Comics Ate My Brain

August 29, 2004

Supreme Power, Part 2

Filed under: supreme power — Tom Bondurant @ 9:16 pm
The cover of issue #3 shows Hyperion in his super-suit. It’s red, white, and blue, but the tunic is a sky (or “Carolina,” if you prefer) blue — not so much the deeper blue of the American flag. (More United Nations, actually.) No cape, naturally. The “H” symbol forms his neckline. (Also, the Hyperion costume has a fly, which is an innovation I kind of wish more traditional costumes would adopt. Just for the sake of practicality. Even the Superman and Batman costumes could hide it under the briefs-on-the-outside, you know?) He’s holding a tattered American flag. The background is a sort of dingy bronze/parchment color, and the lighting reminds me of the portrait of George Washington. Very “archival” looking.

Page 1: Synopsis.

Pages 2-3: Mark meets Bush 41 at the White House. Bush wants him to soften up the Iraqi military before Desert Storm begins. This puts the issue at the end of 1990/beginning of 1991, about 14 years after the rocket landed. Lots of exposition on page 2, with only two unique panels (the White House, and Mark sitting). Mark hears everything they say. More talk about how powerful Mark is — strong, fast, and invulnerable, and he was probably holding back so as not to blow out the instruments. Slightly less exposition on page 3 describes Mark’s job for the military.

Another potential error which could just be a slip of Bush’s tongue: the operation in the Middle East which responded to the invasion of Kuwait was called “Desert Shield” until the air assault began, and then it became Desert Storm. By using “Desert Storm” in front of Mark, Bush is getting ahead of himself. (Just an observation.) On these pages, Mark’s expression hardly changes, but we get the feeling that going up against the Republican Guard would be about as hard for him as getting a box of crackers from the top shelf. Like, “Okay, if you say so; I’m just looking for something to do.” Needless to say, this is not an unusual expression.

Pages 4-5: In mid-January, 1991, Mark destroys the Iraqi military, although we never see it directly. Given what we have learned about the real Iraqi military, both in 1991 and 2003, it would have been interesting to see if the U.S.’s intelligence was accurate. It would have fit this series for Mark to encounter an undersized, underequipped Republican Guard, destroy their tanks, and send them fleeing into the desert. I doubt Mark would have killed any of them (especially not after Spot).

A footnote: At this point Mark is at least 14 years old. When Superman’s teenage self, Superboy, announced himself to the world at around the same age, one of his first public appearances was as a target for Army gunners.

Page 6: Jason Scott, a suspicious reporter for a great Washington D.C. newspaper, thinks something’s fishy about the easy success of Desert Storm. It’s another Superman parallel, since regardless of the iteration reporter Lois Lane always has one of the first public encounters with Superman. However, Jason’s involvement with Mark won’t go as far as Lois.’ (Now that would be a MAX book!)

Pages 7-9: It’s now at least 1995, and Jason defends his Muldering to his editor. He’s investigating weird occurrences in various military actions. This is similar to John Byrne’s Superman origin, where Clark Kent left Smallville at age 18 and traveled the world for 7 years, saving lives in secret. Here, Hyperion acts invisibly for the government — including in Haiti and Somalia, two places where the real U.S. military faced pretty stiff resistance. In single-panel, rapid-fire montage style, Jason interviews assorted weirdos, including Ma Kent and two people who have heard of “Project Hyperion.”

Page 10: Jason does a FOIA request on “Hyperion” and gets a heavily-blacked-out file.

Page 11: Jason confers with a Deep Throat who looks a lot like Joe Ledger. It can’t be Joe, because we already know he’s in a coma. Actually, it looks a lot like Buzz, an unsavory character Gary Frank drew in the late Supergirl book.

Page 12: Jason is freaked-out by what he learns. The panels show him isolated from others, which is probably how he feels — “isolated” in the “singled out” sense, like something was watching him.

Page 13: Jason visits Ma Kent, who we learn is named Cavenaugh. Elsewhere, in some red-lit situation room, Bill Clinton says it’s time to tell Jason the truth. That way, the government can control how the story gets out.

Pages 14-15: Naked Jason is visited by Hyperion. MAX moment: full frontal male nudity for Jason. Page 15 is a splash panel of Hyperion in a black leather X-Men-movie-type jumpsuit.

