“Fun” can be a dirty word these days. With a greater push for “grittier, grounded” stories and more “realistic” depictions of dudes who can fly and the living alien computers that seek to destroy them, the idea of just good old-fashioned enjoyable comics is… well, old-fashioned.
I do not care. Comics are a form of escapism, and while they should certainly play by their own rules and have stakes that make the adventures worth reading and investing in, at the end of the day you want to read these things more than once. A book like Super Powers is definitely something I can see myself returning to in the future.
Part of that is because, yes, it is a fun book. It’s lighthearted and silly while still being respectful to the characters and their history. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Super Powers is one of the most legacy minded books on DC’s publishing slate today. Art Baltazar and Franco know their stuff, and while the stories they tell are pretty simple, they’re loaded with detail.
This is a series that has built a continuity out of its own predecessors, pulling storylines from Superman Family Adventures and Tiny Titans to create its own little universe. That’s impressive enough considering the more cynical or critical would dismiss them as “just kid’s books,” but no, it’s a strong universe that’s well worth reading. Besides the outright joy and levity of each installment, these stories are packed with ideas, references, and details that reward a deeper knowledge of the DC Universe. I mean, really, who among us thought that we’d be reading a book with the Composite Superman this month? And in a “kid’s book,” no less?
The duo’s love of all things Silver Age is evident on everywhere, with a cackling mad scientist Lex Luthor gloating over a fallen Superman making that apparent from the very first page. It’s that devotion to making comics enjoyable that make Super Powers such a fun read, and the creative team’s deep knowledge of history that makes it a rewarding read. They even use more modern characters like the Unknown Superman of the future from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s magnum opus All-Star Superman, and even though he’s a modern creation it’s certainly a Silver Agey idea.
And if the previous paragraph confused you and you have no idea who the Unknown Superman is, then drop everything right now and go read All-Star Superman. It is without hyperbole that I say it is the best Superman story ever written, and I’m always fairly leery going into stories hearing that. But no, All-Star is a masterpiece in every way, and the Unknown Superman is part of one of its most touching moments.
The story is still pretty basic and the narrative isn’t especially deep, though that’s forgivable when the presentation is this much fun. The $2.99 price tag may be a bit steep for such a quick read, but it’s a satisfying read regardless and well worth the investment. Baltazar’s visual style makes the book worth returning to as well, playing off his script with co-writer Franco to give things a light, energetic feel. I love the stripped down designs of the main characters, and newcomers like Composite Superman and the Unknown Superman look great. The only artistic quibble I have is with the scenes on New Krypton: the backgrounds are almost completely green, and it kind of washes everything out. Lara is in an orange outfit that helps her pop out against the backgrounds a bit, though the traces of yellow in her design wash her out. They’re too close a complement to both the rest of her outfit and the color of the backgrounds, preventing her look from popping off the page. Jor-El fares even worse, as he’s in a darker shade of green that, combined with the same yellow trimmings, causes him to almost blend into the background. Those pages feel a little bland. I like the design of New Krypton and its inhabitants just fine overall, but it would be nice to have some nice dark blues or purples here and there to help distinguish it more.
Given that this is a Batman site, the general lack of involvement from the Dark Knight is a little disappointing, though he does have a good moment or two here and there. And really, this isn’t Super Powers featuring Batman. Heck, it isn’t even Super Powers featuring the Justice League. It’s just plain old Super Powers, and based on upcoming solicits it looks like Baltazar and Franco are having a blast playing with the entire sandbox of the DCU. And if they’re having a blast, I will be too.
- You want an enjoyable, fun time.
- You like Baltazar and Franco’s work.
- You want a great, surprisingly rich all-ages comic.
- And seriously, go read All-Star Superman if you haven’t.
Overall: Fun, light and breezy, Super Powers is just a great time all around. Baltazar and Franco know how to write stories that are engaging for all ages, and this is no exception. I love the weird corners of DC history the duo mine to get characters for their stories, for who would have thought we’d be seeing Composite Superman again? In a kid’s book? Super Powers is pure, unadulterated entertainment, optimistic without being corny and wry without being cynical.