A storm has been brewing throughout the course of Alex Ross and Jim Krueger's Dynamite Entertainment series "Project Superpowers: Chapter 2." Arc-by-arc, the impending disaster that pulled Golden Age heroes like the Black Terror and the Green Lama apart before thrusting them back together proved to be less of a metaphorical storm and the literal return of the Greek god of thunder and lightning, Zeus.
With that ancient player revealed as the true power behind Captain Future and the simultaneous return of the behemoth villain The Claw, Ross told CBR News that June's final issue #12 is "tying everything together and tying the players together on one field."
The artist explained that while his part of the collaboration involves finding the biggest, craziest ways for letting the final pieces of the series-spanning battle fall together visually, the conflict between the time-lost superheroes and the two titanic forces of nature will help give the "Project Superpowers" universe its final form.
"In effect, Zeus, once revealed, is a giant and could become any size he wants. He's the god of all gods from Greek myth. And The Claw is that giant villain of the '40s who has some God-forsaken origin of being born on the moon," Ross told CBR. "If anything, these stories are reviving various parts of the Golden Age but doing it in twisted and unnerving ways while essentially providing us a way of looking at our return heroes in a sense of how their dilemma in its entirety is somewhat askew from the traditional comic book universes."
Establishing the "Project Superpowers" world as unique and divergent from Marvel or DC's cosmology has been the goal of the series since the beginning. Now that "Chapter 2" is at an end, Ross revealed that all the pieces are in place for what these characters will represent over the course of future Dynamite stories. "The biggest revelation we've put forth is an exploration of the idea that no comic book characters really live or die. They are just constants," he said. "The filtration of them coming from the past to today involved a certain step of magic along the way. Maybe that magic, in holding them in its clutches for a time, has basically turned them into the stuff of legend. Maybe it's now that they won't age, won't die, and they know that. They have continual resurrection. And this is something that could be said in any comic book universe, but here we're making that a metaphor for all superheroes and all comic universes."
Moving forward after this final battle, the heroes established by Ross, Krueger and company won't be facing careers full of busting bank robbers so much as they'll struggle with finding their place in a world where they hold more power than anyone could or should have. "Not all these characters have reabsorbed their personal lives as they used to have them, and they're returned to a world that didn't know superheroes or has forgotten them. Much of what they have is each other," Ross explained.
However, before the heroes can break out on their own, there's still the matter of defeating a mad god of all gods and a cunning monster in The Claw, and what's at stake in issue #12 will be a reminder of what any superpower can become when left unchecked. "One of the things the story does serve a purpose for is that the appearance of Zeus as a person who was masquerading as a superhero in their time and then got trapped with them - he's a metaphor for their power run amok," Ross said. "At the start of the storyline, we've taken over the American government, overthrown the President and taken control of the Pentagon, all for the purpose of them finding out that that's a lot more complicated than superheroes should be taking on themselves. They're not transferring that power to any other entity and they're not looking to take over the day-to-day activities of government. That's one aspect they come across very early in the story - that their power has the potential to run amok. It's not for these 'supermen' to become a world entity and run a government. If anything, they're a balance against other super powers.
"The Zeus power gone amok and the fact that he acts like the petulant child he always was in myth is a sign to them of what they need not become. And of course, Claw is a greater elaboration of power gone amok in that its terrifying power. Now that superheroes with physical superpowers are back in the world, this is the other extreme; an extreme of taking over the world and taking it to Hell, in effect."
The forces dragging the superpowers to their doom found an apocalyptic representation on Ross' most recent string of covers, where Zeus appeared as a mushroom-like cloud across the recent "Project Superpowers" issues -- including the cover to #12, which serves as Ross' homage to George Perez's famed "Crisis on Infinite Earths" #12 cover.
"It's funny. In creating that composition, I was looking to do something that would be almost too much of a riff on that original cover by Perez," Ross recalled. "As it worked out, the majority of our heroes don't fly, so there wouldn't have been the opportunity to have them all coming down on this giant creature. So this angle proved to be the most sensible, with him reaching down at the people at ground level. But I was very distinctly trying to copycat that influence, and it's nice when influence can take you in a direction where you didn't expect to go. None of the elements are the same, physically, but you can recognize where the inspiration comes from."
When the storm has passed and the survivors stand up, Ross promises payoff on the whole series to date with characters taking their final form. "We've set up details about how some of the characters storylines reach a certain plateau. As implied by the variant cover on this issue, 'Devil and Dare become a combo unit, which is a kind of obvious gag I've been setting up. Hopefully that could become its own series following as a part of this overall universe," Ross explained. "Much of the things we follow with will be more spotlighting individual characters. Jim has a thing that's a big idea spinning out of this that's more of a new grouping concept that will be set up.
"There are a few things that are typical of a big series spinning off, but as far as a grander vision, I think we've put most of that out now. This is a world of superheroes who are trapped by that, and they're recognizing that this is their fate."
Alex Ross and Jim Krueger knew what metaphorical ground they'd be traveling from the start, but "we've done a lot more of that planning post-start and on the fly," Ross said. "Before we did our very first zero issue years ago, it was key to find some kind of concept that would throw all these characters into this vortex that would get them today. So the metaphor of them being released from Pandora's Box led to this ultimate form. A lot of the over-arching planning has been stuff that happened in the development stage of this thing. In the history of work I've done with Jim, we'd have literal graphs plotting out where everything would go, but we've kind of taken a much more easy 'take it as it comes' attitude with this.
"In fact, most of this for me has been about reintroducing these characters through the covers in a way that say, 'Hey, look at that guy! What if he had his own book?' It's trying to get people's interest in characters whose status isn't important just for being bygone characters or preexisting characters but just saying 'Don't these things make sellable properties on their own with a cool look that's worth your attention?'"
Now with the characters polished and powered up from their Golden Age roots, all that's left is for fans to make known which characters they'd like to see take the lead in the next chapter of "Project Superpowers."