Monday, November 4, 2019

The Super Australians (2019) edited and conceived Chris Sequeira

Where to start? This book is a cleverly themed anthology to create an Australian super team ala Justice League or the Avengers. Chris’ idea harkens back to the classic Justice Society books – where the heroes get to together and recount their separate adventures with Wonder Woman as secretary.

I am certainly not aware of every Australian comic but most that I’m aware of are single character books – The Phantom Ranger, Crimson Comet, etc. I can only think of two or three team books Forerunners, that had a single title in the 90s, Southern Squadron from the 80s and 90s and the current revival of the characters of Cyclone Comics as Cyclone Force. (we’ll talk about Cyclone a little later) The story has 12 chapters with an prologue, interlude and epilogue written by Sequeira and drawn by Adam Yusoff with a character named Epoch. We don’t learn much about Epoch but he seems bent on dominating humanity. He sends out 12 energy lances in the prologue. It’s good premise to build the book around – the energy lances connect the tales.

Our first story is Paul Mason and Amanda Bacchi’s The Soldier Legacy story “...A Rock and a Hard Place”. The Solider Legacy is Paul’s original character and has appeared in several issues of his own title and in a couple of anthologies. Not surprisingly The Soldier Legacy is a legacy character with a focus on the latest bearer of the name and a parallel story with his ancestor in World War 2. This story opens in WW2 with that Solider Legacy going to the rescue of several soldiers trapped by Japanese masks. The present story has the current Soldier Legacy fighting against a right wing domestic terrorist group lead by The Gold Ghost. Each page alternates between the two stories with a speech by the golden age Soldier Legacy running over the current story and a lovely splash page of the World War 2 Soldier Legacy punching out Japanese troops on one side paired with the present day punching out The Gold Ghost. The story ends in the present day with the bad guys arrested and the police seizing one of the energy lances. I love Solider Legacy and I’m mates with both Paul and Amanda. I liked this story and wished it had of been longer. The Gold Ghost could make a fascinating villain for The Soldier Legacy – if the Soldier Legacy represents the best of Australia, the Gold Ghost could be a dark reflection of him. There are any number of incidents throughout Australian history that show the worst of Australia. The Lambing Flat massacre of Chinese miners during the Australian Gold Rush could be the beginning to the negative legacy of the Gold Ghost.

The second story “Djiniri” by Julie Ditrich and Marcello Baez. Djiniri is a new character, An ancient being “1200 years from home” her prison, what appears to be a jewellery box, is opened and she is released. There is a hint that this may be the effects of Epoch’s energy lance or it may be the presence of a ghoul or Ghul. Julie and I both had stories in “Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not” and had met at Melbourne Supanova promoting that book. I liked this story and how Julie weaved some of the mythology of genies and ghouls into the story. Baez does a really good job on the art. I am very curious how her prison jewellery box got from Arabia to the Pinnacles in Western Australia.

The next story Soundstrike, written by Komala Singh and art by Michel Gerencir features the titular character the child of a human and an insectoid alien. This gives him very sensitive hearing and “some sort of space magic”. I really liked his costume it had a real Power Ranger/Beetleborg vibe to it. The villain of the story is a collection of nanobots that calls itself Nan-a. Interestingly Nan-a communicates with Epoch. Singh really drops a lot of information and gives several hints to what is happening in this story. I really want to see where is goes.

Lyrebird is next. Written by Chris Sequeira and art by W. Chew Chan. Lyrebird had previously appeared in the Lyrebird Special way back in the nineties (you know I’m certain I’ve read a Lyrebird story before but I cannot find where it was) This is an interesting story and Chris has picked an Australian territory that I, and most likely other people, had no idea about the sub cable protection zone, which is Australian waters around the internet cable under the sea. The story is set during an upgrade to the cable and the superpowered mercenary Dynamica Tungsten is on site providing protection. But not as it seems and the Lyrebird mentions that Sonex technology has some bad side effects. There’s a fight and Tungsten is revealed to be murderer. Another solid story that makes me want to try to track down the Lyrebird special and find out more.

The Australian Antarctic Territory is the setting for the next story featuring Aethyric Man. Aethryic Man is tracking his brother Mister Erebus and we come in the middle of the story. Mister Erebus has attacked Mawson station and killed several of the dogs and one of the researchers when the story opens. Aethyric Man is talking to the Mawson staff and tells them that Mr Erebus isn’t evil just on a different level of humanity. Aethryic Man tracks his brother, there’s what I think is a one panel flashback, the brother’s fight. Mr Erebus goes “Oh my God brother you were right.” And the fight ends. There’s a bit at the end where we discover that Mr Erebus has one of Epoch’s lances. This is probably the weakest of the stories in the collection. Jules Farber’s style is radically different to the other artists and feels closer to Garfield than Superman. It’s not bad per se but it has a different feel to it which took me out of the story. Bruce Mutard’s script didn’t help me either. In the story itself we never find out Aethryic Man’s name – not his secret identity but that he is called Aethryic Man. I had to look at the index. I have no idea why he has a giant yellow Y on his costume. This story didn’t let me in and give me something to latch onto. With the other stories when they raised questions I wanted to know the answers this one didn’t.

Next is Princess in “Beauty is a Beast.” Written by Jason Franks and art by J. Scherpenhuizen. This one opens with a press conference with Lisa Mambray CEO of the Mambray group opening a new facility when superpowered eco terrorist Brother Nature attacks. We discover that Lisa has a Hulk like alter-ego Princess. They fight and in the confusion one of Mambray’s security grabs Epoch’s rods. I’d definitely be curious to see more about how Lisa and Brother Nature got their powers.

The seventh story is Rogue Host written by Jonathon Saunders and art by Ana Maria Mendez Salgado. The idea is that our hero Christopher Stevens was accidentally given a military parasite. He believes his girlfriend has been attacked and he tries to save her. I’d be interested to see where this one goes, Saunders gives us enough background to let us know what is going on. Salgado’s art is very stylised but I liked it.

Dragonblade by Ian Gould and Christian Roux, was probably one of my favourite stories in this collection. It introduces the heroic Dragonblade and the villainous Stonefish with quick origins and gets right to the battle. The characters are quite funny. Would love to see more of these characters.

Next up is Longcoat written by Gregory Stewart and art by Matt Lin. Longcoat appears to be a werewolf or something similar and he works with ASIS which appears to have an “X Files” type of team where he works with Agent Cullinjarra on what appears to be a freelance basis. Epoch’s powerlance has gained the attention of the Darragan, demonic type creatures. I liked this story Stewart dishes enough to make speculate about Longcoat and his history and Lin’s art has a nice roughness to it.

Cosmosia by Naomi Hatchman and art by Queenie Chan. This feels like it’s set, say, fifty years in the future with a manned Australian geosynchronous satellite. Cosmosia is a robot on the station and she battles a hacker named Cryptus who is using Epoch’s rod to hack the satellite. The futuristic setting threw me a little but there is nothing to say all these stories take place now. Ultimately I liked this story.

Gary Chaloner’s The Jackaroo gets a story written by Cefn Ridout and art by J. Scherpenhuizen. The Jackaroo was a character who has been around since the 1980s and he’s a jackaroo who wears a mask and fights crime. I was so excited to see a new Jackaroo adventure and it’s an older Jackaroo taking his son, Jake, to MONA in Hobart. Epoch’s rod creates a new villain Kai Mera who sucks the life force out of people. I especially liked the line after Jake has stolen the staff Kai Mera says “Return it or I will drain your father’s life.” Jake’s report “Na, me Mum’s beaten you to it.” Just had me laughing. Top stuff this. Reminds me to get more classic Jackaroo stories.

Which brings us to the last story “The Public Servant” written by Karen Beilharz and art by Anthony Calvert. I quite liked Calvert’s art on this but the story had me a little lost as a nameless Canberra public servant of Asian heritage tackles a racist politician named Natter. Natter has one of Epoch’s power rods and it turns him into a lizard person called Vox Populist while the Public Servant becomes a giant glowing energy being . it’s implied in the text that the rod affected her to make her grow but the art doesn’t reflect that.

 Overall, I think this was a winner of an anthology with a couple of stories I wasn’t feeling. Look every anthology is going to have stories that may not work for you. There are 12 distinct art styles in this book and to have only one that I didn’t really like was pretty impressive. If I had one complaint each of the stories were too short I wanted more. I think some of the stories would have benefited from some more space, most I was being greedy and I wanted more. I’m keen to see where Super Australians 2 may go. Epoch was making villainous noises at the end of the book. Could we see the heroes interact with each other? (The Soldier Legacy and The Jackaroo, pretty please with a cherry on top). A villain swap maybe? A villain team up? Brother Nature and Stonefish had similar agendas.