BOOK REVIEW – Superior by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu (Graphic Novel)

By Marty Mulrooney

Superior

Superior by Mark Millar (Kick-Ass) and Leinil Yu (Secret Invasion) tells the story of 12-year-old Simon Pooni, a young boy with multiple sclerosis who is granted the wish of becoming a superhero by a talking monkey in a spacesuit named Ormon – Alternative Magazine Online kids you not. Simon no longer needs his wheelchair. Not only can he walk again, but he can fly. Of course, there must be a catch… This hardback edition from Titan Books collects issues 1-7 of the bestselling comic mini-series.

The title character in Superior is a thinly veiled homage to one of the greatest superheroes of all time, Superman.  In the universe of these comics, Superior is the equivalent of our very own Man of Steel, iconically played by Christopher Reeve when adapted for the big screen – whom the mini-series is actually dedicated to along with director Richard Donner. Likewise, in the universe of Superior, the actor known for playing the titular role in the movie adaptations is a man named Tad Scott. However, the character is becoming tired and the public are starting to lose interest.

Yet the fictional superhero still has a fan in 12-year-old Simon Pooni, who is blind in one eye, wheelchair-bound and some days lacks the muscle control even to speak. Some people say it’s like being buried alive in your own skin – his mother thinks that’s a pretty accurate description. Then one night, Simon is awoken by a talking monkey wearing a spacesuit that appears at the end of his bed.

Introducing himself as Ormon, the monkey explains how Simon has been selected of out six billion people to receive the ‘magic wish’. He then turns Simon into Superior. Not just a lookalike of the actor Tad Scott, but a genuine real life version of the superhero character. Simon can walk again. He can also fly, set fires with his laser-vision and cool things down with his freeze-breath. Ormon reveals nothing, only promising that all will be explained in one week.

During this week, we follow Simon as he deals with having his mobility back – out of all his new skills, the thing he likes most about being a superhero is being able to wiggle his toes. After some practice with his best friend Chris, Simon begins using his newly discovered abilities to be a real superhero. An early good deed sees him controlling the descent of a crashing space station above Times Square before setting it down in Central Park. Later, he drives Al Qaeda from Afghanistan in a single day and shatters the Taliban without a single fatality.

Despite doing a man’s work however, he’s still a 12-year-old boy underneath. He uses his newfound fame and success to fulfil some lifelong dreams too, such as batting for the Mets and shooting hoops for the Knicks. There’s something quite touching about the idea of a boy with multiple sclerosis suddenly realising the sky isn’t the limit, it’s only the beginning. But of course, there’s a catch…

Superior is actually a very dark story, with Ormon the monkey coming across as demonic and evil from the outset. Simon doesn’t notice this because he is so overwhelmed by his new body and powers, but as the week comes to a close a battle draws closer. This is actually where the main fault with Superior lies – it’s a great premise but it still ultimately tells the origin story of a superhero before finishing with an epic finale featuring a massive battle.

It’s a bit of a shame that such an original premise has so many well-worn traits of the superhero genre evident throughout – there’s a busty reporter who acts like a bitch for the majority of the story but ends up being a nice person, and a bully who wants to get revenge on Simon and is then given the opportunity to do so in a way he could never have imagined. The set-up promises one thing – namely a superhero comic with a message and some depth – before returning to the tried and tested formula of sexy women, violence and big fights.

Luckily, the writing and artwork just about make the shift in tone work. Mark Millar writes a story that, although pretty basic in retrospect, is pure escapism and wish-fulfilment. This is complemented by Filipino comics artist Leinil Yu’s stunningly detailed artwork, which makes each page a delight to look at and read. It isn’t as original as Kick-Ass and tells a far more generic story in the end, but Superior is still a great read that thankfully manages to retain a little depth even as it piles on the death and destruction. This mini-series collection presents one of 2012’s most enjoyable graphic novels so far – a superior read indeed.

8 OUT OF 10

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