What happens when you mix the movie “Big” with the “Shazam!” comic? You end up with “Superior,” Mark Millar and Leinil Yu’s new comic from Marvel’s Icon imprint. The first issue was a lot of set-up, where Simon (who, in an attempt to outdo Billy Batson, has multiple sclerosis) and his friend Chris are shown to be big friends of the “Superior” movie series, and culminates in Simon somehow transforming into Superior himself. It’s a decent lead-in to the rest of the mini-series, and I know a lot of people were looking forward to seeing just what the rest of the mini-series would entail.
So here, with the second issue, we get the obligatory scene where Simon (with the help of his friend Chris) has to figure out how to use all of his new powers, and begins experimenting with them.
No, there’s nothing else. That’s the entire second issue.
On the plus side, this is one of the Millar’s gentlest, more welcoming scripts I’ve read. He hasn’t fallen back on any of his old tricks (male rape, extreme violence, or other scenes that feel like they’re designed to be controversial) and instead just presented us a pleasant story about two friends trying to figure out what this strange situation means for the both of them. Simon and Chris interacting is nice and relatively harmless. We get an analogy handed to us about how Simon’s never giving up during physical therapy for his multiple sclerosis translates into a superhero that also never gives up. It’s, well, sweet.
At the same time, though, we’re now through the second issue and not a darn thing has happened save for Simon becoming the character of Superior. It’s hard to keep from feeling that this should have been a several page sequence in the issue, not the entire issue from front to back cover. It’s frustrating, too, because like I said before, this is a comic that isn’t resorting to the usual story tics that we find in Millar’s comics. I appreciate that a great deal, and I’m fairly certain I’m not the only reader who feels this way. I just wish I wasn’t getting a sinking feeling that without all of those expected elements, there’s nothing else left to fill the void.
Still, “Superior” does have one ace in the hole, and that’s Yu and Gerry Alanguilan drawing the book. Yu and Alanguilan continue to bring page after page of gorgeous art. That opening splash page with Superior entering Chris’s room through the window? Remove the lettering and you’ve got a page worthy of framing. Superior feels like he’s actually moving; his hand reaching forward doesn’t feel posed or stiff, his face looks like it’s caught in that split second before he says something, and the little detail of his other hand touching the window frame while his foot is hooked along the bottom? It’s great.
It’s a careful attention to detail that continues throughout the entire book. Look at the second page, where one of the sports posters on the wall is lined up not quite right with the others, just the way a kid’s room would be. There’s a pair of sneakers next to the radiator, the sheets are rumpled but not ludicrously so, and I love that the pillow case is riding up on one of the pillows. And then, moving down the page, we get portraits of Chris and Superior; you can see the mistrust on Chris’s face, and the desperation and confusion in Superior’s eyes. And we aren’t even on page three yet.
I’m glad that Millar appears to be writing outside of his usual sphere for “Superior,” and at the end of the day I’ll take that over a hollow but flashy book. Hopefully the final page of “Superior” #2 means that the rest of the plot is going to kick in momentarily. Until then, though, enjoy the kindness of “Superior,” and even more importantly, check out Yu and Alanguilan’s gorgeous art. For that alone, “Superior” is worth the cover price.