Most PoP visitors will be aware of my ambivalence towards contemporary superhero comics. But every now and then, a series will appear that promises an intriguing take on the much maligned ‘genre’. Writer Mark Millar is a fairly big shot in the world of superhero comics and the Scot is best known for his work in The Authority and The Ultimates (not to mention Kick-Ass). Artist Frank Quitely has made his name working mainly with Grant Morrison on well-received titles like The New X-Men, All-Star Superman and We3. Last time these well-regarded creators worked together was on the aforementioned The Authority but this time, this creator-owned property gives them both a chance to let loose on the superhero mythos to fairly good effect.
Issues #1 to #3 have been collected in Giant-Sized Edition #1 and it really sets things up for the real meat of the story which begins with #4. Much of the first three issues, breezes through the origins of two main families of superheroes revolving around two brothers – Sheldon Sampson/The Utopian and Walter Sampson. The Sampson brothers together with Sheldon’s wife Lady Liberty/Grace (and other college friends) obtained their super-powers in a mysterious island in the early 1930s and literally changed the world. 80 years later, the brothers fall apart, disagreeing on the involvement of superheroes in politics leading to drastic consequences.
Whilst the post-modern interpretation of the superhero mythos is fairly refreshing, the characters are shallow and two-dimensional and it was difficult to empathize with the fates of these ‘gods’. And that is the key word – there is much referencing of Greek mythology here especially in relation to the supplanting of the Titans by Zeus (or Jupiter, if you must) and his own brothers Hades and Poseidon. The inclusion of contemporary pop culture attitudes is also useful as well as an understanding of the modern global political dynamic, although in a superficial manner.
Frank Quitely, as usual, makes the comic a visually pleasing and visceral experience. His imagining of the action sequences is always a joy to behold, even if graphically violent. His faces are never glamorously handsome or pretty and his bodies are not classical sculptures, there is always a sense of realism in his portrayal of human beings – even if they have super-powers beyond mere mortals.
In the final analysis, I am looking forward to having the characters developed further with #4 which understand brings us a good 9 years after the events described in the first three issues.
Published by Image Comics.