I have written before about comic-books featuring public domain superheroes, such as in Erik Larsen’s Next Issue Project. These are characters created decades ago who’s original owners let the copyright’s lapse, which means that now any publisher is able to use those characters. For a little over a decade now, Dynamite Entertainment has been quite pro-active in using many old public domain superheroes in their comics, under their Project Superpowers banner, sometimes within a continuing continuity and other times separate. This 5-issue self-contained miniseries was published in 2017, and that’s what I’m reviewing today.
The premise is that there is an American city called Libertyville which was plagued by an extremely high crime problem. So the mayor launched a program to invite any superheroes from across the country to move to Libertyville, in exchange for various benefits including payments for every crime that they solve or criminal that they apprehend. Dozens of superheroes took them up on their offer and moved to Libertyville and within a few years they’d effectively wiped out most crime, making it now the safest city in the country. The problem with that is that now all of these superheroes have nothing to do and no ways to earn money. Many are also missing the glory of fighting crime and being public heroes. Now when any crime occurs, no matter how small, all of the heroes rush and often fight each other to be the one to stop it and end up just causing more trouble.
Of course, the question is never raised about why don’t the heroes just move somewhere else then? But nevermind.
The comic begins with what appears to be about two dozen heroes (most are unnamed, but if you’re familiar with Dynamite’s titles you’ll recognize them, although it’s not really necessary at the moment) all converging on some warehouse to stop what appears to be an illegal alcohol bootlegging operation being performed by robots who are dressed like old-time gangsters from the 1920’s. But all isn’t what it appears to be. The lead characters of the issue are three teenage sidekicks, Tim, the partner of The Black Terror, Sparky, the partner of the original Blue Beetle, and Captain Battle Jr., the partner and son of Captain Battle.
The three young men all feel disrespected by their mentors, who treat them like children and steal all the glory for their adventures. Tim, in particular, is unhappy, as we see what it’s like for him living with Black Terror, who is a binge-drinking oaf who sleeps with prostitutes and constantly berates Tim and uses him as an errand boy. One day while hanging out together, they come upon a supervillain, Dr. Baron Von Physics (who appears to be an original character, not a reused public domain one), who is preparing a plan to attack Libertyville. The three sidekicks leap into action, albeit with some reluctance on Tim’s part, and manage to subdue and capture. Right at that point Black Terror appears and orders the sidekicks to leave, as he plans to alert the police and the media and take sole credit for capturing the villain. Initially, the boys are sadly going to acquiesce, but then Tim takes matter into his own hands, making a decision that will change the boys’ lives forever.
This was a good first issue, well-written, it tells you everything you need to know to follow the story even if, as I said, you’re unfamiliar with the characters. The cliffhanger is very compelling, making you want to come back to read the next issue, and Pete Wood’s artwork is a nice almost animated style, that looks very good. A great effort all-around.