Written by: Mark Millar
Pencils by: Leinil Francis Yu
Inks by: Gerry Alanguilan
Colors by: Sunny Gho
Lettering by: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by: Leinil Yu
Publisher: Marvel’s Icon & Millarworld
I never would have thought I’d say this about a Mark Millar comic, but this is a feel-good story with a lot of heart. Simon was just a regular kid that played basketball and went to school. His life got tragically changed forever when he got diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Here are some cold hard facts about MS from Wikipedia:
“A person with MS can suffer almost any neurological symptom or sign, including changes in sensation such as loss of sensitivity or tingling, pricking or numbness (hypoesthesia and paresthesia), muscle weakness, clonus, muscle spasms, or difficulty in moving; difficulties with coordination and balance (ataxia); problems in speech (dysarthria) or swallowing (dysphagia), visual problems (nystagmus, optic neuritis including phosphenes, or diplopia), fatigue, acute or chronic pain, and bladder and bowel difficulties.”
It exhaust me to even read those lists of symptoms, I couldn’t imagine the difficulty of living with them. So Simon ends up in a wheelchair and endures some serious changes to his life including vicious taunts from kids at school. Then a monkey in an astronaut suit grants him a wish that turns Simon into Superior. Superior is Millar’s love letter to Superman. He’s a fictional character in this world starring in movies and comic books, and when Simon wish is granted he turns into the actual character (not the actor that plays him) and becomes the world’s first superhero.
Simon gets a to be Superior for a week and then the rug get’s pulled out from under him. This Faust-like plot reveals the monkey-naut is a demon and he wants Simon to sell his soul to Satan in exchange for being Superior. What a dick! How completely cruel it is to do something like that? To take someone who is completely afflicted, and offers them superhuman powers, only to take it away unless they sell their soul. Not to mention what a shitty bait-and-switch sales tactic. It makes me mad just thinking about it.Now, I’m not too keen on religion in my comics, nor heavy-handed emotional manipulation, but I was able to look past that because the story advanced with a new twist at every turn. That’s why this comic is so good. It’s a clever narrative gets under your skin a bit. It challenges your sense of justice. You can’t help but have empathy for Simon. If you has MS would you sell your soul for super powers? I probably would. We see what a good kid he is when he decides to return to his old body and reject the deal. And your emotions get taken for a ride as we learn that an old-bully of Simon’s gets offered a similar deal to become Abraxas, Superior’s fictional arch-nemesis. He’s out to fuck up Simon and everything he holds dear. Temptation is out the door. The monkey-naut demon is just trying to force Simon into selling his soul at this point. Simon has to choose to become Superior and save the planet at the cost of his own soul or just let it all get destroyed. That brings us to the double-sized issue #7 finale, the one that declares, “the gloves are finally off”.
It’s no spoiler that Superior kicks some ass this issue. It’s on the cover. It’s a world-threatening show down and there is one big-ass holy hell of a beat down. The kind where there is mile-high explosions, outer-space brawls and entire city blocks get destroyed. Leinil Yu illustrates this beautifully in his signature style of loose line work, kool-aid colors (by Sonny Gho) and “dynamic pseudo-realism” (his words not mine). You can feel the brutality of the battle, and see the true impact and collateral damage a conflict like this can actually cause. Things get out of hand, and there are casualties. He does not spare us the sordid details. Also of note are his gloriously terrifying renderings of demons. The man can sure draw some hellish creatures when he wants to. Yu’s art can be a little rough around the edges at times and can come across as sloppy or rushed, but he really brings his “A” game to this issue and steps it up. Perhaps inks by Gerry Alanguilan help polished it up. Either way it was a really solid effort by the art team.
Once the epic bout of super-powered combat resolves we do finally get a cathartic and enjoyable conclusion. All the plot lines and loose ends are wrapped up, there’s no deus ex-machina cheat. The resolution is smart with a kind of right-in-front-of-your-face logic that’s refreshing. It’s a clue that’s been out in the open all along, anyone could have figure it out. Things are forever changed and there’s no going back to the status quo. That’s beauty of independent comics, you can actually write a third act that matters and has lasting consequences. I can actually imagine him pitching this, “It’s like the movie Big, with a Faust-like twist… meets Superman.” Millar interprets the more interesting parts of these stories, and gives it his own spin. That of course means lot’s of swearing, uncomfortable situations and obscene levels of graphic violence. It’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed the hell out of this comic. There is a bit of cheeky dialogue in the dénouement that I could do without, but more or less this is exactly the kind of popcorn Hollywood finish this comic needed. I felt good after reading the ending. And actually I was a bit moved when I discovered that this comic was dedicated to Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner. How fitting that respect is given to the actor and director of the first two Superman movies, where so much of the tone and mood of this comic borrows. If you are looking for that Millar story that’s a bit different from his usual grind of deviant heroes, and depraved villains give Superior a shot (but if you are just fine with that sort of thing like I am, the Supercrooks preview at end of this book should be right up your alley).
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