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.