Right on the cusp of relevancy, Hypernaturals smacks into a wall. Cosmic-capes duo DnA equally steep their BOOM! Studios title in world-building that comes in two flavors: the chocolate of character interaction and showing how the culture of their space empire works, and the vanilla of endless exposition, the most ridiculous of which is the repeated reminder that a planet that has been attacked is supposed to have a billion people on it (it’s like Frank Miller’s “Dick Grayson. Age 12” tic from All-Star Batman and Robin, minus personality). It makes reading the issue a chore in spite of its merits.
It’s not dull like BOOM’s other recent high-concept cape comic, Extermination, since Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are using their ersatz Legion of Super-Heroes to reflect media culture: every five years, a new team of Hypernaturals is set up to be the protectors of the galaxy (often taking the mantles of their predecessors). We’re introduced to strongman Clone 45, after a flashback/dream sequence drawn by Brad Walker, living his post-super team life as a burnout alcoholic, awoken in a room that makes studio apartments look cozy. This turnover, from superstar to schlub, reflects the reality of the entertainment industry–sports, Hollywood, music, and especially the comics industry–always chasing the youth market, or at least what will play to the lowest common denominator, and willing to drop anyone at the slightest sign of a slump (unless they play good politics). Given the huge number of writers, artists, and other creative types that constantly find themselves broke, dying, or both, relying on the goodwill of a fan base and industry that in most cases has forgotten them or just doesn’t care as long as they keep getting new issues of Batman punching Joker, it wouldn’t surprise me if Abnett and Lanning are using the story as a sort of wish-fulfillment. After all, they have set up that the new Hypernaturals, who were given a huge marketing rollout, have gone missing and it’s now up to the old pros, and some recruits, to save the day, as opposed to the “all-new, all-different” of Giant-Sized X-Men #1.
Another sort of conflict brews with new recruits Shoal and Halfshell: both minorities, both relegated to second-class–the former being a “probationary member,” the latter losing out on the dubious honor of wearing bikini armor to a more “wholesome” woman (code for skinny and white) before the disaster–and both only promoted out of desperation. Artist Andres Guinaldo (who tackles the bulk of the issue after Walker’s six page sequence) has a bit of fun when the two get unveiled in their new costumes: Halfshell proud of her “curves and bits,” hands on her hips and smiling, while Shoal awkwardly hunches his lanky frame in his spandex jumpsuit (and checks her out from the corner of his eyes). Moments like this are where Hypernaturals shines, where DnA stop trying to explain everything and allow themselves to tell a story.
Unfortunately their thematic ideals conflict with their own appeals to the LCD. For every time the issue starts to develop a pace, we get another expository chat like the one between Hypernaturals veterans Bewilder and Thinkwell, a scene where Clone 45 reminds a bartender he was married to Bewilder, or a redundant press conference. Nothing that stops Hypernaturals from being interesting, but the first issue is a bit frustrating.