Superior Showcase #3

By Dustin Harbin, Brian Maruca, Laura Park, and Jim Rugg
32 pages, black and white
Published by AdHouse Books

After the fun of AdHouse Books’s Project: Superior, an anthology where independent and alternative artists tackled superheroes, it was easy to see why publisher/editor Chris Pitzer brought about Superior Showcase, a series of comics which lets more comic creators tackle the genre as they see fit. And while I’ve certainly enjoyed both Project: Superior and the issues of Superior Showcase, it’s the latest issue of the showcase book that really grabbed my attention, thanks to one story in particular.

Fans of Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg’s Street Angel will certainly be excited to see the character return after a long absence. It was a nice surprise to see how effortlessly they were able to slip right back into creating a Street Angel story, pitting Jesse up against mysterious deaths in a hospital that’s also chock to the gills with her traditional enemy: ninjas. It’s a mostly fun and funny story, with just the right level of creepiness showing up at the turning point; that moment in which the villain is revealed managed to give me a real start, and I appreciated how Maruca and Rugg were able to give that little jolt of surprise.

Dustin Harbin is someone that I wasn’t familiar with, but his Kid Medulla story hit all the right notes for me. It’s definitely what would happen when a little boy suddenly got “mental powers”—a combination of hero-worship, dealing with those pesky girls, and fart jokes. It’s a funny little story, if slight in places, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It also does a great job of taking an old super-hero chestnut, the power-blocking item wielded by a villain, and placing it into the story. Anyone who’s ever read an X-Men story involving the Juggernaut will certainly get a kick out of Harbin’s story.

What really stuck out for me, though, was Laura Park’s story “Freaks”. I’d really liked her collaboration with Julia Wertz in Papercutter #6, but this was my first exposure to a story she’d written and drawn on her own. It’s the story of two schoolchildren, Ada and Calum, who are referred to as freaks by the other kids in their school. When Calum gets in a fight after school, Ada finds herself having to not only take care of Calum like normal, but finally reveal to Calum his secret power that she’s been hiding all of these years. “Freaks” really grabbed my attention, not because of Park’s take on the idea of a superhero, but rather the skill in which she tells her story. It’s a quiet, thoughtful story that really lets you get into the heads of both Ada and Calum; they certainly don’t have an easy life, but despite the ups and downs, you end up leaving “Freaks” with a real sense of hope, that they’re going to survive everything their own personal villains throw at them. It especially helps that Park’s art is really beautiful here, able to draw kids fighting on a playground or merely walking down streets in a so-so neighborhood with equal skill. Looking at Ada wordlessly prepare tomorrow’s lunches, fix Calum’s shirt, and get ready for bed works so well because of the simple, straightforward way that she lays it out from one panel to the next. Whenever Park releases a collection of her comics (as mentioned in her biography in Superior Showcase), I am absolutely buying one.

Superior Showcase was a fun comic, and while all three stories were good, it’s hard to not lavish the most attention and praise on Park’s comic. Between it, a new Street Angel story, and Harbin’s fun little jaunt, there’s something for everyone here. Definitely check this book out if you get a chance.

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