Supreme: The Return

Supreme: The Return is the second volume of two collecting Alan Moore’s take on Superman. Oh, the character was called Supreme, but the story elements were clearly allusions to the best-known superhero of them all. This volume reprints ten issues, originally published as #53-56 and #1-6.

The art in this volume, primarily by Chris Sprouse, is well-suited for the subject, with flashbacks provided by Rick Veitch and Gil Kane among others. Since the original negatives and computer files were unavailable, the book was reproduced from the printed comics. That’s noticeable in spots, especially if you look for it, but I found that it added to the nostalgia of the story to recognize that I was reading a second-generation copy.

Supreme: The Return cover
Supreme: The Return
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The chapters are packed with all the elements older readers expect — Supreme, his younger sister Suprema, their superpowered dog Radar, robot helpers called Suprematons, an annoying sidekick who gets into trouble — and they all hang out at the secret Citadel. What makes these stories stand out from Silver Age reprints are the speed at which Moore throws ideas into the mix, and the joy with which he explores various levels of reality. In the first chapter, Supreme’s secret identity is a comic book artist. The book he’s working on, Omniman, has been replaced with the comic we are, at that moment reading, because his fictional creation showed up and complained. There’s something paradoxical about all this, but it’s a good brain pain.

What it means to be real is the major theme. It’s explored through various stories, including one where Supreme resurrects his childhood girlfriend as a very realistic robot. Another deals with an alternate history where the South won the Civil War. Others feature Supreme’s gallery of villains, perhaps under the theory that you can learn about something by examining its opposition. One of the most mind-blowing concepts is the reality that contains versions of every possible Supreme, including a talking mouse version.

Ideas that existed only as convenient shorthand in older comics are explored more fully. For example, Superboy had a Superdog because every boy wants a pet. Here, Supreme has a dog with superpowers, including intelligence and the ability to talk, but he still thinks like a dog. When explaining background, he talks about it in terms of the scent of things.

Unfortunately, the book stops instead of really ending, likely due to the irregular release schedule of its former publisher, Awesome. The last story pays homage to one of the key Silver Age creators, Jack Kirby, in a touching farewell. The more you already know about the characters being homaged, the more enjoyable this all becomes. Otherwise, it’s just another action-packed, oddly familiar superhero book with unbelievable events, albeit a better-written one than usual.

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