Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Owl #1 (Project Superpowers)

As you may remember from my previous post on the character's Silver Age incarnation, the Owl was secretly Nick Terry, a police detective who felt constrained in his efforts to mete out justice by that silly little thing called the law and thus decided that the solution was to put on a ridiculous costume and go beat up crooks on his own time.  Given that motivation for becoming a super-hero, I suppose that it was only a matter of time before someone targeted the character for a grim and gritty Modern Age revamp as an emotionally tortured urban vigilante complete with dead sidekick.  That time has come as of this past July, courtesy of writer J.T. Krul and artist Heubert Khan Michael, with Dynamite's release of The Owl #1, the first issue of a mini-series set in the publisher's Project Superpowers universe.
This is my first visit to this particular super-hero universe.  Fortunately, this first issue provides all the background necessary to understand the events of this series.  It seems that back in the 1940's, the Owl and a whole slew of other obscure Golden Age heroes who'd lapsed into the public domain were imprisoned in a magic urn by one of their own and only recently released to face the brave new world of the 21st century.  His six decades in the limbo of the urn appear to have granted Terry actual super powers, at the very least the ability to fly.
In the premiere issue, Krul follows the Dark Knight Returns template fairly faithfully.  There's the dystopic urban landscape populated by a new breed of criminals who are so much more ruthless than the ones our hero remembers from back in the day, the first person narrative captions, and, of course, that dead sidekick.  The story consists of the Owl recapping his backstory for us, flying around beating up crooks while reflecting on how much more ruthless they are now than the ones he knew from back in the day, remembering his dead sidekick, flying around beating up more criminals, attempting to rejoin the police force but being told they have no budget to hire new detectives, flying around beating up still more criminals, and ultimately encountering a mysterious female vigilante who appears to be his dead sidekick Owl Girl.  She even turns when he calls her by the dead sidekick's name.  However, this can't be the original Owl Girl because she's, you know, dead.   I assume that the mystery of this new Owl Girl's identity and connection to the original form the basis for the remainder of the story in ensuing issues.
I could say that this is the best thing I've yet read by J.T. Krul.  I could, but I won't.   "Best" is too strong a word.  Its not really that good.  Hell, in fact, to be brutally brutal, the story, such as it is, is naught but a by the numbers recycling of the most worn out cliches of the grim and gritty school of comics writing, lacking even the tiniest spark of originality or anything resembling actual creativity.  However, it is the first comic written by Krul that hasn't left me angry and utterly disgusted, which is the reaction engendered by his butchering of Green Arrow a couple of years back.  I'll admit that that is probably because I have, prior to last week, no history with or special affection for this character as I do with Green Arrow.  Nonetheless, I suppose I can concede that this is Krul's least awful comic so far in my experience.
So, to conclude, while The Owl #1 may not quite be the abysmal abomination that I envisaged upon learning that J.T. Krul was attached to the project, it is by no means worth the four dollars and twenty-seven cents, tax included, that I ponied up to the little bald guy manning the cash register at the Laughing Ogre comics shop yesterday afternoon.  I can by no means recommend that you waste hard earned cash and precious moments of your life on this comic.

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