Sunday, August 15, 2010

Project Superpowers Overview

I've talked about Alex Ross' Project Superpowers quite a bit, but I don't believe I've ever really discussed what it's all about.

For starters, those of you who haven't read any of it should start with Chapter 1, an 8-issue series numbered from #0-#7 (comics, everybody!). Now, I know how you folks like free stuff, and it just so happens that issue #0 is still online, right here! Read it, if you're so inclined, and then come back. I'll wait.

So, anyway, Alex Ross has gone and made a new superhero universe, using Golden Age characters that have lapsed into the public domain.

As those who read issue #0 are aware (and you should be; that's why I posted the link), the Fighting Yank trapped his fellow heroes in Pandora's Urn. Without any heroes around, the bad guys went wild, using political, economic, and social clout to slowly take the reins of society. Some sixty years later, the Yank realizes his mistake and releases his comrades, who now have to survive in this new world.

Since Pandora's Urn is magic, that gives Ross and his collaborators a little bit of leeway. First, the heroes don't reappear all at once. They show up randomly at various points around the globe. Even though it's a very different approach, it reminds me of Season 1 of Heroes- who's going to show up, what can they do, etc.

Similarly, the Urn serves as a handy deus ex machina to change a character's powers. Partly, the creators do this because there were many, many Golden Age characters that didn't have powers at all, and partly this is because of copyright and trademark issues. Regardless, it makes for a nice, uniform hook to the cosmology of the setting.

One more thing: Project Superpowers gets VERY political at times. How this comes into the story I'll discuss in the various reviews.

Overall, Alex Ross and company have come up with a unique setting and have breathed new life into some classic characters.

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