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ComiXology’s “Superfreaks” Review: She’s Alright

Superfreaks is a diverse, tropey read with a sweet-as-Kool-Aid message.


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Image: Supplied

 

Diversity has long been a sore point in depictions of superheroes. Not so with Superfreaks, an original title by ComiXology fittingly released in time for Pride Month.

 

Superfreaks has a familiar premise: after Earth’s caped crusaders inexplicably vanish, it’s up to a diverse line-up of their sidekicks ― super-strong, self-replicating Blue Aura, shy tech whiz Circuit and the rest of their spandex-clad posse ― to stop the impending alien invasion and prove to the world that they’re heroes in their own right.

 

While Superfreaks takes itself less seriously than, say, Runaways or Young Justice ― in this universe, superheroes get their powers from a magical 1956 VW van which the people of Edge City worship as a god, complete with exclamations of “Oh my Van” ― there’s a surprising amount of angst from writers Elsa Charretier (Harley Quinn, Starfire) and Pierrick Colinet (Star Wars Adventures).

 

From the outset, we see Blue Aura struggling to navigate the world as a fat, black woman. After nervously stumbling through a press conference to address the disappearance of Edge City’s superheroes, her size is mercilessly mocked on social media ― a nod to the ugly abuse and misogyny women of colour are frequently and dishearteningly forced to put up with online.

 

Then there’s Garb, a villainous sidekick whose father can accept that he has superpowers but not that he’s gay and shares an apartment with his non-super boyfriend. Verbally and emotionally abusive parents are one of the darker recurring themes in Superfreaks, though it’s explored only briefly, along with an eating disorder C-plot that easily could have used more airtime.

 

Art Preview: Supplied

 

While there isn’t much room for character development in five plot-packed issues, Blue Aura’s transformation ― literally ― as she comes to realise her own worth and discovers new facets of her abilities is maybe the most important takeaway, even more satisfying than the resolution of the mystery of the heroes’ disappearance. In the words of the 1981 Rick James song, Super Freak: “She’s alright.”

 

Superfreaks isn’t the first superhero story with queer themes. Namely, there’s mostly-NSFW webcomic The Young Protectors about a closeted young superhero who falls in love with a supervillain; and The Pride, a campy comic about a team of superheroes with names like FabMan and Bear that’s also available on ComiXology.

 

What sets Superfreaks apart is its irrepressible campiness. Battle scenes are particularly impressive, bright blue laser beams and purple tendrils of magical energy rendered in cartoonish detail that’s easy to imagine animated. Each issue is bookended with bonus behind-the-scenes content, including concept art and storyboards accompanied by notes from artist Margaux Saltel.

 

Superfreaks is a diverse, tropey read with a sweet-as-Kool-Aid message. It’s a promising prologue to a hopefully much longer series about the adventures of Edge City’s next generation of superheroes. All five issues are available to download on ComiXology.

 

Seb Starcevic is a freelance writer, essayist and journalist. Send praise, abuse and marriage proposals to his Twitter: @SebStarcevic.

 

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