Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jun 16th 2010
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
A scientist in oft-bullied Joey's town sends a message into space, hoping to make contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. Unfortunately he succeeds. The recipients of his signal are the Skrugg, a race of militant insects with no qualms about slaughtering humanity to make the Earth their own. Unfortunately for them, Joey has recently come into possession of a robot/energy being that he calls Heroman. Heroman is big, strong and nearly indestructible. When the Skrugg land, Joey takes it upon himself to drive them from his city. With the help of handicapped best bud Psy, kinda-girlfriend Lina, and Doc Denton, the guy whose message triggered the invasion, that is. Unfortunately Lina's brother and frequent Joey-bully Will is furiously opposed. The rivalry does not end well.
To anyone who thinks that children's shows are by nature simplistic, dumb and ill-written and thus deserve to be held to a lower standard than older-skewing series, one word: Heroman. Mind you, this ain't rocket science, but Heroman is proof positive that a kid's show—and one aimed at boys no less—can be intelligently written, involving, and pretty seriously kick-butt.
Given that the brain behind this trans-Pacific collaboration is comics god Stan Lee, that shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. Lee is a past master of treating childish things with grown-up respect. There's a reason folks raised on Spider-Man and the X-Men are still reading the same comics even as they have kids (and grandkids) of their own. Heroman is perhaps more consciously skewed towards the younger demographic, but Lee nevertheless populates it with efficiently and empathetically sketched characters, twisty personal tragedies, and recurring themes of power and responsibility.
Streamlined though they are, each character is distinct, with their own histories and reasons for acting as they do. Joey wants to do the right thing while avoiding strife, a reflection of his firm moral compass and somewhat deliberate outsider status. Will, for all his bravado, just wants to be his little sister's hero, and his little sister just wants her life with her brother and her sort-of boyfriend back, and is willing to go to surprising lengths to do so. Each deals with the invasion differently, and their actions lead them to an inevitable clash with potentially crushing consequences.
All of which unfolds simply and clearly, and with a surprising respect for its audience's intelligence and attention span. Never are any of the characters' traits, flaws, or influences explicitly delineated, and yet never are they in question. We are allowed to divine the tenor of Lina and Joey's relationship on our own. No one tells us that Joey likes Lina but is too shy to act on it, or that Lina knows that and likes him right back anyway. We just know. Likewise the truth behind Psy and Will's antagonism is left to us to discover, the series trusting that we'll be quick enough to extract it from a telling, and epileptic, flashback.
Neither does the series patronize its viewers by flinching away from the nastier realities of life and war. Joey is helpless to stop the bullying of the richer, bigger kids at school, and even after acquiring the powers of Heroman, he's still limited in what he can do and who he can save. He must confront the fact that not everyone wants to be saved, and that some will turn on their own in exchange for power. On a broader scale, the income divide is unromantically presented, and the series makes it amply clear that the government isn't always on the side of its citizens. Potentially heavy stuff, but presented with the same lucidity and respect as the plot and characters, so it's never leaden.
Of course all of that would be whipped cream on cow pies if the series weren't huge fun to begin with. That's where BONES comes in. Director Hitoshi Nanba keeps Lee's alien invasion yarn moving at a quick clip, building efficiently to each confrontation before unleashing a barrage of magnificently rendered action eye candy. A large and varied collection of settings get demolished, all of them, human and ickily organic Skrugg alike, finely detailed and expertly animated in their ruin. Few studios do massive destruction as BONES does, and when coupled with Nanba's eye for Heroman's retro cool and Lee's cast...well, rarely has stomping roaches been so satisfying. Emotional and psychological depth are nice, but when speaking of evil nasties from outer space, nothing beats a good alien-gooshing.
You'd do well to keep in mind, however, that it is just alien-gooshing. For all its superior qualities, this is still standard alien invasion fare, complete with silly cockroach baddies and mad scientists. It's pretty predictable, and let's not forget the stereotype-dependent character designs (even if Joey and Lina are utterly adorable). This isn't high art. What it is, as its fondness for killer cliffhangers and straightforward musical bombast will tell you, is classic serial entertainment (think Flash Gordon) done the way it should be.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B
+ A romping, stomping alien-invasion actioner for kids big and small, minus the idiocy and talking down to usually associated with such fare; eye candy galore.
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