America's Got Powers #1(of 6) - Untitled - Ross and Hitch
Story - It's very difficult to come up with a new idea these days, especially in the world of superhero comics, where literally everything ever has been done, and done twice. So it came as no surprise that when Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch announced their new superhero/reality TV satire series, it was met with cries of 'Wildguard rip-off!', 'X-Statix rip-off!', 'New Warriors rip-off!' and the like. And that pisses me off, everyone is so quick to spot influences and cry plagiarism that they miss the wood for the trees, and the fact that hey, at least this is a new take on things, a new property, not just re-heated Batman. It's the same problem as when during the Zombie boom post-Walking Dead, all the nerds sighed 'oh no not another Zombie comic, how lazy' whilst tucking in to their 3rd X-Men book of the week. Comics fans are their own worst enemy.
So yes, whilst you can spot the influences here, the title itself is of course drawn from America's Got Talent, the sum of all these parts makes something that I very much enjoyed and look forward to following. It's clear from this first issue that there's a lot more going on here than just superheroes meets reality TV, Ross has set up a fair amount of back-story here, and the conflict between the Professor behind the TV show and the Military is already moving the book beyond simple satire of real-life television.
The basic gist of the story is that 17 years ago, a mysterious stone fell to Earth, and imbued every baby within 5 miles of San Francisco with superhuman powers... every baby except one. In the present day, these superhumans are kept in check by the use of a reality TV show which allows them to audition for a place on the world's only super-team. Yes, it does sound a bit like the Hunger Games in a way, but as I said, stop playing spot the reference and just read the damn comic.
Our main character is the aforementioned 'except one', Tommy Watts, the only kid in the so-called 'Power Generation' who has no powers, but is allowed to work at the gift-shop at the AGP studios. After only 1 issue Tommy is established as a protagonist you can root for, and not just because he's the scrappy underdog, but because he seems like a genuinely nice guy, he gives a little kid a free action figure, and later on, he risks his life to save people from killer robots, even though he has no powers. Or does he? At the end, Tommy manifests... something. It'll be interesting to see how his story develops, and just how it all connects to the other threads Ross has set up.
As I said, this book already seems to have a fair amount of back-story going on, there's the mystery of just what the stone is, there's something going on with Tommy's brother, who seems to have died in a previous season of AGP, but that's not confirmed. Ross drops hints about something called the 'Power Riots', and I'm sure that will be explored, and there's also the threat of militarisation hanging over the story. I'm a big fan of stories developing not only horizontally, moving forward from event to event, but vertically, slowly digging deeper to explain the events of the past, and it looks like this title will be doing just that. It's clear that this isn't just some silly mash-up idea that Ross has tossed-off, there's a lot of thought behind this title. Ross did the same thing with 'Turf', giving a vampire/alien gang-war way more depth than it ever deserved.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this issue, yes it's not wholly original, but then what is? Image Comics are on a roll at the moment with a series of off-kilter genre titles, and this is just another. Yes, it's superheroes, but it's new superheroes, and in the summer of Before Watchmen, we need all the new ideas we can get.
Art - Bryan Hitch used to be one of my favourite artists in comics, for me, The Ultimates and it's sequel are at the very near-pinnacle of comic-book art, they looked real. Ever since then however his style has changed, and while it's allowed him to get stuff out a lot quicker (Fantastic Four and Captain America Reborn were pretty much on time, or at least, more on time than Ultimates 2 was), but it's lost that perfectly polished sense of realism. America's Got Powers is a step back towards his Ultimates heyday in a lot of ways, and is actually very visually similar, the costumes of the AGP costumes look a lot like the various European Captains, the AGP studio is like a cross between the Triskelion and a football stadium. The colours are a bit brighter, but that makes sense, this is a TV show. Hitch may not be back to his best, but he's getting there, and that's great to see. It was interesting to see that the Professor character was very obviously based on David Tennant, the last time Hitch based a character on an actor, it led to a nine-movie deal for Samuel L Jackson, will Tennant be as lucky?
Best Line - 'No I'm not! I'm a massive dick!!' I laughed, sorry.