Comic Book / No Hero
How much do you want to be a superhuman?

"I'm no hero, Ben."

No Hero is the second super-hero miniseries from Warren Ellis at Avatar Press, and also his second collaboration with artist Juan Jose Ryp. If Black Summer is what happened when the superhumans were too human, this is what happens when they're inhuman. The series started with issue #0 and lasted for 8 issues, from June, 2008 to September, 2009.

Taking place in 2011, the super hero group Front Line has just lost several members to attacks targeted at them, and are rushing to replace them when they find Joshua Carver, a young man who wants nothing more than to be a super hero. And he'll get his wish, if he can survive the process...

No Hero provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alternate History: It's implied the Front Line has changed history significantly, including the dissolution of South Africa and the institution of "Black States" in the USA.
  • And I Must Scream: Carrick ends the book leaving Earth's orbit. He cannot die of asphyxiation, decompression, dehydration, starvation, or any of the other things he has to look forward to...
  • Anti-Hero: Joshua, he accidentally kills a mugger to impress the Frontline and is actually a government Serial-Killer Killer.
  • Art Evolution: Joshua becomes a little less deformed after the fourth issue, probably since what happens next is more unsettling if Joshua is capable of showing more emotions. Justified in issue 5: it's the next day, so he could still be changing. But the real change happens in issues 6 and 7 — barely some hours later.
  • Asexuality: Joshua realizes this about himself after losing his penis.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Jonestown was a front for a CIA lab attempting to develop a FX7 analogue.
  • Beware the Superman: What happens when you give superpowers to a monster?
  • Body Horror: What FX 7 does to Joshua. It makes his skin, teeth and penis fall off.
  • Code Name: Pretty funny ones used by a couple of government agents for Joshua and Carrick.
    Male Agent: Pigeon One has been caught, and Dick Dastardly's on his way back to the coop, over.
    Female Agent: Are we serious with those codenames?
    Male Agent: Don't get me started.
  • Complete Immortality: Carrick Masterson. He can't age, get killed by external means, but he does feel pain.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Joshua against the Frontline. One of the most extreme cases EVER.
  • Deceptive Disciple: Joshua actually has no intention to be with the Frontline, despising Carrick's megalomania.
  • Drugs Are Bad: This definitely seems to be a message, if not the message, of the story. Boy, does it go out of its way to show why.
  • Electronic Eyes: Mr. Marsh has computers in his head and it's revealed by glowing eyes.
  • Engineered Heroics: In issue 6, Joshua makes a fine impression on the people of San Francisco by redirecting a disabled airliner from slamming into a building and belly-landing it in the bay. Then two other members of The Front Line show up and casually tell him they killed the pilots and threw the plane at the building for him to save.
  • Evil vs. Evil: This is what the story turns into when Josh takes on The Front Line.
  • Eye Beams: Redglare has heat vision.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Carrick can't die, so what does Joshua do? He flies him into space so he could drift for eternity.
  • Freudian Excuse: Joshua's parents were murdered by a serial killer who adopted him and taught him his craft.
  • Genuine Human Hide: The cover of issue 6 shows Carrick sitting in a chair upholstered in human skin. You can tell because of the nipples and stitched-closed faces.
  • Goomba Stomp: Joshua's first in-panel kill, delivered to a mugger from three stories up. The unfortunate man's ears come right off in a spurt of blood.
  • Gorn: Lots of it, the most extreme being Joshua tearing out Ben's spine, and then using Ben's muscles to wrap it around his waist to imitate a penis.
  • Hero's First Rescue: Subverted when Joshua stops a plane from crashing into New York.
  • Holding Out for a Hero: Invoked by Carrick:
    "It does people good to have super-powered heroes. It makes them think they're incapable of doing anything for themselves. That forms the basis of a society that is useful to me."
  • Homage: Each issue had an alternate cover based on an iconic comic cover, such as Watchmen #1, Crisis on Infinite Earths #71, and X-Men #100.
  • I Am a Monster: Josh says as much, claiming to be the FBI's pet monster periodically assigned to kill other monsters like Masterson.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Joshua Carver is this at the beginning.
  • Immortality Hurts: Carrick, in no uncertain language.
  • Jumped at the Call: Josh really worked to get Carrick's attention.
  • Kill 'em All: The ending of the story. With the exception of Carrick.
  • Meaningful Name: Joshua Carver. Based on his last name, he did exactly that to The Front Line — that is to say, carving it out. After all, it is what he does best.
  • Necessary Evil: The Front Line, for its many wrongs, are at the same time keeping fault lines stable, are behind several aid efforts, and are also insuring economic stability in some parts of the world.
    • The FBI keeps Joshua who has been raised in a way that he can't stop from hurting people and uses him as their best assassin when situation demand a Evil vs. Evil. He fully aknowledges he is a monster and knows he belongs behind bars but his sadism shows
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Without Carrick and the Front Line, the last two pages indicate the entire world is beginning to collapse, with economic markets failing, wars starting and the White House being destroyed with a plane.
  • Noodle Incident: Those Two Government Agents discussing Joshua:
    Female Agent: What do you think that crazy little bastard's doing in there?
    Male Agent: Remember Allentown? Probably a bit like that.
    Female Agent: Christ.
  • Personality Powers: Justified since FX 7 brings out what is inside as super powers. Josh's horrific transformation after taking FX 7 is the first big hint about his true nature — a serial killer with a chameleon-like personality. No face of his own, so to speak....
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Carrick explicitly states that the purpose of the Front Line is selfish as hell. "The more people alive there are, the more people there are to earn money that will eventually be given to me. Also, the more people there are to breed girls whom I will eventually fuck." They save people, shut down Nixon and Vietnam, kept the French from getting nuclear weapons, destroyed Iran's oil reserves to nip terrorism in the bud, etc., because it is good for business. They're assholes of the first degree, but they've made their world better than ours (maybe — the line about "black states" imply that the US went through an apartheid-like stage at some point). And once Joshua shuts them down on behalf of every government on the planet, everything goes straight to hell.
  • Psycho Serum: FX 7, it gives you power but the effect kicks off with horrible hallucination since it works with stress. Carrick made a special room that was inspired of Crowley's occult chamber to make sure the subject has a bad trip. It's not unheard that it leaves the heroes traumatized and the first generation drugged themselves to avoid having flashback of it.
  • The Reveal: Joshua is actually a serial killer who became an FBI mole sent to infiltrate the Front Line and destroy them from the inside.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Joshua to Carrick when he claims the world will collapse without him.
    Joshua: I lived in a box most of my life and my world was ruled by a guy who fucked wounds of his victims! One man to rule the world no thanks!
  • Shrine to Self: Carrick has a hallway of self-portraits done by various artists — the styles of Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol are the most immediately recognizable.
  • Shown Their Work: FX7 is based on a real-life psychedelic tryptamine, 5-MEO-DIPT, with "unknown" modifications. While it will not turn you into a superhero by way of Body Horror, it is a fairly strong psychedelic discovered by Alexander Shulgin, who Carrick is at least partially modeled after.
  • Super Serum: FX 7 is how the characters get their superpowers. Unfortunately, it is also Psycho Serum.
  • The Teetotaler: Josh never drinks, never smokes, and is a vegan. The only non-prescription drug he takes is FX 7. Though it turns out this applies rather to his FBI-produced cover than necessarily to himself. Mandy did comment that he downed FX 7 very quickly for a supposed teetotaler.
  • Title Drop: Doubles as a Wham Line as things take a dark turn afterward.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Front Line. Especially Carrick.