By giving super powers to those who are usually considered powerless, “Superb” manages to tell a story of a generation that is able to battle evil that is literally right in their own neighborhood.
With offerings such as the television shows “Black Lightning” and “Luke Cage” and “Black Panther”, it is clear that Black superheroes are having a bit of a renaissance right now. Not only are there popular Black superheroes in the mainstream, but there are also independent creators like Lion Forge Comics creating their own Black superheroes. In Volume 1 of their comic book series Superb, we have a rising Black female superhero and a superhero with Down’s Syndrome teaming up.
Set in a fictionalized version of Youngstown, Ohio, the book takes place one year after the event in which five astronauts tried to save the world from an asteroid. The result of the event is a meteor shower that caused a generation to develop enhanced abilities. Since then, the global advanced tech corporation Foresight has been monitoring the town and quarantining enhanced teens for the town’s safety.
In the midst of all this, two teens named Jonah Watkins and Kayla Tate are trying to live some semblance of a regular life. However, the two soon find themselves caught up in the covert affairs of Jonah’s superhero alter ego Cosmosis. In the process, they discover that in Foresight’s intentions might not be as good as they appear and must face some hard truths about Foresight, their lives, and each other.
One of the most thought-provoking aspects of “Superb” is how writers David F. Walker and Sheena Howard displayed the fictional world by drawing from the real world. The aftermath that the people of Youngstown are dealing with is similar to the aftermath of 9/11. Foresight has installed detectors for enhanced individuals in schools just like how metal detectors were installed in schools.
Besides the world-building, the characters were also well-developed. Kayla Tate is a Black girl who wants a regular life despite her parents working for Foresight and her hiding the fact that she is enhanced and hasn’t been detected. Her awareness is demonstrated through an online podcast that she uses to discuss the happenings of Foresight, the enhanced teens, and the town’s local superhero Cosmosis.
When it comes to Kayla’s powers, they include enhanced muscles that give her super-strength, durability, and the jumping ability of an Olympic level athlete. These abilities are a stunning thing to witness when the Black community is often made to feel powerless in the face of police brutality and overall oppression. While the way Kayla tries to deny her powers represents Black people’s desire to simply just live, the way Kayla Tate ends up using her powers shows how Black people must fight to survive.
In contrast to Kayla using her powers to protect herself, Jonah Watkins optimistically tries to use his powers to protect others and infiltrate Foresight. Jonah’s Down’s Syndrome is never depicted as a burden and is never miraculously cured with his powers. Since he has a secret identity, Jonah’s action-packed superheroics are never seen as inspiration porn by others. In fact, he is seen as just as much of a threat by Foresight as every other enhanced teen, a fact that is sadly reminiscent of how disabled people are viewed as threats by law enforcement.
Together, Jonah’s optimism serves as a good foil to Kayla’s down to earth attitude. Despite their rocky friendship, they have the potential to become a great superhero duo once Kayla fully comes into her powers. Although it may seem like Kayla is Jonah’s sidekick, it is clearly shown that the two of them can balance each other out, especially since their personal goals that are more in common than different.
Tying everything together is the wonderful coloring, inking, and pencil work done by Alitha E. Martinez and company. The artwork is very bold and dynamic in a way that is reminiscent of superhero comics from Marvel or DC Comics. One particularly notable piece of artwork occurs when Kayla and Jonah are in the middle of the standoff with Foresight. Black inked debris is flying everywhere & the contrast between the character’s surroundings and their weathered bodies is stunning.
All in all, “Superb” Vol. 1 is an epic start to the teen superhero series and an excellent addition to Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime universe. By giving super powers to those who are usually considered powerless, “Superb” manages to tell a story of a generation that is able to battle evil that is literally right in their own neighborhood. With relatable characters, intelligent world building, and striking artwork, this comic gives superheroes a youthful, resilient spirit.
Featured Image: Superb Vol. 1 by Lion Forge Comics