I like books that sneak up on you when you’re not expecting it. I’m not talking about comics dive-bombing potential readers from the shelves of the store (although that is fairly entertaining in its own right), but rather, the kind where you think it’s going in one direction, but is quietly angling in an entirely different one. And that’s the sort of comic that Lowell Francis, Scott Snyder, and Gene Ha have created with “Flashpoint: Project Superman.”
Francis and Snyder have created Lieutenant Sinclair, a young soldier that thirty years earlier was a rising star and familiar with superhuman beings and the destruction they’d cause. So when given the chance to be turned into a superhuman in its own right, Sinclair jumps at the chance. But, of course, things don’t go quiet as planned.
I love the fact that “Flashpoint: Project Superman” isn’t a “things happen overnight” sort of story. The long time span of this story lets Francis have the transformation of Sinclair happen so gradually that it takes you a little bit of time to realize just where the endpoint is waiting for us. It helps that Francis presents Sinclair as having the best of intentions; he wants to help the country, to become super-powered, to do his best. It’s that eagerness that initially hides his first steps down a path that doesn’t necessarily end where he or the army wants it to.
Even when Sinclair tries to deceive the army, it’s always with a combination of good intentions and self-preservation. This isn’t someone who’s secretly plotting to destroy the world, or even a specific person. But three years into the story, as things are going wrong, you can see why Sinclair has made these mistakes, and just how he’s turned from hero to threat. (For those who are reading “Booster Gold” right now, there’s also a nod to its “Project Six” and trust me, the source of that alien DNA being added into Sinclair is worrisome. But even if you haven’t, Francis makes sure to lay it out well enough that you don’t know the details but still get the idea that this is something going south, rapidly.)
It doesn’t hurt matters that “Flashpoint: Project Superman” is drawn by Ha, of course. Ha’s tight pencils and inks shine here, letting us see Sinclair’s slow evolution from an average man into something increasingly non-human. With Ha you can get the glimpses of the change, seeing him not only bulk up in terms of muscle, but also how his facial features slowly shift. It shouldn’t be a surprise, though. This is, after all, an artist who puts more detail into his backgrounds than many artists do with their foregrounds. And speaking of which, when we get to those final two pages of the issue, with those images of Metropolis? It’s just marvelous. Ha never fails to impress in my book.
“Flashpoint: Project Superman” #1 is one of the strongest “Flashpoint” comics to date, and while I already knew that I loved comics by Ha and Snyder, it’s given me a new name to keep an eye out for, namely Francis. If the other two issues live up to the promise of this first one, I’ll be quite pleased indeed.