Last week saw the debut on ComiXology of Mark Millar’s Millarworld books, the creator-owned titles he releases on his own imprint that include the likes of Kick Ass, Secret Service and Super Crooks. Alongside last week’s releases of Kick Ass spin-off Hit Girl and ultra-violent post-modern superhero tale Nemesis, this week sees the release of one Millar’s most underrated recent books, the wonderful Superior featuring art by frequent Millar contributor Leinil Frances Yu
As one of the many high profile superstar writers and a man with a very prominent public profile, it’s very easy to pigeon hole Millar as the ‘ultra violent Kick Ass guy’. Many of his most notorious books feature a violent and splatterific edge that many other mainstream writers would avoid going anywhere near – this is after all the man who featured a scene of testicular torture in Kick Ass #1 and saw Wolverine burst from the Hulk’s stomach in Old Man Logan – however this is also the man who gave the Avengers their attitude in Ultimates, turned Superman into a Soviet icon in Red Son and plotted the epic Civil War, which proves he is more than just a shock merchant and Superior is the kind of title that reinforces what a smart and astute writer Millar is.
Superior is the story of 12 year old Simon Pooni a young disabled boy who is restricted to a wheel chair as a result of multiple sclerosis. He vicariously lives out his dreams of a normal life through movies and in particular through the adventures of superhero Superior (a mix of Superman and Captain Marvel) whose big screen antics are becoming increasingly passé, but are still loved by Pooni. Everything changes though when he is visited by Ormon a mystical space monkey who grants Simon his wish of becoming a superhero – but not just any superhero, Superior himself!
This idea of a superhero riff on the movie Big is inspired and Millar handles Simon’s early adaptation with an expert touch, taking the best bits of all the classic superhero origins (discovering his powers, battling bullies, concealing his identity) but giving it added pathos with Simon’s parents searching for their missing son. After all they don’t know he is off doing good deeds, saving the world and living his dream, he’s just missing, and with the selfishness of youth Simon chooses to disregard that. As well as the usual superhero angst, and world-saving, there’s also a neat sub plot involving Tad Scott, the star of the Superior movies losing his celebrity now the real Superior is on the scene which gives the whole thing yet another layer of ‘meta-ness’.
It’s not all sweetness and light though and as you would expect from a Millar book, and from superhero origin book in general, it takes a dark twist at the end of issue 3 when we discover Ormon’s real motives and he unleashes Superior’s new nemesis, Abraxis, on the world – after all you can’t have a superhero series without a super villain – and this sets up a brilliant final battle with an epic bus-smashing conclusion.
If you’ve only enjoyed Millar’s work through his high profile titles like Kick Ass, Wanted or Ultimates then this is the perfect time to discover more. Superior manges to perfectly balance the edginess of Millar’s writing with a well thought out and considered story, and doesn’t get bogged down with controversy, violence or expletives. The book isn’t completely neutered though, and there is still plenty of edge, but with the added depth of Simon’s back story it makes it something truly special in the Millarworld canon. It’s also packed full of the usual high quality artwork you would expect from the brilliant Leinel Yu, with stunning epic of shots of Superior in action as well as some truly chilling shots of the fiendish Ormon at his devillish worst. So be sure to check out Superior before its almost inevitable movie adaptation hits your local movie theatre and see why it is such an underrated classic.
Superior 1-7 is available on ComiXology for £1.99 per issue