Super hero re-imaginings or super bashing is now quite an established genre. As the capes enter the post-modern era, and more importantly the mainstream media, the original fans now want something different. We have seen heroes, anti-heroes and now it seems we crave realism or scepticism when it comes to our fantasy figures.
J. Michael Straczynski takes the well told story of a baby from another world falling to earth and growing into a man of immense power – a superman. Rather than being raised anonymously by adoring middle-American parents he is raised by the US government. It is a paranoid government starting with Jimmy Carter and shaped by Vietnam and the Cold War. They see him as their property, their asset, to be used for their greater good. He is kept in a Truman Show style bubble and spoon fed values straight from “The Waltons” or “Little House on the Prairie.” Eventually he is put to work both publically and secretly.
You can tell Straczynski is a Hollywood scriptwriter as his stories aren’t mere cartoons. His characters and stories have true depth and display real emotions. This isn’t 244 pages of 2D heroes and villains having a massive punch-up. This is an examination of identity, heroism and a realistic inquiry into how we treat those different to ourselves.
The “super-man” isn’t the only character with powers as several others emerge allowing us to explore various origin stories and see how different personalities react to unlimited power. What comes across is the fact that being special makes you incredibly lonely and the more super a super-human is the less humanity he is treated with. The touching part is seeing these isolated individuals reach out to each other. There is an ensemble cast and as such things progress slowly but as there are many more volumes for this story to run you don’t mind. There are plenty of in-jokes and comic lore references and even the heroes themselves are based on established icons (man who runs fast, man with alien gizmo, baby from outer-space, billionaire with no powers but high-tech gadgets, etc.) but this is a strength.
The art is excellent but not innovative or unique. The words clearly come first but there is only as much dialogue as their needs to be. It is quite cinematic in places but the simple style compliments the story rather than hinders it. I am definitely looking forward to the next volume so it is definitely a Thumbs Up from me!
Tomorrow: Supreme Power: Powers & Principalities – J. Michael Straczynski