Review: Halcyon and Tenderfoot #4
By Daniel Cifford and Lee Robinson
Reviewing final issues of a series is always troublesome, especially short series. How to discuss the latest issue, and give an overview of the series without giving away some key facts? I’m not one for spoilers if I can avoid it, but some of this review will have some elements talking about events in the first issue and what resulted.
Halcyon and Tenderfoot looks for all the world like a lightweight, jaunty looking all ages comic dealing in pretty standard superhero tropes. Except that’s not quite true. It is all of those things certainly, but beneath the surface lies far more interesting depths.
Throughout the story, Clifford and Robinson have presented us with a very mature storyline, full of universal emotion, understandable to both young and old. It all starts with the introduction of new superhero sidekick Tenderfoot, full of doubts and trepidation about stepping out in the company of his dad, this world’s Superman, truth justice and the Brink City way. Imagine the pressure.
Now imagine the guilt, the pile-driving, clutching agony of messing up, of forcing dear dad to save your life on your first mission by having to sacrifice his own. Worse still, everyone in Brink City, and around the world, has seen the footage… they may be sympathising, but the nagging, agonising guilt tells you they’re blaming you as well.
Not good enough. Killed his dad. Never good enough to be a superhero. What a waste. All his fault. Over and over and over.
Yes, emotional depth.
We went very quickly from this in issue 1:
To this in issue 2:
So yes, darkness is the order of the day in Halcyon and Tenderfoot.
But if this wasn’t enough Clifford adds an extra layer of dark, a more knowing cynical darkness; Halcyon only came out of retirement from the superhero biz because he wanted to present himself as an alternative to the grim and gritty style super-types that make it hard to distinguish between hero and villain anymore. Something is very rotten in the state of Brink City, and having that dark contrast in the background shadows to the bright optimism of Halcyon and his son really adds that extra level of interest.
Although I am just that little bit torn over this. Part of me feels Clifford underused these ex-colleagues of Halcyon, the good guys going down the dark path, and much of that may be because H&T is a mere 4-issues long, but there’s also part of me thinks the minimal input they had merely emphasised the true all-pervading darkness of the society that H&T are the not too successful antidote to, and their lack of direct intervention hints at the problems Brink City faces in the future, allowing the reader to create forward, using the ideas and sketches provided here to flesh out more tales.
Of course, it’s not all dark dark dark. There’s bright and breezy in there as well, and blockbuster fight scenes such as that page above, all handled in Robinson’s increasingly confident Pixar comic style. But at its heart, Halcyon and Tenderfoot is about death, loss, guilt, anger, and how a grieving child can come to terms with them all.
This final issue pulls everything together, with Tenderfoot having to be so brave, facing battle with some of The Glory Guild and a showdown with The Halogen Man but not before he has to deal with his dad’s first sidekick (she says) whose murderous intent was revealed at the climax of issue 3.
Convincing Jenny Wren to stand down takes guts, stepping out into the public gaze (many of whom still blame him for Halcyon’s death) and entering The Halogen Man’s lair takes even more.
There is a sense perhaps that everything wraps up a little too fast, a little too conveniently, every loose end tidied and tucked away apart from the shadowy heroes running things, but that’s perhaps too harsh a criticism, as Clifford has delivered so much in here that works, packed the detail, and the characterisations so tight, that this unpacking of the storyline towards the end, the dotting of those i’s and crossing of those t’s is inevitable, and shouldn’t necessarily colour my (and your) enjoyment of something very good indeed.
Artistically Robinson has tightened up over the course of the four issues so much. The initial looseness that crept in was initially tightened by Nadine Ashworth’s art assists on issue 2, but there’s no need for the assistance here, his line is fluid, light, kinetic, expressive, and his storytelling very good indeed. the big emotional strokes are done as confidently as the big action sequences with Tenderfoot confronting The Halogen Man for what may be the final time.
Right from the outset Clifford set the bar high for this one but telling us that they were “… aiming for a Pixar remake of Planetary”. Robinson certainly delivers that throughout, his cartoon style good enough to carry the weight of the story. And Clifford gets pretty close to delivering completely as well, or at least as close as he can in a limited page count, all ages comic.
Halcyon and Tenderfoot delivers something definitely all ages in the very best way. Never talking down to the audience, a multi-layered tale capable of entertaining young and old alike. Clifford and Robinson have created something they can be justifiably proud of, and something I don’t hesitate to recommend to you.
Halcyon and Tenderfoot is available from the Art Heroes website. You really should be heading there now.