Project Superpowers: Herokillers #2
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Ryan Browne
Artist: Pete Woods
Review by PeteR
In 2008, Dynamite Entertainment started a series utilizing a cast of superheroes who were published during the Golden Age of comics. These characters, many of whom were part of the Nedor Publishing line, copyrights had expired and fallen into public domain. Dynamite christened the series, Project Superpowers. The idea of the comic was to reintroduce these, more or less obscure characters to the modern reading public. For those of us who are fans of the Golden Age, this was an awesome concept.
The first series was written by Jim Krueger with interior art work by Doug Klauba and Steve Sadowski. The covers were done by Alex Ross. Dynamite went so far as to publish mini-series of some of the more popular characters of Project Superpowers, the Black Terror, The Owl, Masquerade and the Death Defying Devil (formerly known as Daredevil). There were also a couple of ancillary books that went along with these titles.
Dynamite released a second Project Superpowers series in 2009. The second run was also written by Jim Krueger. Two of the most striking aspects of all these series were how much research Krueger must have done to write the books and the reverence that he held for the characters.
Project Superpowers, Herokillers does not show any sense of reverence to those characters. It is a satire of both the superhero and side-kick troupes. Project Superpowers, Herokillers takes place in Libertyville, a city with too many superheroes and because of that, not enough crime. Since the heroes are paid by the city and their performance directly effects their pay, there is a lot of competition over a dwindling resource of criminals. There is so much competition over who is the best crime-fighter of the moment, the Mayor of Libertyville has no qualms taking back the key of the city from one hero to publicly bestow it upon another.
Project Superpowers, Herokillers focuses mainly on Tim the Kid-Terror, side-kick of the Black Terror, Captain Battle Jr., the side-kick of Captain Battle (not every concept was original during the Golden Age) and Sparky, the side-kick of Big Blue (who looks suspiciously like the original, Blue Beetle). To fully appreciate the overarching joke, a little history might be helpful to put it all in context might help.
The Black Terror was originally published by Nedor comics and made his debut in 1941 in Exciting Comics #9. Since then he been portrayed a number of different ways. Originally The Black Terror was the standard, square-jawed, chemically enhanced, good guy who ran around with a young boy fighting crime in costumes. More modern renditions represent him having anger and impulse control issues. Project Superpowers, Herokillers depict him as a money-grubbing, abusive, lecherous schmuck. This iteration of the Black Terror is solely invested in public accolades and earning enough money to pay for his steak and hookers.
After a particularly ugly blow-up between the Black Terror and his side-kick, Tim the Kid-Terror, Sparky and Captain Battle Jr. go for a walk to decompress. The three lads observe the villainous Dr. Baron Von Physics’ submarine. They investigate his antics and ultimately save the day only for the Black Terror to arrive and decide he is going to take all the credit. Tim, grabs one of Dr. Von Physics’ ray guns and blasts the Black Terror into oblivion.
Issue #2 of Herokillers deals with the aftermath of Tim and the other two boys’ actions. Now that they are bonafide heroes, the trio attempt to stay popular. Rainbow Boy then saving the day does not help them in this endeavor. Needless to say, the boys’ situation rapidly starts to deteriorate, especially when Big Blue decides to investigate the Black Terror’s apparent death.
Ryan Browne of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame deftly promenades the precarious line of funny versus rude. Comedy is hard to pull off especially when mocking established characters without offending the fan base. Browne knows exactly who his audience for Herokillers is and aims the absurdity towards those readers.
Pete Woods was the perfect choice to draw Herokillers. His previous credits include Action Comics, Robin (2004 run) and Legion Lost. Oh yeah, he was the artist for the 1997 Deadpool series. If you can’t draw towards funny, you don’t get assigned Deadpool.
Other credits for Herokillers include; Celeste Woods (Legacy character), Crank! (Berserker), Kevin Ketner (Cosmic Hero) and Matt Idelson (Polybag). Those are the book’s actual credits so you can guess for yourself what they actually contributed.
Why you should buy this book? Back in 1991, Rick Veitch created a mini-series called Brat Pack. It was a tale about the misadventures of facsimiles of various, teenage sidekicks. It was satirical but incredibly dark. Brat Pack was less laugh-out loud funny comic and more chuckle while wincing series. It deliberately encompassed every single threat to society Frederick Wertham accused the comic industry of in his book, Seduction of the Innocent. Unlike Veitch’s book, Herokillers is actually comical. It feels more akin to Marvels humor titles like Not Brand Echh, Spoof or Arrgh! The editorial boxes in some of the panels harken back to the glory days of portraying bullpen staffers with nomenclatures like Rascally Roy Thomas or Jaunty Jim Shooter. The reader is able to laugh along with the antics in Herokillers without feeling like they’ve been poked in the eye.
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