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Geek chic

Television

Geek chic

With Heroes, comic-book culture gains a prime-time hit

Last year the NBC drama Heroes proved that comic-book culture may have officially reached its zenith. It's one thing for films featuring Spider-Man and Batman to succeed. But geek-chic deserves a new level of recognition when a prime-time television show-whose entire framing device is comic panels come to life-scores major ratings.

For the most part, the program's popularity is well-earned. The lineup of characters-all of whom possess supernatural abilities thanks to a genetic mutation-are well-drawn and endearing. Has anyone ever watched an episode without coming away smitten by time-traveling Hiro (Masi Oka)? And unlike the problems that have plagued Lost, Heroes' complex plots appear to have clear direction that offer frequent, satisfying explanations.

Though the storyline of Nikki (Ali Larter), a former stripper, provided some objectionable material early on, producers backed off from that content. What they haven't backed off from is violence, and when the good and the bad guys clash here, they do so with a gross-out factor that rivals CSI.

On the other hand, true to graphic-novel tradition, Heroes also boasts characters who feel duty-bound to use their abilities honorably. Parents will especially appreciate Claire (Hayden Panettiere), a bright, thoughtful, and, incidentally, indestructible 17-year-old who actually shows her father love and respect.