Project Superman #1 review

Lt Neil Sinclair, patriot. He’s volunteered for Project Superman, General Sam Lane’s attempt to create a super-soldier to protect America from rogue metahumans. We first meet him 30 years ago, when he’s jumped to the front of the queue due to a number of run-ins with paranormals. Prone to quoting zen proverbs, and sporting what look to be Chinese tattoo designs, he’s not your cliched comic book patriot.

Over the next few years, mad science gives him powers and resilience, increasing his speed, invulnerability and strength. Sinclair’s changing cell structure enables him to take in energy and convert it into something else. He’s not entirely trusting of Lane, noticing that the more powerful he gets, the more nervous the old soldier seems around him. After a while Lane simply keeps away from the lab where the mysterious Dr Ridge experiments on Subject Zero – a dehumanising name that doesn’t sit well with Sinclair. It’s unsurprising that he keeps subtler powers, such as x-ray vision and super-hearing, to himself, letting him eavesdrop on Lane and Ridge.

Pushing himself ever harder in the hopes of regaining Lane’s confidence, Sinclair goes over the top when he’s finally allowed into the field, not simply taking his enemies off the battlefield, but slaughtering them – slicing heads in two, laughing as eyeballs go flying. Completely carried away, in some paranormal version of ‘the zone’, he ultimately kills his own support team.

The military manages to incapacitate Sinclair, but he’s plotting his escape when something falls from the skies amid a shower of comets which devastates Metropolis – a rocket containing glowing crystals and a baby wrapped in red and blue blankets.

And that’s the precis. Actually reading the comic is a different matter, as writers Scott Snyder and Lowell Francis, and artist Gene Ha, take their time introducing Sinclair. We watch him transform from good American to not so much a Superman as an overman, a powerhouse who’s lost touch with his humanity. Lane and Ridge create a monster, but rather than slaying it, they continue to feed Sinclair, hoping that somehow he can be tamed.

It’s not looking good …

The art is, though, as Gene Ha demonstrates once again that he’s a modern master, presenting characters that can be read on the surface, while making it obvious they have inner lives. The exception to this is Ridge, whose face and massive cranium is hidden under a helmet. Ha, partnered with colourist Art Lyon, presents x-ray vision in a way I don’t think we’ve seen previously. As Sinclair evolves physically, his hair gets spikier, his colouring less naturalistic. And letterer Rob Leigh pulls things out of his bag of tricks to represent the onset of super-hearing and growing alienness of Sinclair.

The violence in this comic is nasty, but it’s confined to just a few pages; makes its point and goes away, unlike sister Flashpoint title Grodd of War in which the horrors ram the same point home again and again – without Flash, Grodd is bored. While Project Superman is set so far in the past that it can’t touch upon the Atlantis/Amazon war driving the main Flashpoint storyline, it does make little nods to things in other titles, such as the Creature Commandos, Project Six and Lois Lane & the Resistance.

I can’t predict where this will go, though Sinclair’s ever-growing spikiness, his ability to become immune to different energies and the presence of (an older-looking than you might expect) General Nathaniel Adam has me wondering if he’ll become the Doomsday controlled by Adam in Booster Gold.

With that question to be solved, and the arrival of, presumably, Kal-El, the next two issues are going to be worth watching.

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7 thoughts on “Project Superman #1 review

  1. I have a feeling the baby's gonna be put in the grinder to fuel Sinclair's powers even more.

    This is one instance where I can imagine Reverse-Flash's manipulations, apparently making all the Krypton detritus hit Metropolis in one go. If it's a world without a Superman, then thematically, we can almost believe Aquaman and Wonder Woman's “turning”. Superhumans in this world have not gotten their noble Example.

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyed this issue as well; probably one of the best of the Flashpoint titles so far for me. Maybe it was me reading too much into it but with the black body suit and blue eyes, the early Sinclair put me in mind of Dr Manhattan.

    And you're right – General Adam look solder thirty years ago than he does in Booster Gold in the present.

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  3. Along with Kid Flash, one of the better Flashpoint minis. Looking forward to the rest of this.

    I didn't think Dr. Manhatten. I thought Doomsday. We'll see!

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  4. I dunno Siskoid, I've never agreed with this idea that heroes need Superman to show them the way. Can you think of a single hero who, in their own origin, was inspired by Superman? Well, apart from Superman Family characters, and even the Legion kids had Done the Right Thing before seeking out Kal-El as their Super Hero Club's official inspiration.

    Which isn't to say that you're not exactly right in terms of Flashpoint. DC loves this idea that Superman is needed as the spark of goodness.

    Gary, I can see Dr Manhattan in terms of that, but I'm sticking with my guns.

    Anj, you are SO wise …

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  5. No, it's never acknowledged, but I do think DC has a point when it makes the claim. What they've done is take a historical (behind the scenes) fact and translated it thematically. Superman was the inspiration (or partial, or second-hand) for all these costumed characters.

    Say there never was a Superman in the DCU. There are still superheroes, but they don't have that example to draw from, to keep their morality in check, or even to act as a watchdog (in the DCU, you really don't want Superman to come knocking if you've gone beyond the boundaries of what he finds acceptable, any more than you'd want a visit from Batman who is ALSO missing from FP). Younger heroes aren't asking “What would Superman do?”

    We can't easily blame heroes for going darker in desperate times of war, so really, the only effect that's crucial to the Flashpoint Universe's darkness is how Aquaman and Wonder Woman (who wage that war) have been changed. Would Superman have been a tempering effect? I think so – through the Justice League, which never formed here. There's no Flash, no Bruce Wayne, no Superman, no Earth Green Lantern… no League to turn Aquaman and Wonder Woman into friends and colleagues, leaving them both prey to politics and the manipulations of traitors in their midst.

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  6. I agree that the Amazons/Atlanteans war wouldn't be happening were the regular Superman around, but aren't convinced that heroes who debuted later self-police, using Superman as an example … I can't think of a single instance of that happening. Fascinating idea, though.

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