PROJECT SUPERPOWERS OMNIBUS VOL. 3, available now from Dynamite, releases the WWII-era superheroes from Pandora’s Box into a near-future present that’s evolved without them. The heroes work to re-establish their place in the world, fight both old and new villains, and uncover the mystery of who trapped them for so long and why. This is a wholly original universe created by Alex Ross brought to life by a small army of writers and artists. Does the seminal artist’s creative vision hold up?
Alex Ross handled the cover art for both the Omnibus and the individual issue covers that encompass the collection. Ross’ covers are photo-realistic, inventive, colorful, and heroic. Everything you’ve come to expect from an Alex Ross painting is on full display.
As mentioned in the introduction above, a small army of creatives helped bring Ross’ vision to life, so rather than touch on each writer’s contributions separately, we’ll focus on Ross’ story plot.
Ross’ collection is told through a collection of solo one-shots, single-character multi-issue arcs, and team-up adventures. It’s a LOT to take in, and that’s the only flaw with the universe Ross has constructed. There’s a bit too many characters doing too many things all at once.
In total, you have a mix of stories that include 21 separate heroes of assorted rank and 26 villains the heroes encounter throughout time. Also, the characters don’t have a particularly inventive range of superpowers to make them distinctive, with a few exceptions. Most boil down to the typical set of flight, strength, invulnerability, and elemental (water, electricity, fire) manipulation. Thankfully, the omnibus comes equipped with a few cheat sheets to help new readers keep all the characters straight.
So many characters you need a cheat sheet? Vanilla powersets? “Why bother?” you may ask, but that’s not the power (pardon the pun) of this story. Ross effectively leapfrogs decades worth of canon and world-building to plop the reader right into a universe that carries the weight of it’s own history in just a fraction of the pages. Most publishers develop their stable of characters over years before having some Earth-shaking crossover event that changes everything. In PROJECT SUPERPOWERS, you start with the big crossover event and are introduced to a whole world you never knew existed. It’s like being introduced to long lost family members you never you knew you had.
The plot and structure is so steeped in lore, every story is satisfying in and of itself. and yet, each story peels back only a sliver of the larger universe waiting to be explored. It’s quite a remarkable feat to bring it all together. It’s not perfect. The reader can easily get confused following all the parallel threads, but the end result is wholly entertaining.
Again, a slew of artists contributed to this collection, so for the remainder of this review, we’ll focus on the overall quality of the art aspects rather than refer to any single creator’s work.
Set your expectations now. This is an Alex Ross creation, and Alex Ross painted all the covers, but Alex Ross did not do the internal pages. In that regard, the art is consistently inconsistent from one issue to the next. All issues are good-to-great in fleshing out this new world, but some are more distinctive than others. The sharp line work and pencil shading in Death-Defying Devil is stellar, while Masquerade’s myriad of costume changes (she goes through several) in her origin story captures the essence of her WWII origins without looking dated.
Despite the range of artistic voices, at no point did the quality of the art suffer. You simply get a different perspective…a different flavor…of Ross’ world with each new issue.
The coloring for most of the omnibus is muted, and that’s a positive. Ross deliberately designed his characters with costumes that reflect a bit of the simplicity of superheroes from the early 20th-Century. By modern superhero designs, the costumes look a bit outlandish. Like something you’d see in a circus sideshow. Therefore, keeping the colors muted keeps the outlandish aspects of the costumes a little more grounded to prevent distraction. At the same time, the muted colors add a grainy, nostalgic quality to the panels to give the impression you’re watching an old movie serial from the 1940’s, which fits perfectly in the aesthetic Ross was going for in the designs.
There’s a lot of lettering going on to cover the multitude of threads. You have characters conversing, inner monologues from each character trying to figure out what happened while they were trapped for 65+ years, and action box narration with exposition to fill in the gaps. While the artwork tended to vary from story arc to story arc, the lettering was surprisingly consistent. It kept the pace of all the stories moving, it was easy to read, and with so many characters involved, the reader never loses track of who’s saying what. Excellent job on the lettering, overall.
PROJECT SUPERPOWERS OMNIBUS VOL. 3, available from Dynamite on June 10th, brings you into a new and massive world, steeped in superhero history. Alex Ross’ creation is creative and so chock full of ideas, it will take years to unpack it all. The art team varies from issue to issue but the quality of work never suffers. You’ll get more than your money’s worth for this collection.
Author’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using Comic Shop Locator and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.