Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, lovingly referred to by comic fans as DnA, are no strangers to the inner-workings of storytelling in the sci-fi realm. Abnett is a respected writer who has written a slew of novels and comics set in the Warhammer 40k universe; all of which have been well-received. Together, the duo has given us some of the best tales from the ‘cosmic’ corners of the respective Marvel and DC universes. Their work on the Legion of Superheroes, Guardians of the Galaxy, War of Kings and countless other stories have been fan favorites for years. Now the two have moved beyond the constriction of the Big Two to the wide open creative pastures of BOOM Studios. Boy, am I thankful.
In the world of The Hypernaturals, the story of human existence has taken on an interesting dimension. Gone is the old order of government agencies run by inefficient flesh and blood human beings. Enter The Quantinuum, a human galactic culture run by a central Artificial Intelligence. That’s right, singularity has been achieved and it’s…pretty cool!
With society being run by an AI, transit is near flawless thanks to teleportation and security is a priority; hence the creation of the Hypernaturals. They are a team of human with hyper-talents (super powers) that make them superior to baseline humans in various ways. Some are gifted with prodigious intellects (Thinkwell and Guesstalt), others can manipulate energy is numerous ways (Magnetar, Stellarator & Prismatica), while a few are blessed with superior physical attributes (Clone 21, Clone 45 & Bewilder). What sets these galactic heroes apart from the likes of the X-Men or the Avengers is that they are drafted into service for five year tours. In the 100 years since the establishment of the Quantinuum, there have been 20 teams that have served proudly.
As the story opens, we are introduced to the newly-minted 21st team. Made up of Magnetar, Astromancer, Clone 46, Ego/Id, Kobalt Blue, Halfshell, & Musclewire; the trappings of standard superheroes is immediately apparent. That said, we get those archetypes, but filtered through the lens of sci-fi and DnA’s unique sensibilities. The design for each character is distinct enough that you can easily identify who is who, but unified through the stylized ‘HN’ logo that adorns their uniform in some form. My favorite design of this team is Musclewire; a character seemingly made up of hundreds of tightly coiled wires approximating a humanoid form. It’s a fun design that evokes sci-fi setting of the piece but also indicates that the creators are just having fun creating new characters outside of the Big Two.
So as the new team embarks on their very first mission, we are introduced to Creena Hersh (Bewilder), former Hypernatural of the famed ‘19th Tour’ and current PR rep for the team. She’s involved with current team leader, Magnetar, and quite the looker. In terms of powers, she’s very much in line with speedsters like the Flash and Quicksilver. The kicker? Her enhanced metabolism requires her to intake massive amounts of calories to offset those burned while using her hyper-talents. It’s a fun twist on the standard super-speedster and one that we get to see in action a few times.
Arriving on the on the planet of the reported disturbance, the current team…disappears. Upon encountering an unknown threat, Hypernatural HQ in San Diego loses contact with the team and quickly puts together an emergency squad culled from members of the aforementioned 19th iteration of the team and failed recruits. It’s not the ideal team, but it’s the only resort. Led by super-genius extraordinaire, Thinkwell, the team starts off shakily. Thinkwell, one of the main characters of the series is a personal favorite due to his unique design, power set and personality. His character calls to mind a Brainiac 5 with empathy. The difference? He doesn’t just create cool gadgets; he has limited control over space-time due his command of dark matter. The graphic representation of his power is extremely creative and continues a strong emphasis on balancing both the art and story for an enjoyable experience.
The new team assembles and gets down to the mystery of what happened to the Millennial Team. What they find has the fingerprints of what is arguably the most interesting villain to be created in a long time, the Hypernaturals arch-nemesis, Sublime. He’s a super-intelligent sociopath that dwarfs even Thinkwell’s prodigious intellect and can summon whatever super-power he needs at that particular moment. Think of the evil lovechild of Tony Stark and Superman with a healthy dose of Lex Luthor & Satan…and you’ll just be scratching the surface. He’s clearly the one behind the teams disappearance, but he’s behind bars at a supermax prison. So if he didn’t do it, who did?
I want to rant on about the story for another twelve paragraphs, but it would destroy the fun for you. Suffice to say that DnA are crafting a story that mixes the best elements of 2001 and their ‘cosmic’ stories at Marvel & DC with the ‘flashback mystery’ of the dearly departed LOST. The art team of Brad Walker, Tom Derenick and Andres Guinaldo do a fantastic job of bringing to life a new and interesting world in only eight issues so far. Their sense of design and storytelling compliments each other beautifully. The fact that they can split the issues so seamlessly between modern day and flashback sequences is a testament to their skills as visual storytellers.
The Hypernaturals is the BEST title that you are not currently reading and deserves a spot on your monthly reading list. If you love sci-fi AND superheroes, it’s chock full of everything that you could want; done in a way that would be impossible to do with the eternal IP cash-cows of Marvel and DC. Give it a try and you will not be disappointed.