One of the great mysteries of the universe is the nature of “Public Domain.”  At one point, a couple of decades ago, the rumor went around the comics industry that the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents were in public domain, and we suddenly got four or five different takes on reviving the characters.  Most of the characters in this book are also being published sporadically by AC Comics in their Femforce series and related titles, and many of them were revived by DC/Wildstorm in Alan Moore’s Terra Obscura spinoff from Tom Strong.  If you’re a comic ephemera geek like me, you may find this a little bit confusing…  The vast majority of readers will see these characters for the first time here… and that’s both good AND bad.

Supe1.jpgPreviously, on Project Superpowers:  The Zero issue of this series revealed that, some decades ago, the Fighting Yank embarked on a desperate plan to save humanity.  In trying to save the world from the menace of Hitler and mystical Armageedon, F.Y. spent years mystically trapping most of the superhumans of his world inside Pandora’s Box, believing that somehow trapping the guardians of good would also trap the evil that they were meant to combat.  Years later, he is confronted by a ghost called ‘The American Spirit,’ a shade personified by a floating stars-and-stripes-patterned sheet, which convinces him that he’s made a huge mistake.  With the ghost of his Revolutionary War ancestor natering in his ear (the source of his superpowers, by the way) Fighting Yank has set out on a quest to undo the wrong he perpetrated, and free the various heroes of World War II from their decades of confinement.

We begin the issue in a technogical utopia, as Dynamic Man (who is not the same Dynamic Man from the similar Marvel series “The Twelve,” though they might have been takes on the same character from different companies in the Golden Age, when copyrights were looser) looks down on the world he has made.  Unfortunately, the issue starts with an immediate clunker, as his female counterpart asks him what he sees as he looks down on his city.  “I see that it is good.”  Oy gevalt…  Biblical misquoting aside, the character seems like a mishmash of Ozymandias from Watchmen and Neil Gaiman’s version of ‘Miracleman.’  Meanwhile, in the frozen mountains of what I can only assume is Tibet, an octogenarian Fighting Yank seeks help, accompanied only by the two arguing ghosts that only he can hear.  Fighting Yanks enters a hidden utopia (this one pastoral, giving us a comparison to the machine-wonderland of Dynamic Man) to encounter an old friend, the Green Lama.

The Lama (real name, no joke, Jethro Dumont) listens to Fighting Yank’s story of betrayal and evil impassively, as Fighting Yank worries what will happen, that the Green Lama will kill him, “right after he says ‘I told you so.’ “  The Lama merely smiles, and offers him a cup of tea.  Fighting Yank reveals one of his spirits to the Lama, as the American Spirit suddenly animates and floats before them.  The ghost hints that Jethro isn’t what he seems, and he reveals his powers, enveloping all three of them in leaves and roots and transporting them through, apparently, Swamp Thing’s concept of “The Green.”  They arrive in New York, Dynamic Man’s future paradise, and make their way into D-Man’s office. Fighting Yank angrily realizes that he’s the only one who has aged (Heh.) and Dynamic Man takes them to Pandora’s Box, really an urn.  He mocks Fighting Yank’s belief that there is power in the old clay jug, then smashes it in a fit of cruelty. 

Dynamic Man taunts that there was no power in the artifact, and laughs.  “Those were your friends in there.  It’s inhuman!” cries Fighting Yank, and “Dynamic Woman” sneers, “Whoever said we were human?”  Oy GEVALT…  This dialogue is terrible.  The Dynamic Family grabs The Lama and The Yank, and throws them down an elevator shaft, then sends a car down to crush them (?)  A battle ensues between the Dynamic Family (who remind me now of the Miracleman family more than ever) and Team Lamayank, when suddenly the thousands of inhabitants of New York rush up to attack.  The Green Lama (not to be confused with a green llama) finds that there is nothing natural for him to draw on, and they realize that everyone in the city is an android, when suddenly, up from the ground springs… The Black Terror!  The Terror rips into the android forces, before facing down Dynamic Man himself, ripping out his guts to reveal that he, too, is… AN ANDROID!!!   Of course, if you clicked the link earlier (or have any understanding of the ironic reveal) you already know that.  D-Man throws B.T. off the side of the building, but the Terror simply rises again, swearing to kill BOTH Dynamic Man and Fighting Yank!

Well, I… uh…  I’m…  Yeah.  What can I say about that story?  Um…  It was certainly… familiar.  There’s a really impressive case of “Alan Moore Envy” going on here, with multiple scenes that echo ones in his big career milestones (Miracleman, Watchmen, the America’s Best Comics and more) and even some of the same characters.  The best part of the issue for me was the sketchbook of Golden Age heroes in the back, showing the Sadowski/Ross takes on long-unseen guys like Silver Streak, The Target and Hydro-Man (now called just plain Hydro.)  As with the similar Earth/Universe/Paradise/Copa Cabana X (also from Alex Ross) there’s a ton of “Hey, it’s THAT guy” going on, but without a lot of plot to confuse issues.  I’m torn on this issue, in that it shows a real affection for some of the obscure heroes of the Golden Age (including The Green Lama, about whom even *I* know little, but have a soft spot for) but the execution isn’t there.  It’s not awful, it’s just banal as hell, and the ham-fisted juxtaposition of archetypes really makes you aware of the brilliance and craft that guys like Moore, Grant Morrison, and even Joe Straczynski bring to their revamps of old heroes.  When you boil Project Superpowers #1 down, it’s a disappointing affair, earning only 1.5 out of 5 stars.  Still, there’s enough potential here to keep me onboard for at least a little while longer, if only for my standard rule of “Six Issues To Wow Me, Or I’m Out.”



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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