HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Graphic Depictions Today's Date:

Supreme Power: Contact

We've come to the point in superhero comics that originality is rare, not for a lack of talent or creativity, but simply because the superhero genre has been tackled from almost every perspective. These multiple plot slants can range from straight superheroic storytelling (Superman), crime/noir (Batman, Greyshirt, Top 10), abstract (Madman), humor (Formerly Known As The Justice League), etc.

The difficulty in creating anything truly new drives many writers to simply take an old idea and look at it in a new light. Warren Ellis does this all the time in Planetary; he takes superhero canon and changes or updates the material. Everyone from The Hulk to Doc Savage has had a version of him or herself tweaked by Ellis, usually twisted into being almost unidentifiable.

The point being that, while it sounds like a hack writing technique to rehash old characters and plotlines, it actually takes a hefty amount of talent to make the old seem new again, or the familiar not seem repetitive.

Supreme Power is J. Michael Straczynski's imagining of the origins of the Squadron Supreme: a team of superheroes, (a thinly veiled version of DC's Justice League of America, which in turn echoes the original Justice Society of America) that originally appeared as foes of Marvel's Avengers). When this series was launched, Marvel re-released a previous twelve issue maxi-series Squadron Supreme in a large collection with a new cover by Alex Ross. Have no worries if you have yet to read the original work by Mark Gruenwald, because Straczynski's Supreme Power bears only a passing resemblance.

A middle-aged couple is driving through the heartland of America when an alien ship crashes into a cornfield. Upon investigation, they find an infant inside, and the couple decides to take him home and raise him as their own. Sound familiar? About twenty minutes after they get the little bugger home, a special ops team is knocking on the door and removing the "subject" from their care. The similarities to the Superman mythos end right about there.

Straczynski does the best job I've ever seen in bringing the idea of the superhero into the real world, and more importantly, the modern world. The child is taken by and becomes a ward of the United States government, under President Carter's administration, and the questions of what to do with him start popping up. From his DNA, skin density, and abnormal level of strength, they know he is extraterrestrial. The government knows that this child, referred to as Project Hyperion, will become a massively powerful asset to the United States if he is raised with just the correct mix of propaganda and nationalistic pride, so they design a long-term plan to raise the perfect American. And it works.

Something that Straczynski does throughout the book, especially in scenes involving the government and Project Hyperion, is take out any great moral delineation. Some writers would be tempted, when writing about a government that covers up a secret agenda, to demonize the government, military, and research scientists involved with the project. Straczynski keeps the reading in a morally ambiguous zone, where the reader can look at every character objectively. The research scientists and personnel involved with Project Hyperion are not some shadow cabal or divergent branch of the American bureaucracy, but our own government dealing with a situation that has no base of reference.

While it might be considered somewhat black-hat to create a false home environment to influence the growing mind of a child, the reasoning behind the action is explained in a very logical manner by Straczynski, much of which has to do with the safety of the nation. The CIA operatives chosen to become Mark Milton's (Hyperion's) parents, while they don't love but rather fear their adopted son, still treat him as a son. The father listens to Mark when he's having problems, especially as Mark deals with his growing number of powers. The mother performs her Donna Reed-like role perfectly, and it is never alluded to that they resent either Mark or the situation they are in. It makes the graphic novel far more complex and far more enjoyable when the reader is challenged to define the ethics of the characters, without being spoon-fed the author's own perceptions.

Also of note is the way Straczynski updates and introduces the audience to the rest of the future Squadron Supreme. The Blur, a super-speedster, entering the national stage as an opportunistic spokesperson for several companies, was an interesting twist, as well as was the militaristic background of Joe "The Doctor" Ledger (who will become Dr. Spectrum, a Green Lantern type). The vigilante Nighthawk takes the revenge psychosis to a higher level than the Dark Knight himself, and Straczynski places a few hints as to which Squadron members will show up in further volumes.

The artwork is great and the way the narrative flows so well with the artwork attests to the fact that penciler Gary Frank and Straczynski have worked together before, on Midnight Nation. Frank is an all-around good artist: he has detail in facial expression, body movement, and structural aspects. He paces his panels appropriately to the text and narrative, and uses several different perspectives to frame a scene. My only problem with his art, which may be a result of the inking done by John Sibal, is that there appears to be a glut of skin creases and facial lines on some of the characters, no matter what their age happens to be. It's a small thing that I've found that bugs me (Frank Quitely does it all the time), but doesn't detract from my like of a book.

Supreme Power: Contact is a great beginning to what promises to be a great series, not to mention another valid superhero deconstruction (or are we at the point where we'd have to start reconstructing those spandex/leather-clad do-gooders?). The strength of the story is that it is not about being a superhero, but superhuman in world completely unfamiliar to the concept. Straczynski worries about the character first, and avoids the pitfall of having the power define the man, and he posits a logical reaction for the whole of society as it confronts super-humanity. I love seeing something like this come out of Marvel, which is the company I have always consigned to producing the less affecting stories and characters.

It goes to show that cynical college students can still be surprised.

At $14.99, you get a story with a lot of depth for a little price.

Supreme Power

Robert Sparling

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites