Writer / Artist: Kendra Wells
Publisher: Iron Circus Comics
Released: February 01, 2022
You might think you’ve heard this before, a rogue, warrior, cleric, and mage set out on an adventure. But Real Hero Shit’s cast of characters twists those fantasy trope expectations on their head to create a layered, emotional, and relatable cast. The struggles, histories, and personalities of each of the four main cast result in identifiable characters. Characters that I came to care about during this debut title.
Introducing the Adventure
Kendra Wells’ Real Hero Shit launched as a Kickstarter project back in October of 2021 and raised over $83,000. Wells, an illustrator and artist, wrote and illustrated this graphic novel. The story starts with a stereotypical spoiled prince, Eugene. He is more concerned with his next sexual escapade than with the population of his kingdom. However, Eugene realizes that he is a joke in the kingdom and is determined to find independence. Enter a struggling group of adventurers. Anjelica a mage of her own making. Hocus a mage of a religious order. And Michel an elf rogue with a mysterious past.
The dialog and characterizations set Real Hero Shit apart from traditional fantasy writing. Wells’ explores numerous identity issues including gender and sexuality. Fortunately, the characters have depth and nuance which creates a cast that comes alive on the page. This is not inclusion for the sake of a diversity checkbox. Wells develops each character with a history and backstory that allow the reader to identify with them and care about them. Prince Eugene has the most growth in this first book. Anjelica, the self-taught mage, bristles at Eugene’s arrogance, but begins to see some of the same depth that the reader does. Wells introduces Michel’s difficult past and leaves threads to explore in future titles.
Bending & Breaking Expectations
Hocus is a complex character, not just in es gender identity, but also through the devotion and conflict connected to es religious order. This order and the corruption of it provide the central conflict for the second half of the book. Wells introduces the mystery that hopefully will be a running thread through future titles. However, even a foiled plot does not resolve the larger plot. While the adventurers are heroes, the explanation about why this conflict was happening remains a mystery.
Real Hero Shit occasionally uses some anime-inspired over-the-top visual jokes and reactions. Initially, these seem out of place within the fantasy setting. Fortunately, Wells blends genres and expectations together to create a unique experience. Just as Wells’ characters are not bound by any one definition, the narrative blends and bends norms to create a satisfying experience that will leave readers eager for the next adventure.
Real Hero Recommendation
Kendra Wells creates thoroughly complex characters and a rich world ready for future stories. Hopefully, Real Hero Shit is just the start of this adventure. Wells’ ability to create exciting action, humorous moments, and endearing characters result in a story that is highly recommended. An inclusive recommendation for teen and adult readers for a book that uses a medieval fantasy setting to speak to a modern audience.