With the recent release of Wonder Woman, DC Comics dusted off an age of heroism that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Despite Captain America and GI Joe franchises running along pop culture with a steadfast conviction, times have changed. Man Power: Birth of the Supermen is more than a callback to historical ages of heroism in life and fiction, but it’s an angle that we didn’t always see during the heyday of WW2 comics and stories. While it may not have the modern sleekness that’s oozing from the shelves, it carries imagination and recognition that most stories are based off of real, grounded truths. This soul carries four chapters of a world that, like ours, never seems to tire of war and could use a bit more heroism.
Artist and writer Matthew O’Keefe weaves a story that leads us to the near future, but can only be grasped by looking through the past. While there are several moving parts, the story is told chronologically. Bearing this in mind, you may not see the protagonist you were expecting until well into the novel. His stories (and countless others, you can be sure) are part of a larger story constructed by this and other ongoing comics. So what is the story of Birth of the Supermen? Well, it’s just that. Our story doesn’t have a single protagonist or singular loveable group to attach to. Instead, we’re treated to the honor and the ugliness of two sides in a war that’s already anticipating a sequel.
One of the more daring actions of the writing is how humanized members of The Iron Cross are. This secret German organization operating outside the scope of Hitler isn’t your standard evil genius and war machine. They are fathers and sons. They are lovers of their nation. They are human in a way that we don’t usually want to associate with Nazis. The Americans are pursuers, but not antagonists. They have their chain of command and their personal goals, but are never too heroic in contrast to their adversaries. This is war, and even without a bleak tone, it doesn’t feel like there are “good guys” until we see the modern era unfolding.
The writing isn’t Shakespeare. What the script lacks in grammar and avoiding redundancies and run-on sentences, it makes up for in painstaking attention to detail. Be honest with yourself, can you enjoy a dogfight scene where everything from the models of the planes to the ammunition they fired is accounted for…even if not every word describing the dogfight is spelled correctly? If the answer is yes, then you’ll have no problem enjoying this story. Beyond that touch of realism, there’s the promise of fantasy. Supermen! Clones! Beings beyond humanity (at least in a strictly physical sense)! To think that a faction would save this trump card for a later day while the world evolved around it…the suspense is palpable.
Art-wise, O’keefe chooses to work in black and white, reserving color only for the occasional onomatopoeia. This doesn’t detract from much though. The sequential work is fairly easy to follow and the characters all have distinct features to keep you from losing a conversation. The vehicles, just as noted in the script, are truly what you expect to see. These aren’t generic ideas of warships, these are the actual submarines and destroyers and planes that you’d have seen on a battlefield back in the day. While it won’t be winning any awards, the art gets the job done and helps you enjoy the narrative.
If you’re a fan of the heroics that come with soldiers of the fiction or non-fiction variety, but are tired of the same rehashed scripts of clear-cut characterization and singular, perfect men who triumph by both might and right, this may be the comic you need to read. Birth of the Supermen takes an offbeat route through familiar territory and sheds a different light on good and evil that still pays homage and respect to the classic stories that shaped comic books as a storytelling medium in America.
Learn more about this adventure and others at http://www.onlinecomicheroes.com/
Unexpectedly neutral characterization
Soldiers and Supers
Stories from both sides
Historical detail intact
Lack of protagonist presence