Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: Ten O’Clock
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciled by: Gary Frank
Inked by: Jon Sibal
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Rus Wooton
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In case you have been one of the most unfortunate individuals in the comic-buying world, you will realize the reason for JMS’s latest Amazing Spider-Man stories being rather lackluster are because he has been busting his ass to bring us the greatest comic book series on the market today â€“ Supreme Power. Trust me, there really is no comparison between the emotional complexity and raw action this series has provided us with and anything else out there. They are pretenders to Supreme‘s throne. Not too shabby for a book created out of the ashes of a failed Justice League clone, really.
The number one reason this book has been so consistently brilliant over the past nine months is simple. It has been paced to perfection. Like The Beatles in their prime, Straczynski, Frank and Sibal are taking as long as they bloody well want to go anywhere they damn well please. So far Hyperion remains to be the lead character, but we have seen appearances from the other members of what may, somehow, turn out to be the Squadron Supreme to advance the plot as and when required. The arc so far has revolved around Hyperion trying to find his place in the world and some semblance of truth to go along with it. A quest for belonging and a purpose for his existence are his unattainable goals. So far the setbacks have come in many guises, from accidentally disintegrating the family dog to last issue’s revelations about the military’s secret use for him. The latter was the straw that broke the camels back and now, after a bloody confrontation with Dr. Spectrum, Hyperion is searching for answers and he wants to get them right now. From the opening shot of Hyperion shooting up into the night sky, eyes ablaze and uniform torn and tattered from his livid body, it is clear we are in for yet another treat.
Now the basic premise of this issue is a very simple one â€“ Hyperion heads back to the army base in order to get some answers from General Casey and he simply will not allow anything to stop him. I can imagine that if anybody started reading the series with this issue then they may not be terribly impressed. However, if you have been watching this story unfolding then you will feel each and every inch of anger, fear and hate that exhumes from Hyperion and Casey. You will notice the tension as you turn each page. You will be forced to emote as the story continues and, even though the story is not terribly innovative, that is the mark of a bloody good writer at the top of his game. There are also plenty of little touches here that add to the mix. The tale is narrated from scene to scene by an off-panel General and what might be the President, amplifying the feeling that something terrible has occurred right from the get-go, and we won’t be told what that is till the end. Similarly, the flashback scene with Casey and the medical officer discussing how they could possibly hope to kill Hyperion while he is lying there as a helpless infant is chilling and sums up the morals of this storyline succinctly. As it dawns on them that there is only one thing that might stop him, their terror grows. They don’t state what the plan actually is until later on but it is clear that when the time comes, if they truly believe they have no alternative but to try and hold back or kill Hyperion, it is going to be overwhelming and devastating for all involved.
Straczynski is a mastermind at building and sustaining suspense. Babylon 5 is a perfect example of that. Here, he not only does it every issue, he also plants seeds for it to carry on into next issue and beyond. The most significant plot device dropped in here is the fate of Dr. Spectrum, critically wounded by Hyperion last issue. His crystal has taken him somewhere safe to be healed and, as he sleeps, we see he is discovered by a rather well-known person who will surely leave a major impression on the title once this thread is picked up again. Another one of Straczynski’s strengths is that he is capable of giving both the antagonist and protagonist conviction in their beliefs. There is no crazed Magneto-style villain here and no pompous Buzz Lightyear-style hero either. Both the major players have plenty of reasons for doing what they are doing, which of course only helps the reader let themselves be drawn into the conflict.
Of course, this would all be a mute point if it looked like crap. Thankfully the Frank/Sibal duo continues to amaze me by giving us the most haunting drawings of eyes I have seen in any comic book. Have you ever tried to draw a decent pair of eyes? Maybe it’s just me that has difficulty with it, but there is a certain knack to it that I just don’t have. These guys not only draw them well but they fill them with life. The final showdown between Hyperion and Casey is already the most well-written scene I have seen in any book this year but the emotions brimming over through both pairs of eyes is extraordinary. It is a theme that crops up again and again with Hyperion, and the last panel of this issue will chill you with its simplicity. Once again I am left wishing that this book could be bumped up to fortnightly status just to stop me having to wait a whole month to find out what happens next. Hell, just make it weekly. Daily. Hourly. Whatever, I want to find out what happens and I want to find out now, dammit! I want my Supreme Power! I should hope you do too, as this is one of the most extraordinary piece of work in comics I have witnessed. As loathe as I am to do what every fool and their mother does when it comes to describing how good a comic is, this is indeed up there with Watchmen and warrants some serious f—ing respect.