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Project: Superior
posted March 18, 2005


Creators: Nick Abadzis, Graham Annable, Tim Biskup, Jeffrey Brown, J. Chris Campbell, Scott Campbell, John Cassaday, Ronnie del Carmen, Victor Cayro, Martin Cendreda, Tony Consiglio, J. W. Cotter, Farel Dalrymple, Mike Dawson, Doug Fraser, Dean Haspiel, Seonna Hong, Paul Hornschemeier, James Jean, R. Kikuo Johnson, Nathan Jurevicius, John Kerschbaum, Daniel Krall, Jason Lex, John Lucas, Jim Mahfood, Brian Maruca, Tara McPherson, Scott Morse, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Onsmith, Chris Pitzer, Paul Pope, Joel Priddy, Ragnar, Paul Rivoche, Jim Rugg, Jay Ryan, Fermin Solis, Zack Soto, Jeremy Tankard, Jamie Tanner, Rob Ullman, Megan Whitmarsh, Brian Wood
Publishing Info: AdHouse Book, 288 pages, $19.95, 2005
Ordering Numbers: 0972179488 (ISBN)

Project: Superior is a lovely looking, full-color anthology featuring a powerful line-up of newer alternative comics creators, a sprinkling of old hands, and even one or two more mainstream-style artists given fuller rein than they might seen on their series' assignments. As a sampler book for some of the more visually accomplished younger cartoonists, the work can't be beat. It may remind some readers of recent Small Press Expo compilations in its general format, size, and intent, but Project: Superior manages to provide consistently more accomplished comics than any of the more recent Expo offerings by a wide margin.

The one real discovery for me here was the artist R. Kikuo Johnson, with whose work I'm completely unfamiliar but who has an incredibly pleasing way with the human figure and a well-developed sense of narrative shorthand. Generally the best work, for whatever reason, seemed to shy away from employing superhero tropes as a metaphor for teenage loneliness or isolation and instead dug right on into the action scenes and the notion of crime fighting as altruism. In a way, this more straightforward approach, perhaps exemplfied by John Kerschbaum's "The Superlatives" story (featuring Fastest, Strongest, Smartest), put more emphasis on the subversive quality of the art and the freedom to take specific plot points to more absurd extremes. I also enjoyed Graham Annable's story of a superhero who wakes up at night to provide small community tasks while everyone's sleeping. That short receives a lot of its charm in the way Annable breaks down his page into tiny panels that reflect the mundane quality of what the hero chooses to focus on. There are a surprisingly large number of pleasing moments like this. Project: Superior doesn't have that one meaty work that might recommend it as a substance-driven book -- the closest might be a nice Silver Age science fiction story by Joel Priddy -- but it should be a nice addition to comics libraries for those who are already oriented in the direction of such work, either the genre or the artists involved.