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Review time! with Super! #1

09-22-2013 10;46;46AM

“I looked in the mirror at my pigeon chest / I had to put on my clothes because it made me depressed”

Super!1

The people at Unlikely Heroes Studios sent me the first issue of their new series, Super!, and I’d like to thank them for it. It’s self-published, but the production values are excellent – it’s a nicely designed comic, with glossy paper and a professional look. It costs $2.99 and features 52 pages of story. That ain’t bad at all. This book is written by Zachary Dolan and Justin Piatt, drawn by Dolan, colored by Everardo Orozco, and lettered by Piatt. 09-22-2013 10;57;47AMTara Kappel provides art assistance, while Estela Yañez is the color assistant. It was offered in Previews, I know that much, but I’m not sure if it’s hit stores yet. If it hasn’t, it should be out soon!

As many of you know, I’m a bit burned out on superhero comics these days. That’s not to say I don’t like superhero comics, because I do, but so many of them remind me of gerbils running on the endless wheel and it kind of depresses me. So while I doubt if we need yet another superhero comic, like Super! is, I’m certainly willing to check one out that might – just might – try some different things than your standard Big Two superhero comic. I went into this issue with that kind of attitude, hoping for the best.

It’s certainly not a bad comic, but I’m not sure if I can call it a good one, either. There’s a lot to like in the book. Dolan and Piatt use their 52 pages wisely, as they introduce a TON of characters, from fairly straight-forward superheroes to parodies of your ultra-violent ones to strange supervillains (seriously, what’s up with the mime?). The book is exciting, full of action, but it also doesn’t take itself so very seriously, as Dolan and Piatt try to humanize their subjects and do it pretty well. 09-22-2013 11;01;04AMThey deflate the big fight scene at the end well, as they think about how superpowered beings would operate in the real world and how the regular folk would react to them. The city in which the story is set, Cosmopolis, feels like a real place, even if there are superheroes flying around all the time. There’s a main character, Paula, who goes by the name of “Blitz,” and the writers do a good job with her. She’s a waitress, and there’s a lot in the book about how she’s trying to make ends meet, which is a nice touch. In fact, the characters are all pretty well done – the dialogue is crisp and, while it’s a bit sitcom-clever, it does a good job giving us glimpses of the various personalities in the book. In a book with so many characters, it’s pretty impressive that the writers are able to keep them from falling too far into stereotypes. There are some very funny moments in the book, like when Blitz gets called to meet with her supergroup and the leader tells them they have to take down a villain … whom Blitz just saw get taken down by one of the A-list heroes on her way to meet them (there’s definitely a hierarchy of heroes in the book, and the writers focus on those who aren’t quite A-list). It’s the kind of thing that you can see happening in the Marvel Universe, because there are so many heroes in New York, but it doesn’t, if at all. Dolan and Piatt do a nice job thinking of things like that. Most of all, this is fairly unabashed love of superheroes in this book, which doesn’t come through too often in Big Two books. I love a good deconstruction as much as the next guy, but sometimes characters just have powers and they like fighting evil, you know?

Dolan’s art is a bit early 1990s Image-y, but for a straight-forward superhero story, it works well, and there’s no denying he (and Orozco) really make the book look great, from the details in each panel to the compact but tight storytelling that allows Dolan to give us truly impressive double-page splash pages, from the cool designs of pretty much every character to the way Dolan makes sure that when Paula is being a “civilian,” she actually looks like a regular person. 09-22-2013 11;05;19AMOrozco over-renders some of the work, but he does a good job with the special effects and he contrasts the brightness of the action with the duller (but not dark) hues of the mundane world.

You might wonder why I don’t love this comic more. Well, there’s the unfortunate problem that it’s a bit too similar to the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League and Astro City, two of the better superhero comics of the past 30 years, and while I don’t mind if that’s the template Dolan and Piatt are following, it still feels a bit familiar. We need more comics like those in the world, to be sure, but writers need to do something new with that template, and in this issue at least, it doesn’t feel like Dolan and Piatt are going for anything like that. They might get there in future issues, but for now, they’re not quite there. I know this is more of my gut feeling than anything quantifiable – as I noted, there’s nothing blatantly wrong with the comic – but it doesn’t have that hook that really makes me want to read more. The big twist at the end is easy to see coming, but there’s nothing wrong with it and can have some nice story implications down the line, but it didn’t really grab me so much that I started jonesing for the next issue. The writing and art is fine, but for whatever reason, it only connected with me on a mild “Well, that was pretty good” way. That’s just the way I feel. Sorry, I can’t help it!

