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My second number two reference of the day: Graeme goes indie.

Graeme McMillan

SUPERIOR SHOWCASE #2: I can’t work out if the existence of this book is pragmatism on the part of Adhouse – realizing that perhaps the best way for an indie anthology to survive in this market is for it to be a superhero anthology – or a failure of the comic readership en masse. Or, perhaps, somewhere in between but touching on both bases. Nonetheless, it’s not too surprising that this second issue is Good but wildly uneven, with the worst strip tending to be the most traditional and reverential to the source material.

That strip, depressingly, is Farel Dalrymple’s “The Awesomest Super Guy, Hollis, in: Shadowsmen”. I’m a massive fan of Dalrymple’s artwork – there’s something about the way that everything seems offkilter and handmade, especially when coated in the texture that he works into his shading that really makes me very happy indeed – but it’s wasted on this story that’s just kind of pedestrian; not only is there no twist on the formula that he uses, but it’s a pretty tired formula. If you’re going to essentially do a Batman story and play it relatively straight, then it’s not enough for the twist to be that the hero isn’t Batman but a slightly overweight guy called Hollis, you know? Or maybe I’m missing something else from the experience.

Likewise, Joey Weiser’s “The Unremarkable Tree Frog” is somewhat underwhelming, but for less obvious reasons. It’s got a smart central idea (superheroes as fandom, with all the social anxieties and outcasting that comes along with that), but doesn’t really do anything with it, and is too short for the lack of action to be any kind of lengthy commentary about the mundane, eventless nature of reality (Yes, I said it was too short to be something lengthy. There was a real point in there as well, however, I promise); instead, it’s just… there. Which, admittedly, may be a point in and of itself.

Maris Wicks’ “A Long, Strange Trip,” meanwhile, takes a well-worked idea and, through playing it an off-beam version of straight, makes it into something curiously enjoyable and fun: “The human body is policed by superheroic versions of natural bodily functions!” There’s an innocence about it that reminds me of James Kochalka’s stuff, but without the self-satisfication and smugness that ruins the majority of his work for me, and it’s that innocence that both makes the story work and is missing in the other, less successful, stories. The moral, then, may be this: If you’re going to do superheroes, make them innocent. Or make them bodily functions. Everything else pales in comparison.

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