Page 16: Montage of world news people reacting to Hyperion. The inevitable televangelist gives thanks that God has blessed America thusly. One of the high-school girls reveals she really liked Mark all along. (Tramp!)

Page 17: In the red sit’ room, government people plan how to market Hyperion and use him for political advantage.

Page 18: Clinton’s news conference, intercut with Mark (in the Hyperion suit) floating above the clouds.

Pages 19-20: Intercut Clinton with Hype’s memories (Clinton says he was “raised in an environment of love”) as he swoops down to the press conference. Here we do see one panel of Hyperion destroying a tank, but also one of him frying Spot. I bet page 20, panel 2 is an homage to the famous “pointing down” pose from the cover of Superman #1 (1939).

Page 21: Hype appears at the press conference in a tasteful V-neck sweater, shirt, tie, and slacks. “May we ask you a question?” He replies, “Of course. Freedom of the press is one of the foundations of the American system.” (This last is juxtaposed with Jason Scott.)

Page 22: Hype wraps things up with Jason. Despite his strange answer on the previous page, and his perpetual stoicism, Jason compliments him on his social skills. Hype is bummed because he doesn’t know his origins.

Pages 23-4: Jason and his editor talk about Hype. Jason thinks he’s been played by the White House to distract him from other superhumans. In fact, Jason hears reports of a speedster in Atlanta.

When I first saw issue #4‘s cover, I focused on the “arrowhead” and figured this must be the SP counterpart of Green Arrow. Wrong, obviously. Nighthawk looks suitably creepy here, what with the glowing yellow eyes and the sharp-looking “beak.”

Page 1: Synopsis of issues #1 and 3.

Pages 2-5: Intercut a meeting at a military base with Mark saving a plane. General Casey is releasing the Fa-Kents from their duties and sending them to retirement in Amsterdam. Everyone at the meeting comments on Mark’s public image and the need to keep him connected to the country. The Fa-Kents each receive Presidential Medals of Freedom.

My hat is off to Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, and Chris Sotomayor (color) for the splash panel on page 3. Hyperion rescues the plane with the sun behind him. It’s really beautiful — a “look! Up in the sky!” moment if ever there was one.

Of course Mark enjoys using his powers to help people, but we know (thanks to the general) that this emergency was staged by the military. It does offer a rare look at Mark happy, or at least satisfied. That’s not ego smiling faintly out of page 4, panel 3. However, something creepy is behind the eyes of that woman in the last panel. Yikes.

But again with the ’80s-Alan-Moore aping! Casey says “You’ve given America a new star” right under a big closeup of a star on the flag! We get it, guys. Every time I want to like this series, it chaps my hinder. These anvils are starting to hurt!

Pages 5-7: An insensitive white accountant tells Kyle Richmond how rich he (Kyle) now is. Kyle indicates that the guy’s mere presence reminds him why he’s getting his parents’ inheritance. (In case we’ve forgotten, there’s a newspaper clipping of the hate crime on the wall behind Kyle.) Meanwhile, the TV blares an “Entertainment Today” report on Hyperion. On TV, Hype says “you can’t break [his feelings] down into black-and-white terms.” Wham! (Oww!) Once Kyle is alone, he dresses in the Nighthawk suit. The closeup of Nighthawk’s goggles reminds me of Nite Owl’s goggles in Watchmen.

Page 7 does have a weird panel that I honestly didn’t notice until now. In panel 4, Hyperion makes what sounds like a joke about kids not jumping out of windows to be like him. It’s punctuated like a joke, but Hype has this downcast look which makes me wonder if he’s referring to an actual event. Otherwise, the words and the picture just don’t go together. Anyway, it’s all in the service of telling us again that Hyperion feels alone, and contrasting that again with the existence of another masked mystery-man. Thanks, folks, I missed the ends of issues #1, 2, and 3.

Pages 8-11: Nighthawk saves an African-American woman from white attackers. It’s all very bloody, including an arrowhead to the eye and the ripping off of ears. (Two ears! Up yours, Reservoir Dogs!) Nighthawk isn’t interested in scaring these thugs in order to give him an advantage; he knows he can take each one of them without it. Frank does a good job with the fight, using some traditional “Batman moves” (only showing parts of the hero, keeping him in the background, emphasizing the glowing eyes) without trying to make Nighthawk look like Batman. The victim’s expression at the end of the fight also captures her mood — a cautious “take that,” I’d call it.

