Review: ‘Supers Book One’
Supers Book One
Writer: Frédéric Maupomé
Top Shelf Productions; $14.99
This critically-acclaimed French comic has about as simple a premise as one could imagine, one that can be basically, if dismissively, boiled down to this: What if Superman was three little kids? It’s actually (and obviously) much more worthwhile than that perhaps unfair statement of its thesis might make it sound, of course, and not simply because of the skill, insight, and grace creators Frédéric Maupomé and Dawid imbue it with.
No, their Supers also manages to include the intersection of several currently compelling and/or marketable factors. It’s a comic about kids that is created for kids, it’s about superheroes, and it attempts to capture the immigrant experience as seen through a child’s eyes.
We meet our protagonist Matt on his first day at a new school. Though he looks like he belongs there, and mainly only stands out at all because of his newness, he’s weighed down by some rather heavy secrets. He lives alone with his younger sister and their younger still brother Benji, with no parents, guardians or adult supervision—the closest they have is a hyper-intelligent, hyper-competent little robot he calls “Al.” They aren’t just new to their respective schools or their town; they’re relatively new to Earth. And they also have a handful of super-powers—flight, super-speed, super-strength, psychic abilities—which they have to hide at all costs.
While the three siblings all share these challenges, Matt feels them most acutely. He is the oldest and thus remembers the most about their parents and origins—information the creators parcel out unhurriedly in occasional flashbacks—and is the most serious about the need for secrecy. In fact, because we follow Matt rather than his siblings through his first day, it’s about one-third of the way into this first book in the series before we see any of the kids demonstrate their powers; Matt has already let several chances to use his powers pass by in order to make his life better, only to get upset when he sees his sister floating in the kitchen to reach the higher cupboards.
Later, when Matt lets a bully beat him up rather than reveal his abilities, his youngest brother seethes and returns to attack the bully himself with his powers, driving a further wedge between Matt and his siblings. By the book’s end, they do seem to come to some agreement that there’s no point in not using their powers to help others in need, and the climax involves them pulling on ski masks to help rescue people trapped in a flaming building—only for one of them to get caught on camera, a picture running in the newspaper under the headline “A Superhero In The City?”
That should give Matt something new to brood about in the next book. Maupomé and Dawid eschew the bombastic, frenetic elements that are typical of the superhero genre—carefully building up the few action scenes and giving them emotional context—and instead pace their book rather deliberately and thoughtfully.
That, paired with Dawid’s illustrator-like character designs and warm, autumnal coloring, makes Supers look, read, and feel more like literature than your average superhero comic…from any country and targeted at any age.
As a first chapter in a new narrative, it’s both promising and intriguing. It’s also a good argument that, with comics as it is with most other popular media, it’s the execution more than the premise that makes a work worthwhile.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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