Thursday, 28 July 2016

Project Superpowers: Blackcross Review (Warren Ellis, Colton Worley)

Like last year’s Supreme: Blue Rose, Warren Ellis takes an obscure superhero title and does some weirdness with it - this is Project Superpowers: Blackcross! 

In the small town of Blackcross, a man douses himself in petrol, strikes a flame, and walks into a lake, burning. Elsewhere, bodies are found with the American flag carved into their chests and six random people feel like they’re being haunted - by superheroes?! 

Blackcross is a spinoff from Jim Krueger and Alex Ross’ 2008 Project Superpowers comic from Dynamite that can also be theoretically read as a standalone book. Here’s the thing: the concept is pretty solid once you see the whole picture, and the story is entertaining at times but if you haven’t read Project Superpowers (like me) or know anything about these really, REALLY obscure Golden Age superheroes, you’re gonna be a bit lost with this one. 

I mean: Pyroman, Lady Satan, The American Spirit, The Green Lama, Black Terror, and The Daring, Death-Defying Devil? Um… who? Are these heroes or villains? What’s their relationship to one another? Why is any of this happening? Is it a prequel or sequel to Project Superpowers? It’s too confusing and Ellis doesn’t help by only providing the bare minimum of info to the reader. 

But that’s what you get when you take public domain (there’s reasons why no-one bothered renewing the copyright on them!) characters, slap a new coat of paint on them and throw them out there - very few people are gonna know who they are unless they’re already familiar with them. And god knows what to make of that ending. Yay… nay? Whatever. 

Colton Worley’s art was very uneven with some pages looking great and others not. Sometimes his lines were clear, sometimes fuzzy - it was like a different artist kept switching with him! I didn’t dislike the art but not much stood out to me. I really liked one scene where the dude is in a hospital bed bathed in this eerie green glow while his superhero “other” stood upside down on the ceiling looking at him - very cool visual! 

Fans of Project Superpowers will probably like this and some Ellis fans too, so long as you’re ok with being confused (though that seems to be par for the course with Warren Ellis comics these days)! I thought Blackcross was ok but this isn’t one of Ellis’ best and definitely not a must-read.

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