Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: Flashpoint Project Superman

Flashpoint:Project Superman came out last week, yet another Flashpoint mini-series I am picking up as I await the DCnU. Unlike most of the Flashpoint minis, Project Superman actually grabbed me a bit. I have sort of limped through Secret Seven, Wonder Woman and the Furies, and Lois Lane and the Resistance. Only Kid Flash Lost has me eager to see the next issue.

But Project Superman has me intrigued, actually right from the very first panels. It is a simple technique to show us a glimpse of the end of the story right at the beginning. As a reader I know eventually we will get to that point and now I get to wonder just how we get there. On top of that we get a few beats from other areas of the comics world that seem to echo here. It made this feel like a lusher read than some of the other Flashpoint books.

I admit I haven't read anything by Scott Snyder before, despite the near universal praise I have seen for his work on American Vampire and Detective Comics. When this mini was announced I was interested in seeing just what he would do with the Superman Family. And even though we only have a glimpse of the Superman mythos in this first issue, the rest of the book rolls right along.

Add to that the solid work by Gene Ha on art here, a sort of thick lined moody work which occasionally explodes of the page with action and violence, and you have a recipe for a very good book.

The book opens up with a view of the present, a view of London in ruins, aflame. A steely set of eyes vows to kill a Superman ... and then remembers volunteering to become on 30 years earlier.

So we know that at some point this character is going to end up squaring off against Superman in war-torn London. But what has to happen before then to get us there? We need to learn much, we need to see who this person is, who Superman is on this world, what part they play in the Atlantis/Themyscira war.

The opening domino in that thread occurs 30 years ago when a Lieutenant Sinclair volunteers to be 'upgraded'. Now just last week I complained about how I thought that the pace of Lois Lane was too fast, that glossing over 32 weeks in the Amazon camp didn't sit well. And yet here, probably because I got a better sense of what was happening during the years that pass in this issue, I didn't mind that pace. I was curious to know just what happens in an Amazon re-education camp in Lois. I think I know what is happening here. I guess I can have it both ways.

And who should be heading up this 'super soldier' experiment but our old friend Sam Lane. I thought this was a nice move by Snyder. How interesting that Lane's fear of metahumans is a constant no matter what timeline of the DCU unfolds.

But I also thought that this resonated with Captain America. Again, we have a Sinclair, a 'normal guy', a soldier who, by his own admission, has seen too much horror and wants to become a hero, willing to be experimented on. Sounds somewhat like Cap. I worried a bit when he said his motto was 'attachment leads to suffering'. You need attachments to ground you, you need a foundation to build upon. Without a past, how can someone have a solid sense of what is right and wrong. It is clear that not everyone is Steve Rogers.

And someone else knows that. General Adam has been kicked off the project because he worried about the outcome here. So know we know what happened to Captain Atom in this world. He has some scars but no powers. Maybe he knows a little too well what absolute power does.

I did like the 'lots of body bags' line. Reminded me of Richard Crenna's warning line to Brian Dennehy in First Blood.

But the experiment is carried out despite Adam's concerns. We see snippets of Sinclair's training and evolution as they roll out over the next several years. As the government continues to throw things at Sinclair, his powers seem to mutate. No weapon can incapacitate him more than once. He seems to grow more and more powerful, more and more invulnerable as time passes.

And he acquires more than just brute strength. His senses continue to expand. In some nice pages, we see Sinclair eavesdrop on his superiors, seen only as xray images (perhaps dehumanizing them to Sinclair?). The military is starting to get a bit squeamish about him. They don't know what Sinclair is becoming ... and it worries them. It should.

Even more worrisome is the mention of something called The Vault, a place that sounds like it holds prior attempts at experiments like this, prior attempts which have become monsters.

After a while, the government finally decides to let the genie out of the bottle. After proving to be nearly unstoppable for three years, Sinclair is dropped into a warzone to bring down some rebels.

Finally unleashed, Sinclair simply loses control and rips through the battle. He still has some self-awareness ... he talks of wanting to flow like water but becomes a tidal wave. He is pure destruction, slaughtering all those around him, friend and foe alike. Ultimately, he levels the entire site.

And even when faced with the horror around him, when he is told he slaughtered his support team, he can barely calm down.

Now up to this point, I thought I had a pop culture equivalent to Sinclair ...

That's right! Sinclair's loss of control, his massive powers, even his look strikes me as being equivalent to Dragon Ball Z's very own Dark Prince, Vegeta.

But then I thought a bit more. You know who Sinclair is going to end up being ...

Sinclair is mutating such that no weapon can defeat him more than once. We know he eventually will face off against Superman.

Sinclair has to be the Flashpoint world's Doomsday.

After the mission, Sinclair is locked up in the Vault. And just as he is being wheeled into that prison, Kal-El's rocket smashes into Metropolis. How interesting that Sinclair thinks this will help him. My reading of that is eventually Superman is going to go against someone's wishes (maybe Luthor? he is name-dropped here, or the military) and Sinclair is going to be released to stop him. That is what the London battle is.

But the appearance of Superman in Metropolis adds a lot to the mix. Is Superman going to be 'raised' by Lane? Or will he simply be more raw material for future experiments by Project Superman?

So this first issue grabbed me the way any good first issue should. A nice opening hook. A good understanding of the character. A great end hook to keep me coming back. What will Superman be like in this bleak world? What will he be like without the upbringing of the Kents? It is Superman's attachments that make him who he is. Will he have those attachments in the Flashpoint DCU?

Add to the solid story the wild Gene Ha art, and this book was a winner.

Overall grade: B+


taichara said...

You're closer to the mark with Doomsday than you think!

That "Project 6" that's referenced in Project Superman, apparently as what Sinclair is being spliced with? Take a gander into the Flashpoint Booster Gold issue, as footnoted -- Project 6 is Doomsday, seen being puppeted by Adam iirc.

No matter where we look, they're making more Doomsday creatures --

LJ-90 said...

I found this issue really boring. I guess I had the wrong expectations...I was hoping for a Kal issue and you know, see what the HEY'VE EXPERIENCED ON HIM FOR YEARS was all about, I'll need to read the rest but up until now it hasn't grab me.
LOL and the Vegeta comparison btw.
I really love your blog Anj, it's practically my homepage!
Take care.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great buy!-ealperin

Gene said...

Anj wrote:

"The book opens up with a view of the present, a view of London in ruins, aflame."

Is it just me, or is Britain getting pounded on a lot in DC Comics lately?


Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

This was just a great mix of story and art. Might have to look at more stuff from Snyder.

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, fab issue. I don't like that Sinclair!