Super Powers #5 review

Have I told you about Lunch Lady Darkseid?  Because I’m going to tell you about Lunch Lady Darkseid.

See, Baltazar and Franco here used to have a book called Tiny Titans.  It was charming and adorable.  It ran for over fifty issues.  It spawned a few spin-offs and miniseries.

And it had Darkseid.  As a lunch lady.

It is incredible, and surely the reason the series won an Eisner.

I bring this up because… well, it’s awesome, for one.  More than that, though, it’s to reinforce that these books are meant to be fun.  There isn’t always a lot to the narrative, such as the case with this month’s installment, but there’s never a point where I feel like Baltazar and Franco’s books are a chore.  Reading their work never feels like, well, work.  It’s light and fun, and what it may lack in narrative depth it more than makes up for in humor and genuine wit.

Of all the installments so far, this is the issue of Super Powers that feels like it can stand on its own the least.  It picks up right where the previous installment left off, and ends on a cliffhanger.  This is by no means a bad thing, but it is indicative of what this issue has: constant movement.  One development comes after another as the narrative moves along, and it moves along at a brisk pace at that.

There’s quite a bit that happens in this penultimate chapter: battles are fought, a character realizes his destiny, and the true villain of the whole affair emerges.  In a surprising turn, Superman Pryme actually emerges as a pretty sympathetic character, all the more shocking considering I’d initially thought he was introduced for the sake of a silly pun.  No, Prym-El here gets an arc that is rather touching.  He’s allied with Brainiac at first, but when Brainiac threatens Pryme’s mother the young Kryptonian loses it.  This results in Brainiac accidentally sending New Krypton to the Phantom Zone, which further sets Pryme off.  He rails against Brainiac, throwing him through the Kryptonite Fortress Luthor had set up for the Legion of Doom.  Naturally, the Legion aren’t going to have any of that, so they flee in one of the funnier bits of the issue (“FOOMLIGHTSPEED! is my new favorite sound effect).  Pryme then turns his rage toward the Justice League, easily dispatching members and swatting away their attacks.

This extended action sequence is really engaging, thanks to Baltazar’s unique style.  There’s very little debilitating violence, of course, but it still feels like there are stakes in the fight.  Nobody dies.  Nobody is even in danger of dying.  Even still, the battle is effective as both a display of the Justice League’s stalwart heroism and the emotional turmoil Pryme is going through.  I genuinely empathized with Pryme’s situation and his response.  Not bad for a weird two-day-old Kryptonian/green computer hybrid thing.

Superman tries to intercede and appeal to Pryme’s emotions and “humanity,” which is totally a Superman thing to do.  Pryme resists, but then another Superman shows up.  The Unknown Superman.  And wouldn’t you know it he’s actually Pryme… from the future.  In any other book that might make me a little leery, but this is just supposed to be fun, so it doesn’t bother me too much.  It’s a nice twist on the concept, and gives Pryme an actual arc and development.  Plus, this is also a continuity where the citizens of Krypton survived the destruction of their planet by hiding in the Phantom Zone and Superman’s mom joins the Justice League as Superwoman, so, you know, conformity to mainline continuity is kind of out the window.  No biggie.

All the while this is happening, Darkseid invades Gotham.  He’s the “despot of Apokolips” and not “hilarious lunch lady”, so no bonus points for that, but truly great ideas should never be overused.  Darkseid claims Gotham as “his city,” only for the Joker to correct him and state that while Batman is away, Gotham belongs to him.  It’s a fun little scene, and of course the Joker would stand up to the ruler of Apokolips.  Besides Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl, Robin, and… I’m going to guess Chief O’Hara, Gotham is (for some reason) being protected by Hawkman, Firestorm, and Golden Pharaoh.

Once again proving there is not a limit to the obscurity this duo will plumb for characters, Golden Pharaoh was an original character introduced in the Super Powers toy line back in the 80s.  This is his first comic appearance since that tie-in comic book.

Yes, I had to look him up.  Way to bring it full circle, gentlemen.

What is the actual plot of this book?  “Good guys fight bad guys.”  It’s simple, it’s kind of aimless, but when it’s told so well and is so fun, that’s all that matters.

Recommended if:

  • You like fun, all-ages books.
  • You want to find surprising depth in a fairly light story.
  • You’re a HUGE Golden Pharaoh fan.

Overall: Light fun with a surprising amount of pathos, Super Powers‘ penultimate chapter continues doing what these books do best.  It’s harmless storytelling for all ages that is bolsterrd by a sharp wit and deep knowledge of DC characters.  While this chapter may not stand on its own, it tells its story well and I’ll gladly revisit in when I re-read the series as a whole.

SCORE: 7/10