Grace Randolph and Russell Dauterman’s “Supurbia” #1 is very interesting. It’s hard to know if it can deliver on all its promise, but this first issue is a bizarrely intriguing blend of traditional superhero comics and “The Stepford Wives,” with a dash of “The Real Housewives” series from Bravo thrown in for modern flavor.
Randolph’s idea is lots of fun, focusing on the “women behind the supermen.” If they were less interesting women it could have been a disaster, but Randolph chooses her cast well, which helps to offset the idea that these women (and one man) are not the actual superheroes of the story, even if they are the stars. The archetypal Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all present, as are their supportive (and not so supportive) spouses, which range from ex-villains to powerful CEOs. Randolph’s Wonder Woman knockoff is kind of an ultra feminist jerk who ignores her son in favor of her daughter; her Superman is so powerful, he gets whatever he wants — for good or ill; and her Batman is having an affair with her Robin. Randolph reinforces tropes while also subverting them and all to good effect.
One concern: there are simply a lot of characters introduced in this first issue. If “Supurbia” were an ongoing series, it might be okay, but as a four-issue mini-series I’m anxious to see whether it can all be resolved satisfactorily with so many pieces on the board. That said, Randolph does a great job of setting up her world, leaning effectively on the superhero tropes readers are already familiar with and layering in everything else around them. It’s not quite clear what the story is actually going to be at the end of this first issue (other than the fact that there’s a traitor in their midst) but all the characters and relationships have been nicely established and most of them are very fun.
Russell Dauterman’s art helps make this book actually work. An artist more interested in cheesecake would have undermined everything Randolph seems to be doing with this story. Instead, the art and writing come together nicely to simultaneously celebrate and subvert the superhero cliches we’re presented with. Dauterman has a slightly cartoonish style perfectly capturing the light, subversive tone Randolph is going for. As a result, the book just works. Gabriel Cassata’s work provides the perfect bright colors of superhero comics and feels very appropriately California suburbs. Unfortunately, the cover is a bit of a misstep and might throw off potential readers from what is actually a much more cartoony and appropriate style inside.
All in all, “Supurbia” is an incredibly interesting start to a new mini-series full of potential. I can’t wait to see where Randolph and Dauterman will take this story, and if the first issue is any indication it’s going to be a ton of fun.