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Project Superior is one of the best anthologies I’ve read since the heyday of Drawn and Quarterly. What’s even more surprising is that this level of quality is delivered within the framework of a superhero theme. None of the stories are the navel-gazing, grim and gritty variety, but rather the assembled creators present parodies or tributes, or in many cases, creative character studies thinly veiled within the superhero genre.
There are many, many excellent pieces in this book, I would estimate about a 90% hit rate, but a few of the standouts include Nick Abadzis’s “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a tale of a superhero who’s so depressed over a breakup that his arch nemesis comes to console him. Martin Cendreda’s “The Amazing Friends” reminded me of Eightball #23, although with a more humoristic style. Jeffrey Brown contributes an entertaining story about an incompetent hero who is absolutely overwhelmed by his enemy, and can only weep pathetically at his own defeat. John Lucas contributes some gorgeous artwork in the enjoyably over the top “Hero Squad.” Rob Ullman’s series of pinup pages entitled “Suburban Supergirls” are beautiful and manage to create a strong sense of character with only a single, silent panel. The best part of anthologies like this, though are discovering talented newcomers, and as Tom Spurgeon and a few others pointed out, newcomer R. Kikuo Johnson contributes an outstanding debut piece with “Thrustman.” Alternating between color and black and white, Johnson effortlessly weaves a tale within a tale, demonstrating both an accomplished art style reminiscent of Jason Lutes, and an intimate understanding of pacing and off panel action. Ronnie del Carmen also makes an outstanding debut with his tale of a young boy writing a “Marvel No Prize” letter to Stan Lee.
Adhouse editor and designer Chris Pitzer should be commended for designing such a gorgeous package, with outstanding coloring and mono-shading throughout. Paul Hornschemeier’s wraparound covers and endpapers are typically outstanding and you almost wish some of these characters were developed in the pages that followed. I could go on and on. This was just an outstanding book. Grade: 5/5