Warren Ellis’ graphic novel No Hero (Avatar Press) is a superhero take on the seduction and corruption that comes with power. It describes an alternate history in which a team of hippie heroes starts out in ’60s Berkeley projecting a socially conscious, do-gooding image. “I am an American, I am a chemist, and I am free,” their leader announces from the corner of San Francisco’s Haight and Ashbury. “We don’t want to own anything, rule anything, or control anything.”
Yet over the decades, the team members refuse to share the secret of their power, and by book’s end they are revealed to have exerted a controlling (and extremely profitable) influence on world events, even consolidating their influence by allowing threats to the lives of the citizens they’re supposedly sworn to protect. Expanding beyond Alan Moore’s seminal superheroes-as-fascists book, Watchmen, Ellis’ story is a reminder that even under the cover of grooviness, power corrupts and superhuman power corrupts superhumanly.