Sunday, March 22, 2009


Supreme: The Story of the Year (2002) reprints issues 41-52b of Image Comics’ Supreme, which were originally published in 1996 and 1997. Supreme was originally created by Rob Liefeld; Alan Moore completely recreated the character beginning with issue 41, so no previous familiarity with either Supreme or his world is necessary here (In fact, as the story begins, Supreme is suffering from amnesia, so the reader learns his background at the same time the character does).

Moore has deliberately created a pastiche of 1950’s Superman. There are analogues of all the old characters. Supreme has all Superman’s powers; his alter ego is Ethan Crane, a bespectacled comic book artist. There’s Diana Dane, a coworker who’s the love interest, and Darius Dax, a brilliant criminal mastermind who’s Supreme’s old nemesis. There’s Suprema, Supreme’s super-powered sister, and Radar the caped “hound supreme.” There are analogues for Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, all the members of the Justice League and the Legion of Superheroes, too. But Moore is not just writing old Superman stories with these characters – most of them are distinctly different from the characters on which they are modeled.

Moore’s Supreme is both an homage to and send-up of Silver Age comics. There’s none of the deconstructionism he’s commonly associated with (see Watchmen, etc.). What Moore has tried to do here is merge the comics of the nineties with the sensibilities of fifties’ comics, which were cheesier and more fun, in which science operated in broad strokes, and which featured such alliterative exclamations as “Great galloping galaxies!” Here, Moore gives us that and more, the highlight being “Great Montezuma’s Revenge!”

Supreme features several layers of metafiction. At the beginning of Moore’s run, Supreme observes that maybe he did just pop into existence – he’s fine with this. As Crane, he draws the comic Omniman, which features a Supreme-like character. When Supreme has a flashback, it’s drawn as a comic within the comic. On top of all this is the constant reminder of vintage Superman.

The art here is a mixed bag. This volume collects 13 issues, and features nine pencillers and three inkers. From one issue to another, the primary artist often changes. Nearly all of them draw the present-day sequences in the ridiculous overly-muscled and exaggerated style that Image helped make so popular in the nineties. The highlight is Rick Veitch’s art. When Supreme has a flashback (he has them at least once an issue), Veitch does the art in a Silver Age, more realistic style; without this, the whole thing wouldn’t work (Keith Giffen adds one seventies-style flashback that’s also well done).

What Moore has done here works for the most part, but not entirely. Occasionally it feels forced, and the flashbacks are usually more interesting than the “present day” parts of the story. And in the flashbacks, the toddler version of Supreme talks like the Incredible Hulk for reasons that are not explained. The reader may also insane by the vast number of times the word “supreme” is used as a following descriptor (sight supreme, hound supreme, spat supreme, etc.).

Moore’s run on Supreme isn’t his best work, but he keeps things interesting. This volume will definitely appeal to fans of Silver Age comics.