A lone figure rises from the sea.
Helmeted and dressed in black as dark as the depths below, the creature makes his way toward a solitary island.
A glowing island.
An island… of Kryptonite.
And home to a totally raging get-together.
If there lingered any doubt in your mind that Super Powers here isn’t a loving tribute to the Super Friends cartoons of yesteryear, then this issue should certainly be proof positive. That lineup there is pretty much lifted directly from the cartoon, except Brainiac is swapped out for Gorilla Grodd. That’s ok for two reasons, though: 1. everything is better with a gorilla, and 2. Brainiac’s in the story anyway, so it all works out.
The plot, as it is, can really be boiled down to one simple idea: good guys vs. bad guys. I’ve made the comparison before, but this book is totally the zany ideas kids have playing with toys and having adventures on the playground in comic book form. Kind of like Axe Cop.
This doesn’t have the delirious charm of the “this was written by a five-year-old” conceit, but the ideas are similar. Instead of actually being kids and writing out their playground role plays, Baltazar and Franco just throw a bunch of things in just to see if they work. Each issue is getting progressively bigger and bigger, almost bursting at the seams with all of the ideas, gags, and characters they’re including. I truly, genuinely mean this in the best possible way, because Baltazar and Franco’s writing is innocent, but it isn’t juvenile. In fact, there are times when it actually gets pretty smart. The references and obscure characters they throw in actually work well within the context of the story, so they’ve obviously put a lot of thought into the structure of the narrative. It may be a pretty loose narrative, but every piece has its place.
Even if that place is “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if such and such showed up here?” Because the answer is yes, it would be cool if such and such showed up here.
Like, ya know, Starro.
After this, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and New Super-Man, it seems like 2017 is the Year of Starro. Not bad for a giant telepathic outer-space starfish. And kudos to Art Baltazar for simultaneously having one of the better tributes to the Brave and the Bold #28 cover that I’ve seen and including Bd’g in it.
At least… I think that’s Bd’g. He’s kind of competent so he can’t be Ch’p.
It’s not all levity and surface level entertainment, though. While the script doesn’t exactly dig deep, there are some surprisingly mature themes touched on here. After Jor-El is forced to return to his incorporeal form, he is restricted to the Fortress of Solitude. Matters of mortality are touched on, however briefly, and Superman and Lara work through coping with grief and loss. It’s not exactly anything you could write a thesis about, but the drama is weightier than I expected.
Brainiac’s relationship with Prym-El is disturbingly fascinating too, given that Prym is pretty much a newborn and Brainiac is manipulating him every step of the way. Again, not something I was expecting to see in a comic book named after a line of toys that was based on a cartoon.
Despite all that, though, the book is still remarkably funny. Brainiac in particular, which is a surprise, and that guy is sassy.
If anyone can get away with implying that Lex Luthor (supposedly) didn’t think something through, it’s a hyper-intelligent alien computer guy. I doubt Lex would really mess with him.
Wait, that’s right. He has. SPOILERS: It didn’t really work out in his favor.
For all of the weightier material, this is still a remarkably funny book. The jokes land pretty consistently (there’s a Green Lantern gag that practically had me rolling0, and the pure sense of joy during some of the fight scenes is just great. A lot of that is thanks to Baltazar’s simple, cartoony style, which allows for more details to sneak into the background. I love the nice little touch that the Legion of Doom’s logo is pretty much Superman’s shield turned upside down, for one. And despite there not being a lot of depth to the images, the visuals never feel flat.
Since this is a Batman site after all, I’m glad to report that Batman finally gets something to do in what is sure to go down as one of the best action scenes of the year.
Where is this story going? Bananas, that’s where. Even if this isn’t your cup of tea, you know what? You should still try it. At the very least it may make you feel like a kid again, and that may be just what you need.
- You like a solid, funny all-ages read.
- You have kids and want to enjoy a book with them.
- You’re ok with laughing at your favorite characters, because sometimes you just kind of have to.
Overall: Super Powers is non-stop fun and occasionally even mature, thoughtful storytelling. It’s good for some laughs, the endless stream of cameos and references will keep you on your toes, and there are a few twists that are actually pretty engrossing. I love it for what it is, and what it is is a blast.