Reviewer: Tim Stevens
Story Title: Powers and Principalities (collects issues 7-12)
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencilled by: Gary Frank
Inked by: Jon Sibal
Colored by: Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by: Virtual Calligraphy’s Rus Wooten
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics/ Max Comics
At the start of this trade paperback, Mark Milton, better know as the world’s first public superhero Hyperion, has begun to become aware that things are not as he believed them to be. His former role, as a covert super powered government op, has been filled by another, Colonel Joe Ledger aka Doctor Spectrum. The search for answers leads him to a less than pleased Doc, a brutal showdown, the government’s last ditch effort to eliminate him, and a very naked, very insane Princess Zarda. Meanwhile, Nighthawk has recruited Buzz into the search for the world’s first super powered serial killer.
After the slow burn of the first 6 issues, JMS and Company cut loose. Moving beyond the character study of Mark Milton that the first volume focused on, the “world” of Supreme Power is given a chance to breath. Obviously, the action is stepped up considerably as the Hyperion/Doctor Spectrum face off levels the landscape, leaving several dead elephant and one seriously injured superhero (if you can call any of them that yet) in its wake. While that conflict was a visceral slugfest, complete with the rush of seeing such brute power on display for the first time, Hyperion’s later invasion of a US Military of startlingly withdrawn and cold, and more frightening because of it. It is a credit to penciller Frank and inker Sibal that both moments are well realized by the beautiful art.
However, it is not just in the action quotient that we can feel this world moving forward. In the first volume, the only interaction between any one of the supremes was the hilarious rooftop conversation between the bitter Nighthawk and the still naÃƒÂ¯ve Hyperion. This time out, however, the circle draws tighter. Nighthawk and Buzz meet and briefly team up. Doc and Hyperion engage in the aforementioned battle. Doc licking his wounds from said battle encounters the Aquaman of the Supremeverse at the bottom of the ocean. Zarda makes her presence known, loopily attempting to explain to the confused doubtful Hyperion why they are forever linked. And finally, Hyperion and Nighthawk meet again for a very different rooftop encounter.
JMS reveals key bits of characterization through these interactions. Doc’s softness toward the Aquawoman is a surprise considering his heretofore unbreakable resolve and superior attitude. Nighthawk appears to have actually listened to Hyperion despite never acknowledging it as his current case, the superpowered serial killer, does not only affect minority victims. Buzz is youthful and idealistic, but still smart enough to recognize that Nighthawk vision of a black and white world is interfering with NH’s ability to do good in the world. Finally, Hyperion’s smooth, confident veneer to cracked to reveal the betrayed child within, anxious to feel anything and to understand how his life has come to this.
This book will not suit everyone’s taste. It is a MAX book and thus chock a block full of “adult” situations. In particular, Zarda has a serious aversion to clothing and Aquawoman has not yet discovered it, the serial killer has a fondness for trophies, and the tone is not one of escapism that meaning seek out in their comics.
However, if you liked the first trade, this chapter will prove similarly pleasing. A lot of seeds planted in the first arc grow to fruition here and the deepening mysteries of the Supremeverse will continue to draw you in. The action and interaction has been stepped up, but JMS does not sacrifice the level of characterization he established in the previous arc to do it. Frank and Sibal continue to be equal to the task at hand, producing some of the cleanest most attractive art in the industry.