Pages 12-14: At the Fa-Kents’ house, Casey tells Mark to look into the Atlanta Blur rumors. But Mark and Pa were supposed to go fishing! Too bad, but maybe Ma can go instead. By the way, the “Miltons” are named Mason and Elizabeth. Mark wants to reschedule the fishing, but Pa really wants to go. Mark hears Pa’s heart beating abnormally fast; and on his way out, notices the big red “X” over “Fishing” on the calendar.

Page 15: Fans have camped outside the Fa-Kent house (just past the barbed wire). One OMIGOD!s when she sees Hype lift off. This little scene makes sense — Mark’s parents were under constant scrutiny by the government, so naturally after he went public they’d be under constant scrutiny by fans and the media and the government scrutiny might not seem so bad.

Page 16: The Fa-Kents leave as Hype flies away.

Pages 17-18: Hype hovers over Atlanta, listening — but does he hear the Fa-Kents’ deception? (Nice little joke about Atlanta’s obsession with “Peachtree” street names.) He hears the Blur and chases after.

Page 19: Hype catches the Blur, but Blur gets away.

Page 20: At long last, Hyperion realizes he’s not alone. No time to dwell on that, though, as soldiers arrive to tell Hype there’s been an accident with his parents.

Pages 21-22: Hype searches the ocean and finds the wrecked fishing boat.

Page 23: Hype mourns as the Fa-Kents split up in Amsterdam. From his footsteps on the beach we can tell he just flew away, but for some reason we also see quite a few fish washed up on the shore. What does this mean? Is it some side effect of his being in the ocean? Is it yet more irony, that the fish were literally coming out of the ocean but the Fa-Kents weren’t there to catch them? Does Hyperion realize this? Did he put his dad’s racing heartbeat together with the X-ed out calendar and deduce they were leaving? Is he sad because he thinks they’re gone or because he thinks they went fishing just to get away from him? Either way, he’s sad because he knows they’re not coming back. He really is alo– oh, wait….


These issues introduce Hyperion to the world and show him doing traditional superhero stuff. Not only is Hyperion a celebrity, he’s also apparently pretty glib. Considering how much exposition went into convincing us how powerful he was, and how screwed-up his childhood was, I’m surprised we’re asked to accept his newfound social skills so readily.

In fact, that’s one of the big potential problems with this series. It’s drummed into our heads that Hyperion was raised under a microscope, in virtual isolation, by people who were supposed to love him without having any genuine feelings for each other. From this environment he learned the concepts of “love” and “trust.” He’s able to articulate both of those to his “dad” in order to have a normal day at school.

Now, I am willing to accept that the Fa-Kents gave him enough semblance of an ordinary upbringing so that he knew to call one feeling “love” and the other “trust.” (And how, exactly, did they do that by themselves? Were there no grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.? Did Mark spend the first dozen years of his life with his parents, assorted teachers, and the TV?) I can accept that his upbringing allows him to function in normal society. It is much, much harder for me to accept that he can charm the White House Press Corps.

These issues set up Mark’s desire basically to be a superhero. He is fulfilled by using his powers to help other people, perhaps because he knows it’s right, but also because he sees that he can make people happy, instead of nervous, for a change. This is half of the Clark/Superman equation, with the other half being the need for a normal life. (That’s coming, don’t worry.) For now, Mark enjoys serving people, without much thought for how that could be abused. I suppose we can infer that his foster parents provide him with enough privacy and “down time,” but at the end of this issue they’re gone. This leaves the government/military (SP seems to treat them interchangeably) free to step in as a parental figure, and as we will see, that will end up backfiring on it completely.

I’m not really commenting on Nighthawk because he raises some sensitive issues about which I have no experience. He’s basically Batman with a racially-charged origin, but he goes entirely for the violence with none of the theatrics. To me this makes him less interesting visually than Batman, and more of a “street fighter” like Daredevil. There’s more with him coming up soon as well.

That’s pretty much it for these two issues. None of the Spectrum, Zarda, or Amphibian plots were advanced. Remember, it’s 1/3 of the way through the first year, and 2/3 through the first paperback, and the only plot which has formed so far concerns Hyperion’s journey of self-discovery.

And maybe the dead fish.

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