Friday, September 16, 2005

SUPREME POWER #18

Yet another season finale that left me cold.

Supreme Power has been a supreme frustration for the duration of its run. This should have been so very, very good and it wasn't. It was JM Straczynski's chance to take what he learned from the similarly themed Rising Stars and make a second effort that was leaner, meaner, and had a more manageable cast. But in trimming the fat, Straczynski ended up cutting away the soul.

The individual characters reimagined from Squadron Supreme are, on the whole, fantastically rendered character sketches. Good Soldier Joe Ledger's oddly sweet pairing with Kingsley; Nighthawk's bitter, self-indulgent, self-deluding bigotry; Stan's strain to keep his moral grounding in the wake of commercial and governmental powers greater than he can understand; Mark Milton's race to absorb the truths he learns and his unwillingness to play to type.

The problem is that those sketches are never filled out past their utilitarian design. We don't especially empathize with anyone, certainly not in the way John or Randy or Chandra or Jason or anyone from Rising Stars. The characters here are merely extensions of their roles and remain enigmatic instead of drawing us in to their plight. The Specials in RS all had so-human strengths and weaknesses -- fear of parental disapproval, jealousy, self-esteem, shyness, ambition, anger, and forty different kinds of the loneliness that comes from being a geek in a group of freaks. Not enough of that comes through in Supreme Power, where nobody seems to either genuinely enjoy their abilities or mourn what makes them different. It all felt a little... businesslike. Paradigms that are interestingly painted, but are plastic action figures nonetheless.

The actual story of this first act -- Supreme Power returns after a miniseries-filled hiatus, but as a Marvel Knights title instead of a MAX book -- is an old Big Brother Gone Bad story done well... until JMS rolls off the rails at the end, which is pretty much what he did with RS, too.

All throughout this series, the scenes where Hyperion challenges his former masters crackle, the irresistable force slamming into the unmovable object. But they often got bogged down by distractions, mostly in the The Military Is Eeeeevil! style. Certainly in this last issue, which seemed almost as much about President Chimpy McHaliburton (featuring the sadly wronged Clintons (cough, retch) in a cameo) and mocking the War on Terror than it did about setting up the premise that will have the Squadron actually formed in the next series. Those jump-cut not-quite-reaction shots repeating the speech weren't enough to establish a solid idea of what is coming next. Which would also be true to form -- JMS loves leaving it to the miniseries to establish means, motive, opportunity after presenting the crime and going away. We finished this series not knowing much of anything about the characters or how they will spend the hiatus. And perhaps not caring. That is a failure, not a cliffhanger.

Gary Frank, who worked with JMS on the superb (and superior) Midnight Nation, has done a spectacular job on art for all of the issues and I would be remiss in not pointing that out.

4 Comments:

Blogger Windbreaker said...

I dropped this book a few issues back. I HATED that it didn't live up to my expectations. I feel your disappointment! After thoroughly enjoying JMS on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, I thought this title would be a lot of fun. But in the end, I couldn't take the constant anti-military themes and gratuitous nudity.

Sun Oct 02, 08:03:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is this? Comic book reviews / discussion from a center political outlook? Astounding. I've sort of liked this series, although the never-ending drumbeat of leftist worldview does wear. But hell - find me a superhero comic that *isn't* that way (punisher, anything written by Mark Millar, etc.).

I'm uh...more comfortable with gratuitous nudity.

Tue Oct 04, 12:47:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You liked Rising Stars? How? Ridiculous melodrama, WB style plots and bad poetry exemplified the book..no wonder the main was named Poet. :/

While not perfect, I much prefer the drier atmosphere that reflects our 'businesslike' real world.

Sat Oct 29, 09:55:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly. You are not suposed to emphasize. It is business-like by design rather than by hapenstance.

Tue Nov 08, 07:36:00 PM EST  

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