stunts at home.

Heroes gave me more than enough reason in Hour One to keep it on my Monday night schedule. I recommend that viewers who love the heroic fantasy genre (and sport strong stomachs) check it out — better sooner than later, as I suspect the show will become more difficult to follow for those who join the narrative in progress.

Don't make me have to whip out my katana on you.

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2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

Glad you liked it. I think the name conjured "Stormshadow" in my brain, hence the white ninja motif.

Heroes was a bit bumpy at first, but as the storylines came together and connections a la Lost appeared, I really got into it. Hiro may be my favorite character; love that a comic geek is the most powerful, and the one to embrace his powers(thanks to reading Days of Future Present in X-men). I also like that it's what I was hoping for, more DP7 than X-men, with the aforementioned Lost similarity. In the future, they probably need to spotlight fewer characters per episode, and maybe the premiere should have been 2 hours to get Grunberg and the rest in. Loved the twist with the brothers, and as for the paintings..."We have to stop it." Chills. A solid beginning, and I hope it catches on and lasts a few seasons.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Joel offered these pearls of wisdom...

Kewl character. What's his name? Or is he...the SwanShadow?!?

Hmmm. I heard about Heroes but thought ugh. Maybe I'll check it out once it comes on DVD.

8:53 PM  

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