22 June 2008 | MaxBorg89
"Volume One of their epic journey begins here..."
"Mutation: it is the key to our evolution". That was the first phrase of the monologue that opened X-Men. The pilot episode of Heroes, titled Genesis, begins with a similar text, indicating that, with the film franchise having reached its conclusion (spin-offs notwithstanding), this is the closest we'll ever get to a live-action X-Men TV series. And may I add, a really great series, too.
Much like Bryan Singer's film showed ordinary people developing extraordinary abilities, Heroes starts with a group of individuals, living on all sides of the globe, coming to discover their new selves: Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), a good-hearted nurse who's assisting a dying man (Richard Roundtree) and has a brother (Adrian Pasdar) running for Congress in New York, is convinced he can fly after experiencing some very suggestive dreams; Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera), a drug-addicted artist, is supposedly capable of painting the future; Niki Sanders (Ali Larter), a single mom who has to strip on the internet to make ends meet and take care of her son Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey), is suddenly scared by her reflection in the window; Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere), a cheerleader from Odessa, Texas, can recover from any wound instantly; Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), a Japanese office drone, believes he can alter the time-space continuum. A normal person whose destiny seems to be tied with theirs is Mohinder Suresh (Sendil Ramamurthy), an Indian geneticist who moves to New York after hearing his father, a researcher who thought mutants (in lack of a better word) existed, was murdered while looking for them. And somehow all of this appears to be linked to a solar eclipse that occurs almost halfway through the episode.
Genesis is a bona fide first issue of a comic-book brought to the small screen: all the characters are introduced, their abilities are more or less explained and events are set in motion for some kind of life-altering incident that will determine the storyline of Volume One. There are also comic-based elements in the show's formal execution: captions indicate where the various people are, episode (or better, chapter) titles and numbers are shown on screen, and the final scene cuts to a completely black frame with the words "To be continued..." written on it. Furthermore, there's a bit of a comic-book geekiness in Masi Oka's performance, which provides some comic relief that sits well with the seriousness of other people's acting (Pasdar and Ventimiglia most of all).
But Heroes is more than a mere superhero show, in fact not one character is seen wearing a cape or some other fancy item of clothing. They're all "normal" people. Perhaps the name "Heroes" can be compared to the title of a comic-book that Marvel Comics published after 9/11: made by all the major writers and artists in the business, Heroes featured stories of the firemen and policemen who helped get the victims out of the Twin Towers. A few years later, a Spider-Man comic emphasized the role of those people by having someone saying to Spidey: "You're not a hero. Firemen and cops, people who risk their lives every day, they're the real heroes".
In light of that interpretation, it's no coincidence that Peter Petrelli, the only "hero" who believes our actions serve a higher purpose, is a nurse, i.e. someone who helps those in pain and does his best to save their lives (one should also note his alliterated initials, another comic-book staple, which match those of Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man). It's no coincidence most of the main characters are common men and women, with common lives and common jobs. They are the people who can really make a difference. As such, Heroes is a powerful meditation on the world we live in, a reflection disguised as a TV superhero epic.