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Over the next ten weeks I will submit ten essays, one per week, taking an in depth look at what I think are some of the finest examples and collections of comic book stories around. By no means have I read them all and don’t claim to know everything. This is an eclectic collection that I, personally, think would please not just hardcore collectors but casual fans as well. And that’s the most important criteria in forming this list; I looked at complete stories, easily accessible, without too much history to learn. Something that a casual fan, or even no fan at all if it constitutes a significant other or personal relationship, can pick up and possibly enjoy.
Number Ten: Supreme Power - a Max Comics line of adult entertainment from Marvel Comics, written by J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Amazing Spider-man, Thor) and illustrated by Gary Frank (Midnight Nation, Batman: Earth One), John Sibal (X-23), and Mark Morales (Civil War, Thor, Avengers vs. X-Men)
Two hard cover volumes collect the Supreme Power story originally published as #’s 1 – 18, and the Supreme Power: Hyperion miniseries. For this collection we can ignore the mini and focus on the 18 issues of fantastic. J. Michael Straczynski opens with an alien baby crashing on earth. At that point the government collects him and raises him as their property. It’s a retelling of the Squadron Supreme with much more than a passing resemblance to the Justice League of America. While the Squadron Supreme may have been Marvel’s answer to the DC team, Straczynski’s efforts far outshines anything from read of either. It’s the Justice League the way they had only been presented in our dreams.
As the alien baby grows and matures the US government uses him as their own personal tool, both in public relations and covert ops. As is the way of the world, at the same time, more super powers begin to emerge in the powerless world and this story does a wonderful job of giving real life sensibilities to these characters. They don’t always like each other but recognize the fact that even if they’re not in the same class, they’re all peers. The characters play off of each other well and the story is as tight as anything you could ever hope for. Remembering that this was published under an adult imprint, the adult nature of this book is in no way gratuitous and only helps the story along.
Gary Frank’s art may not be the slickest you’ve ever seen but it’s so good, a solid comic effort with clean line work that won’t leave you wondering what you’re looking at any time during your reading and just oh so perfect for the tone of this story.
This is a story that I’m very glad to have found. I’ve shared it with several friends and never once heard any complaint. It has resulted in one person I know of to start reading comics fairly regularly now. J. Michael Straczynski could’ve made this list with any number of entries from Rising Stars, which I swear was the originating idea behind the television hit Heroes and of which Straczynski had the class not to address when I asked him that rather pointed question, to Midnight Nation, to his work on Amazing Spider-man. Ultimately it came down to the modern and mature take on such a popular icon as the Justice League, and I’ll say again, I’m sure that wasn’t the intention but I challenge you to read this and not see what the JL could be.
Michael R. Murray read his first comic and has been buying and collecting them for over 35 years, since about 1977. At one point his collection included two copies of Amazing Spider-man #1, and one copy each of Amazing Fantasy #15, Fantastic Four #2, Avengers #4, Showcase #22, and dozens more high grade, key, and golden age issues. The collection has grown to include original art pages, as well as statues and busts, with the current emphasis on collecting original drawings from applicable artists on the inside of his hard covers. He has attended all of the Boston and New York Comic Cons and experienced Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Diego. He has championed comic books in the local schools and was very proud that both of his children read at least three years above their grade levels, due nearly exclusively to comics. He’s quick to point out that none of this makes him an expert, but that his love of comics is most enjoyable when he can share it…