Review: Project Superpowers #4

by

Or – “Strong Instincts Got Me Where I Am Today…”

Which is to say, the position of “Ineffectual Middle Management Suckup” with a part-time job at a comic store and a gig writing on the intarwebs.  I will not say that I’m always right about whether or not a comic series will succeed.  I rooted for Martian Manhunter, after all, and was a big fan of the recently deceased Shadowpact series.  But, barring the occasional title for which I have an inexplicable fondness, my comic-picking thought process has a not-too-terrible batting average.  When this book was advertised, I suspected that we’d be in for one of two possible rides: either we’d have the Alex Ross ‘Marvels’ experience (in which we were treated to loving examinations of iconic characters) or the Alex Ross ‘Universe X’ experience (in which we were inundated with hundreds of masked characters who were well-designed but essentially ciphers.)  I hoped for the first, but expected the second…  and one of my instincts was dead on.

Previously, on Project Superpowers:  Fighting Yank had a secret.  Decades ago, his duplicity had led to his fellow superhumans being trapped “forever” inside an urn of mystical power.  Years later, near death, Yank ended up accidentally freeing his partners from their slumber, but none of the heroes was left untouched by the experience.  In desperation, he sought out the Green Lama, who had spent the years in Tibet building his own mystical powers over nature.  The two former heroes then consulted with Dynamic Man, an android hero who likewise survived, and transformed New York into a technological paradise.  The battle between the pastoral and the technological was short-lived, with Green Lama, Fighting Yank, and a resurrected Black Terror taking down the Miracleman family Dynamic Man’s army of androids.

As this issue opens, the Dynamic family is forced to flee New York, now alive with vegetation under the control of the Green Lama.  At the same time, in Los Angeles, The Flame and Hydro (once called Hydro-Man, but Marvel owns that trademark) realize that they’ve been fighting for no reason, burning down the Hollywood sign in their foolishness.  The twosome is suddenly overwhelmed by the press, who stun them most of all by asking if they’re a couple.  Dynamic Man and company, already ensconced in their Philadelphia backup headquarters, watch sternly and make omnious portents.  Somewhere in the mountains, the body of Fighting Yank is ferried by American Crusaders (clones of the superhero of the same name) to an unknown fate, while his ghost grandfather melodramatically despairs. 

That’s the first six pages.  Seriously.  In New York, Green Lama declares the newly vine-ridden skyline to be “New Shangri-La” and tells Black Terror that spending 70 years trapped in a flower pot have changed him.  No $#!+, skolnick.  Somewhere in the middle east (my kingdom for a caption or an establishing shot) Samson (who is based on the old Fox Features character, but somehow wearing the blindfold of the Western Publishing character of the same name) accompanies the Scarab (a beetle armored man who is blue) through a series of caves (parenthetical out of force of habit by now.)  The Beetle who is Blue shows the blind man a series of ‘tent hospitals,’ but none of them contain injured people, or indeed living creatures.  These are the homes of the F-Troop, Frankenstein troopers made in the image of Prize Comics’ character of the same name.  Sam and Scarry bust the place up, because…  I don’t know, something about abominations of nature, blah blah blah.

Back in the mountains, Fighting Yank awakens with a gaping chest wound, and hears his great-grandfather lamenting his death.  The American Spirit arrives to castigate Yank’s ghostly grampa for his selfishness, revealing that he was cursed for failing to “serve General Washington.”  Yank arises, as the Spirit tells him his blood is clean, and faces the flying gimps American Crusaders.  The Dynamic Family is disheartened to find that Black Terror is all over the map, teleporting from place to place, and that their Middle Eastern allies need new Frankensteins.  Somewhere else, (Seriously, any captions would be appreciated) the ‘Devil (formerly known as Daredevil) silently watches a computerized news board talking about attacks by a terrorist organization known as “The Claw,” while his newfound policeman friend almost kisses him.  Suddenly, Black Terrror (along with Masquerade and someone I think is V-Man) shows up to teleport him away.  Even though it seems days have passed for portions of the story, The Flame and Hydro are just now getting arrested in Los Angeles, when suddenly the sky fills with black clouds and lightning fills the sky.  Pyroman coalesces out of the electrical bolts and blasts the police robots away, freeing his fellow elementals and the three of them start to escape.  Before they get far, Pyroman falls to the ground, his energy being siphoned away… by Dynamic Man!

*Takes a breath…*  Man, that was some breakneck pacing…  This whole issue is like a shotgun blast of superheroes straight to the sternum, like mainlining comics history straight out of a rusty needle.  I’ll say it right now: I know who many of these characters used to be, and I have no idea what’s going on in this issue.  There’s myriad references to stories untold (many of which have NEVER BEEN told) and even if you know the characters, there’s just too much going on for the book to be cohesive.  Carlos Paul does an okay job on the interior art, if you don’t mind some indistinctness in facial features, and a general kind of sketchiness that seems like an odd choice for a book fronted by the crystal-clear imagery of Alex’s covers.  The character who is ostensibly our “viewpoint” guy, Fighting Yank, spends most of this issue dead, and even though I just read issue #3, I’m puzzled as to how any of this pieces together with previous issues.  It’s a deadly mess, honestly, hardly worth the time it’d take to puzzle out the greater picture, earning 1 out of 5 stars, and officially getting this series crossed off my hold list.  For three dollars per month, I need more than two dozen costumes cavorting around a story cribbed from half a dozen better comics…

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