I will say that if you’re a bit bored by Marvel and DC superheroes, this is a nice alternative. It’s the same price or cheaper as the Big Two books, and it’s over twice as long as those are, and Dolan and Piatt don’t waste space with double-page spreads that could fit the same amount of information into one panel. There’s a lot of good stuff in the book, and I’m a bit bummed it didn’t hit me on a more visceral level. But I encourage everyone to check it out, either digitally or, if your store happens to get a copy, in the real world!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

8 Comments

According to the Previews site, this should be in stores this Wednesday.

I decided to take a chance on this and should have the first 3 issues ordered through my store. From what I skimmed of your review (I don’t wanna be spoiled!), it sounds decent, at least. I forgot 1 was a big issue, so that’s cool too. Hope it’s good and hope these people do well with it.

Travis: Thanks, sir. Good to know. I didn’t really spoil anything in the review – if I had, I would have made sure to warn people!

It could get better in the next few issues. A lot of what made those classic superhero comics work was the serial nature, which allowed the creators to keep building and building into an increasingly engrossing saga on both the personal and the epic scales. Since these creators don’t have to worry about their characters getting derailed by Company Crossovers (the default mode of communication for Marvel and DC’s publishing, sadly), this could become really good, even if the start wasn’t the best. I’m curious about if from your review, anyway.

Neil: Sure, and there’s a lot of potential here. I hope that I can connect to it – I haven’t been impressed with a lot of pilots of television shows, but they’ve gone on to be great series. That’s kind of how I’m viewing this issue, and I hope it does become great.

Completely unrelated, but since you didn’t do a Sunday Brunch like I hoped, here’s a link for the big Top Shelf sale through Friday. I am going to have to cut my want list down so much for it, but there are several things I can’t pass up. Plus, I was extremely happy with my order through TS a few years back, so now that I’m able to, I definitely wanna order again.

http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/special-deals?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%25202013%2520Top%2520Shelf%2520Massive%25203%2520Sale&utm_content=The%25202013%2520Top%2520Shelf%2520Massive%25203%2520Sale+CID_bfa0d3c849e5fe076d3b929db07398a2&utm_source=Email%2520marketing%2520software&utm_term=2013%2520Top%2520Shelf%2520Massive%25203%2520Graphic%2520Novel%2520Sale

damn, that’s a big ass link!

Travis: I always appreciate the Top Shelf sale, so thanks for posting that. I’ve been annoyingly busy in the real world for a while, so I haven’t had time to surf the Internet as much as I’d like. We’ll see when it slows down, but the sale might be over then!

So I got Super 1 this week, and I read it and enjoyed it quite a bit. I would agree with most of your review, but I have to say, if you’re going to compare it to Giff/DeMatteis JL and Astro City, almost EVERY book around would fall short. This also reminded me a bit of Common Grounds/Holey Crullers, but with more focus on the humor. For what it’s doing (a humorous take on mid-level skilled superheroes, with a love for said superheroes on every page), this is pretty damn good.

I think it’s a good book, I like where it’s going, the art’s decent, and I don’t regret blindly adding it to my pull list. If people aren’t liking the big 2 (or one of them, as one of them is decidedly better lately), they should go for books like this, or Scam, or Westward, or other ones that you’ve convinced me to part with my shekels for.

(Actually, I fell for the big ad in Previews on this one. Boy, I’m susceptible to hype!)

And btw, I ordered from Top Shelf. Boy, did I! Could…not…resist…sale…prices!!!! C’mon, 8 bucks for the HC of Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants? And all the other stuff I got too….

Travis: Yeah, that’s true, but I felt like I had to mention it, because those were the two books that leaped to mind when I read it. But I agree that it’s almost an impossible standard to live up to!

I’m hoping the Scam trade gets offered in Previews soon (I didn’t see it in the latest catalog) because I’m curious about it. We shall see!

I skipped the Top Shelf sale this year, but I’m always glad they have it, because it is very neat.

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