Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Black Terror Volume 1 TPB- A review!

Black Terror, Volume 1 collects the first four issues of the first (and thus far only) ongoing series set within the Project Superpowers Universe. The Black Terror was a fairly popular Golden Age character and, as such, is a natural focus for the PSP brand.

The story picks up right where Chapter 1 left off. The forces of the U.S. government send their superhuman goons, the Crusaders, to apprehend the newly emergent Superpowers. During the scuffle, BT learns that there are heroes being held underneath Washington, D.C.; believing his sidekick Tim the Kid Terror is among those being held, the Terror heads straight to the White House to hold the Commander-in-Chief, President West, accountable for what has transpired so far.

What follows is straight up super-action at it's finest. There are some brilliant gags to be found; for example, the Black Terror is super-strong and nigh-invulnerable, but he can't fly, but that doesn't stop him from becoming airborne, and how he does it is a work of genius.

This arc also introduces several more characters to the PSP universe. In addition to the captured heroes, we see the formation of the Super-Patriots, five Americana-themed heroes who, upon their release from the urn, pledge themselves to the Presidency, as well as the Inheritors, the PSP equivalent to the Teen Titans.

The art is by Mike Lilly, who turns in a superb job. The action scenes pop, and he's got a pretty good handle on facial expressions.

The story, by Ross and Kruegger, is similarly good. First off, it gives the reader more insight into who the Black Terror is. Making his "quest" about saving his sidekick adds a needed personal stake into the story.

Like PSP Chapter 1, this arc is rather political, but not quite as obviously. The Superpowers and the Super-Patriots both end up with members on their team that don't necessarily agree with the party line. The message here is that a dissenting voice is needed in any philosophy to foster healthy debate and policy. Likewise, the "bad guys" of the piece actually make compelling arguments for what they're doing. Sometimes, an argument about a topic isn't quite as simple as "right versus wrong".

Most importantly, the story starts and ends with the idea of checks and balances. Initially, the Superpowers promise to be an additional check on the established government, but end with the acknowledgment that for all their power they might need checks on themselves as well. This a powerful message that can (and SHOULD) carry over into our real world. Granted, we don't have superheroes in reality, but there are forces that exert a good deal of influence on many aspects of society. Perhaps if we had some more checks and balances on, and I'm just spitballing here, say mass media or big business, we might have avoided some of the problems facing America today.

While BT Volume 1 does serve as a bridge between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of Project Superpowers, it does serve as a complete and satisfying story in its own right.

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