Graphic Novel Review: Superior

10:18 16 March 2012

Superior

Superior

Archant

(Titan £19.99)

COMICS creator Mark Millar is the master of the one-line concept. His past work includes “What if Batman was bad?” (Nemesis), “What would a true-life superhero be like?” (Kick-Ass), and with Superior, “What if Captain Marvel was real?”

The wish-fulfilment fantasy of the old Fawcett comic saw a young orphan transformed into a Superman-lite hero by shouting the magic word “Shazam!”. In Millar’s updated version, 12-year-old comic and movie geek Olli Janson is transformed into his favourite hero, Superior, by a mysterious alien monkey called Ormon. The gift is even more remarkable for the young boy because he suffers from severe multiple sclerosis, and this is his chance to escape the shackles of his failing body and become the superhero he’s been reading about for years.

During the course of a week, Olli brings peace to the Middle East, feeds the starving and saves hundreds of people from natural catastrophes, winning global adoration in the process. Meanwhile, his parents are panicking about their missing disabled son, and his best friend struggles to keep Olli’s secret identity hidden.

Things come to a head when Ormon returns and reveals he is actually a demon and Olli can only retain his powers at a price – that of his mortal soul. He then transforms the local bully into Superior’s fictional arch-enemy, Abraxas, and unleashes his destructive powers on New York, forcing Olli to decide whether he can pay the ultimate price to save the world…

Offering a surprisingly frank and honest portrayal of multiple sclerosis, Millar’s narrative has won appreciation from the MS Society for raising awareness of the condition, and yet he never piles on the sentimentality or preaches to his audience.

Artist Leinil Francis Yu shot to fame for his work on Superman: Birthright, Secret Invasion and New Avengers, but he’s never really been my cup of tea, and I would have appreciated a more realistic artist for a story like this. That said, his work is perfectly serviceable and works well on the widescreen combat sequences.

One of the more common reactions to Millar’s work is that he’s obviously using comics as a pitch for a movie version, and you can see exactly how that would apply to Superior, especially now Matthew Vaughan has purchased the film rights. Whether that’s a bad thing is a matter of taste, but you certainly can’t ignore the strength of his ideas.

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