Written by O’Brian Gunn
If you were allowed a single wish, what would it be? To wake up every morning at peace without worrying about your finances, health, or safety? That George R.R. Martin would publish his next book before at least the end of the year? To do away with your need for sleep? Or would you do what 12-year-old Simon Pooni did and wish to become a superhero? Writer Mark Millar and artist Leinil Yu show us what this wish looks like in 2010’s Superior, a seven-issue miniseries from Marvel’s Icon imprint.
What makes Simon wish to become Superior is the fact that he has multiple sclerosis, also known as MS. For the uninitiated, MS is a debilitating disease that causes the immune system to gnaw away at the nerves, resulting in vision loss, coordination issues, problems with walking, incontinence, and much more. Currently, there are treatment options for MS, but there isn’t a cure. MS crept up on Simon, his diagnosis progressing from problems moving his fingers and toes to blindness in one eye and trouble pronouncing his own name. The disease kept him from playing basketball, spending time with his friends, and even removing the wrapper from DVDs.
I break all this down to give you a solid idea of the physical and mental condition Simon is in when he’s visited one night by a spacesuit-wearing monkey named Ormon who informs Simon that he’s been chosen for The Magic Wish. In a puff of smoke, Simon goes from using a wheelchair to learning how to master unaided flight and yankin’ trains to get yoked as the superhero known as Superior.
After spending an issue testing the limits of his Superman-like abilities, Simon/Superior decides to use his newfound powers to prevent and respond to major disasters all over the globe. Simon/Superior’s deeds catch the eye of reporter (of course) Madeline Knox, who’s so bloody ravenous for a story she makes Lois Lane look like a weekend blogger. Millar never lets us know why she’s so dang thirsty for an interview with Superior. For me, it wasn’t enough that she’s a reporter. We all have our reasons for being either passionate or dispassionate about our jobs/careers. I felt like Madeline needed a reason for being desperate enough to drive her car into the sea in the hopes that Simon/Superior would hear her screams for help. I’m all about knowing what motivates a character and why s/he wants what s/he wants. Thankfully, this didn’t bring my story engagement to a screeching halt, just made me pump my brakes.
Issue four is where things really start to gel. Simon/Superior is starting to come into his own as a hero, we learn a bit more about Ormon’s true motives, and a figure from Simon’s past is set up as his proper nemesis. I like the flashes of levity and humor Millar included in the story to show that underneath the jacked physique, feats of herculean strength, and flowing cape, Superior is a 12-year-old kid at the end of the day. I won’t go into any more of the plot, as I feel that would spoil things. Sure, you can guess where the story goes, but I want you to experience it for yourself.
Another one of my minor gripes with Superior (other than some of the language usage being a bit off for a kid Simon’s age) is the unnecessary/gratuitous fanservice via Madeline’s generous offering of boobage with nearly every panel she’s in (maybe that’s just part of her personality? It’s something else that’s not made entirely clear). On the flipside, there is a single panel of Superior’s beefcake booty reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s flying skirt; and it is, indeed, delicious. Oh, well, I guess you’ve gotta do what you can to cater to your audience (no matter their sexual orientation). As someone with a book coming out next month (which also has superpowered characters in it), I understand doing what’s necessary to get your product into the hands of your target customer.
This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the upcoming Shazam! movie, which has a verrrry similar premise to Superior. The Shazam! trailers have left me underwhelmed, but I do like the depictions of Billy Batson in the Young Justice and Justice League Unlimited animated series (both of which I highly recommend you check out). One of the big differences between the two properties is that Simon/Superior doesn’t have fellow superheroes to mentor him or turn to for help in learning how to be a proper superhero the way Captain Marvel does. It would’ve been interesting to see how Millar would have handled this thread had he made Superior a longer series, especially given Simon’s medical diagnosis.
After reading Superior, I was pleasantly reminded of the magic of being a kid, that feeling that comes from the fresh-faced and unblemished belief in fairy tales, Santa Claus, and heroes with the unshakable morals of Captain America. As we grow up, I feel it’s not that we lose that magic, but that we allow it to be washed away to the rising tides of life, that we tuck it away to make room for pressing adult responsibilities. It collects dust, gets a little dingy, tries to remind us it’s there between the bills and work weeks and attempts at figuring out our love equation. Then, it flickers at the edges of our attention, just as strong and bright and reassuring. Thanks for the reminder, Simon/Superior, keep doin’ the Lord’s work.
Page Length: 200 pgs
Recommend Buy New, Buy Used/On Sale, or Skip: Buy new, or (as always) check with your local library
Next Up: Everything Beautiful Is Far Away, an indie sci-fi film directed by Pete Ohs, is the tale of a man, his robot head, and a young drifter as they trek across a sand-shrouded planet in search of a legendary water basin and the key to their survival. Will the film live up to its promise of an examination of love, loneliness, and relationships in the modern world? Only one way to find out.