Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Superior Hardcover Review

Marvel Comics - Icon
192 pages
$24.99 (2012) Hardcover
$19.99 (2013) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9780785136187

Contributors: Mark Millar, Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Jeff Huet, Muasond, Sunny Gho, Dave McCaig, Javier Tartaglia, and Clayton Cowles

Reprints: Superior #1-7 (of 7)

Synopsis: Simon Pooni was a popular middle school student and star of the basketball team.  Then he developed multiple sclerosis and the debilitating genetic disease made him a prisoner in his own body.  Escapism through works of popular fiction became his only reprieve from the frustrating depression of real life.  All of his friends slowly disappeared from his life - it's too hard to be friends with a cripple who cries all the time after all.  Chris was Simon's only remaining, true friend who would spend time with him each week watching whatever action flick was out in theaters.

One of his favorite movie characters is Superior, played by actor Tad Scott.  Larger than life and ready to fight the good fight, it's Superior!  Four sequels later and Superior's box office proceeds are starting to dwindle along with poor Tad's career.  He's in a pinch to get any acting work, but no one wants to hire the typecast actor.  Not many fans with Simon's dedication are left out there.

An unexpected wake up call
Simon's life takes a bizarre turn as a tiny monkey in a space suit (named Ormon) appears in his bedroom one night and transforms him into Superior.  How is he going to explain this to his Mom?  Now Simon must deal with his transformation into Superior after being cooped up in a wheelchair.  Fortunately he's got his best friend Chris to help him figure out how to work all of the powers.
That's not your daddy's Superman!  
Why did Ormon give him powers in the first place?  Will Superior's rogue's gallery start coming to life next? Suddenly Tad Scott is under the scrutiny of the world media.  How did a movie character start performing miracles?  Becoming your greatest hero was never this tough, but Simon is blessed or cursed with amazing power.  Can he stay true to the high morals of Superior or will power corrupt him in the face of real life problems?

Pros: Excellent artwork by Leinil Yu, good concept riffed from Superman/Captain Marvel (aka Shazam!), typically solid writing by Millar, includes multiple sclerosis and kids with health issues, monkey space astronaut, swearing
That's an understatement
Cons: Very obvious riff on Superman/Captain Marvel (aka Shazam!), plot is fairly simple with only one interesting twist, low replay value, a kid nicknamed 'Sharpie?'

Mike Tells It Straight: Mark Millar continues his creator-owned mini-series projects after the wildly successful Wanted and Kick-Ass.  This time he performs a story mash-up of Superman, Captain Marvel (Shazam!), and the movie Big.  He gives a regular kid the power of a superhero and explores what happens.  It's a mildly interesting experiment, but a lot of folks (myself included) will notice nothing really new to the comic book medium is happening here.  It's just a riff on Superman/Shazam! with a few tweaks to the story.

I find it really interesting when people complain that all comic book or fiction writing today is a recycling of past concepts.  All ideas have come before and writers just riff on the concepts without any real talent.  We've all heard the argument from friends or on forums.  It's a valid argument.  I've read interviews with Alan Moore saying the same thing.  Then he goes and does The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where he riffs on a bunch of Victorian fiction writers' characters who are no longer under copyright.
The damsel in distress

What's interesting to me is the fact the music industry is exactly the same way.  We've got countless artists taking other people's music (sampling and/or remixing) and putting their own spin on it.  We don't complain as much when a good song comes out of this conceptual thievery.  We bop along to it and the artists makes money (so does the estate of the living/dead original artist).  It's the same thing with comic books, particularly company-owned characters.  Creators can only riff on the characters because the company is too preoccupied with maintaining the viability of their creative asset.

I like the fact Millar has done a spin on Superman/Shazam! and made an entertaining story out of it.  The story didn't feel like an original concept, but it was amusing and had a few different things to say.  I don't think it has much replay value, but Millar has a major fast track to Hollywood these days and he's a smart cookie.  Maybe we'll see another one of his creations green lit for production.  I don't think it will be Superior, but keep trying Millar - let's see what else ya got!

TO BUY and Recommendations: