By: Grace Randolph (writer), Russell Dauterman (art), Gabriel Cassata (colors)
The Story: Shapeshifters, man…shapeshifters…
The Review: At Comic-Con, Dan DiDio commented that he didn’t want his superhero stories to be about a marriage. I found that to be a reasonable statement that I didn’t totally agree with, but I can’t help but come back to it as I read this climactic issue of Supurbia.
Supurbia #12 is a prolonged final clash between the Meta Legion and the shapeshifting androids that have haunted the cul-de-sac since the series began. And while the stakes are certainly high enough – an attack from within, a sixteen issue threat brought to bear, loved ones in danger – the issue doesn’t go where you might expect.
In keeping with their nature, the shapeshifters’ methods are more insidious than your standard endgame opponent. Those looking for a stream of escalating apotheosis will largely be left disappointed, though Eli gets saved in a rather satisfying way. Indeed, if there’s a weakness to this issue it’s that it’s really a comic of ideas.
We finally get a couple more hints as to what drives the shapeshifters and the answers throw the entire series into sharp focus. Supurbia has accepted more and more that it is about the Meta Legion themselves as time has gone on, not just their families, but here we find the series at war between those who see those things in opposition and those who see them as a single unit. “The Meta Legion is constantly distracted,” ‘Ruth’ tells them. It’s an interesting look at one of the most pressing issues in the Superhero genre today. Is the lack of a satisfying brawl a failing, or just an example of how ineffectual traditional heroics are in the face of a more complex world?
But don’t mistake intellectual for academic. While the issue doesn’t get the blood pumping the way you might expect, it certainly appeals to the heart.
One of the greatest things about Supurbia is that, though it contains several self-contained family dramas, these rarely keep completely to themselves. Characters form friendships, rivalries, and resentments for characters outside of their own iconic struggles. While Helen Heart may be part of the Sovereign story, her relationships with Sara and Zari have been fascinating and bear some interesting fruit this issue. Likewise, there’s a sense of real closeness between Robert and Dion.
The downside to this web of relationships is that not every thread can see resolution in one issue. Conclusions can be hard to write, but they can be just as hard to read. While Randolph tries to touch on every character, at least briefly, some of them beg for further examination. I suppose that it’s a win for the issue when it makes you want more, but it doesn’t feel like one for me.
Russell Dauterman’s art is just as great as it’s always been, weaving complex thoughts into simple lines. He switches at the drop of a hat from the beauty of Hella’s new design to the horror of Hector’s empty hell-scape, unafraid to draw the somewhat gory issue Randolph has set out for him but bringing class and restraint into each panel.
Despite his clear talent and the aid of a talented colorist, some of the narrative uncertainty seeps into the artwork. The arcing violet energy of the shapeshifters’ power is rather heavily overused in a couple of early pages, obscuring important details, and a number of Dauterman’s panels lack strong focal points, leaving the reader to navigate the scene by themselves. They’re still attractive but it contributes to a general sense of confusion that pervades the outdoor scenes.
The Conclusion: Supurbia winds down with a clever conclusion that leaves the series’ pressing questions resolved and yet begs for follow-up. It’s not a normal season finale any more than Supurbia is a normal superhero comic and the storytelling stumbles in the early pages, but a fascinating climax and intriguing epilogue round out this strange, wonderful experiment.
If you’ve been reading this series you owe it to yourself to grab this issue, just be prepared to want more.
A Note: Though you might think from reading it that season 2 is on the way, this is the final issue of Supurbia for the moment. It’s a deep disappointment, especially with this issue seemingly promising to expand on some of the most interesting elements of the series.
That said, the series was not canceled – I believe it had strong enough numbers to justify its 12-issue run – it just hasn’t been renewed for more issues. If you’ve been enjoying the series, I urge you to respectfully let BOOM! Studios know. Talk about it online, buy the trades, or just poke BOOM! in an e-mail.
Consider this mine, Ross. More Supurbia!
Until then, goodnight sweet comic series and flights of superheroes sing thee to thy rest.