Supreme Power #17


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Supreme Power #17


  • Words: J. Michael Straczynski
  • Art: Gary Frank
  • Inks: John Sibal with Mark Morales
  • Colors: Chris Sotomayor
  • Story Title: True Face
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jun 22, 2005

Superhuman abilities can stop trains and raze buildings, but can they fight the forces of fate?

The reporter who first told the world about the existence of a human weapon of mass destruction named Mark Milton and codenamed Hyperion is about to break something even bigger. It’s so big that his life is in danger. General Alexander finds Mark in a strip club and offers him the chance to return to the service of the government. Mark’s refusal sets more wheels in motion. Meanwhile, in a hidden location, Dr. Spectrum offers The Amphibian safe haven and falls a little more in love with her. But someone finds them—The Power Princess, drawn to the crystal giving Dr. Spectrum his powers. The Amphibian attacks her and makes one more enemy, this one more than she can handle. And just as Mark experiences one of the joys of being human, the world learns that he’s anything but.

Another solid script from J. Michael Straczynski keeps Supreme Power firmly entrenched as Marvel’s best example of mature and sophisticated comics for adults. Pacing the story as deliberately as a vice, Straczynski ratchets the tension up another notch, applying the sort of pressure that will either bring his characters together or destroy them, and most probably a little of both. How Straczynski manages suspense, how he uses it to refine his plot points and challenge his characters has been his chief strength over the course of seventeen issues. Consequently, questions such as "When will the characters come together as a team?" and "When will Supreme Power start looking like a superhero team book?" are pushed into the background. Thus far, the set-up is the story, and the title is better for it. The stakes seem higher, and the tension increases as events and agendas conspire to pull the characters together while also pulling them apart. This is a tough task to pull off given that as yet there is no mutual adversary or "villain." Rather, Straczynski realizes that the much more interesting story concerns the enemy within, the extent to which Hyperion and company are their own antagonists. This is the lens through which more and more bits and aspects of character are revealed. Mark Milton’s increasing alienation, Dr. Spectrum’s dual nature, The Amphibian’s animal nature, and The Power Princess acting as capriciously as the god she is. All of these are strengths as well as weaknesses, and one more reason why Supreme Power continues to subvert traditional expectations of what superhero comics should be, while at the same time offering what all too few do—drama.

Gary Frank’s free-form panel construction keeps the story moving. His pencils are tight but expressive, realistic but hiding something sinister beneath the cool, slick surfaces of John Sibal and Mark Morales’ inks and Chris Sotomayor’s colors. Several images stand out: the bones and organs Mark sees beneath human skin, the emotional range of The Amphibian’s, and the light of Hyperion in Mark’s eyes at the end of the story. And one particular image—the splash page depicting The Amphibian leaping from the water as if towards the moon—is simply gorgeous. The artwork, particularly the inks and colors, match the tension in Straczynki’s script stride for stride, the inks effectively shadowing characters’ faces as much as their motivations and agendas, the colors vibrant against a muted background, graphically hinting that in the world of Supreme Power, nothing is at all what it appears to be.

With adult-oriented drama and art as up to the task as the script, Supreme Power is in that lead pack that defines the standard for contemporary comics.

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