Spotlight Sunday 3.4.18
I considered several options this week. I was particularly interested in taking a look at Gail’s Crosswind, because Gail, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m disinclined to dive into trade collections if I don’t have to, and given that I now no longer have to do anything…
(Beyond that, as of this writing, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.)
I also considered talking about Giles, just to be a jerk, but quickly dismissed the idea.
But if I’m honest, I knew which one I was going to pick even before I went to the comic shop, and so there are spoilers ahead for…
The Terrifics #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Ivan Reis
Cover: Ivan Reis
“They embody a spirit of epic adventure and bravery—the kind you may remember from another era, but updated in an exciting way for today!”
First it was “The New 52.” Then it was “Rebirth.” Now, “The New Age of DC Heroes” steps up as DC’s latest branding effort, part of a launch of new titles spinning out of the “Dark Nights: Metal” event…which I haven’t read at all, though I’ve read good things about it.
But I can’t buy everything, so my familiarity with it is pretty thin, and I’m relying on some of the summarizing that takes place in this issue.
Essentially, it was an excuse to make a bunch of villains who were basically Batman + Other Character.
So there was an evil Flash, who was also Batman. An evil Batman who was also the Joker. A Batman Doomsday.
Basically, it was DC doing what so many fans – and DC itself – desperately want to do: make everything and everyone Batman.
The story itself involved the discovery of a “Dark Multiverse,” and then…stuff happened, I don’t know.
Still, despite my lack of familiarity with the comics this comic spins out of, based on the overall concept of “The New Age of DC Heroes,” about which more in a bit, and the characters and creators involved I decided to check it out.
I’ve greatly enjoyed writer Jeff Lemire’s work on Black Hammer (see Recommended Reading), and Ivan Reis is a very good artist.
But mostly it was the characters that drew me in, as it contains some of the more interesting B- and C- and D-list characters, such as Plastic Man and Metamorpho, as well as an enigmatic version of Phantom Girl, who, based on her identification of herself as Linnya Wazzo, might be an ancestor of Tinya Wazzo, the Legionnaire. Given that the Legion has been in limbo for several years, I’m hopeful that her inclusion is an indication that the Legion might make a return to the stands. (They have been on my mind lately, after all.)
This comic also marks the incorporation of characters from America’s Best Comics, the line of comics written by Alan Moore in the early part of this century. ABC was published by Wildstorm, and then became the property of DC when DC acquired Wildstorm (Jim Lee, who’s working on one of the other titles launched as part of this new initiative, was probably the most valuable part of that acquisition).
I’m not thrilled about Moore’s Watchmen being incorporated into the DCU, but while I loved some of the ABC books – most notably, Promethea, who has also recently popped up in the DCU – I don’t have the same kind of emotional investment in the characters, or the same kind of visceral negative reaction to them joining the DCU. (I will admit that I’m not keen on the Promethea appearance, but…ehh.)
In the case of this comic, the ABC universe contributes Tom Strong.
Or does it?
I’ve mentioned before that there was a significant hiatus in my comic-buying, a period during which, barring a few trades and hardcovers (such as Promethea), I wasn’t buying or reading comics much at all.
While I was away, a number of new characters were introduced, many of whom I got to know once I got back in the comic-reading habit and started catching up on some of what I’d missed over the years.
One of my favorites of that bunch was Michael Holt, AKA Mr. Terrific.
Mr. Terrific is a “legacy” character, in that he’s actually the second character to go by that name. The first, a man named Terry Sloane, was a character introduced in the Golden Age who was somewhat in the mold of Batman, in that he had no superhuman powers.
He was, however, considerably more cornball than Batman, wearing a costume emblazoned with the words “FAIR PLAY,” and he pretty much became a costumed hero just because he was bored. Sloane was a genius, and a top-tier athlete, and just generally, well, terrific. Having accomplished everything he’d ever set out to do by the time he was in his early twenties, Sloane was beset by a near-fatal sense of ennui, and contemplated ending his young life before discovering the joys of masked heroism.
Michael Holt is quite similar in that regard, though he is somewhat less…er…vanilla, in many respects, and is a bit more Batmanish than Sloane, though he was inspired by the example of the (at the time) recently-deceased Sloane, with whom he felt an obvious kinship, and took on the mantra of “FAIR PLAY” along with the name Mr. Terrific.
Of course, that was all before Flashpoint rewrote history*, so I honestly don’t know what this Michael Holt’s origin is, or how he decided upon “FAIR PLAY” as his guiding principle. But I guess I’ll find out.
In any case, this issue opens with Mr. Terrific arriving at Stagg Industries, which recently acquired Holt’s company Terrifitech.
It seems that old Simon is meddling with things beyond his ken, as is his wont, and Mr. Terrific’s tech alerted him to the fact that ol’ Staggsy was trying to open a portal into the Dark Multiverse, so Michael showed up to put the kibosh on that.
Unfortunately, he arrived a bit too late to put the kibosh on Java’s late-night snack selection:
Even Simon Stagg is, eventually, willing to admit that he’s in over his head, and asks for Mr. Terrific’s assistance…after Michael arrives and sees that the portal is already open, and that the strange energies of the Dark Multiverse are having an adverse effect on the Element Man himself, Rex Mason, AKA Metamorpho.
When Rex goes wild, Michael finds himself dragged through the portal, along with Plastic Man, who, as a result of being used by Batman to probe the Dark Multiverse – his unique physiology allowed him to survive its deadly energies – had been in stasis, all egged-up like so much Silly Putty.
The sudden burst of Dark Multiversal energy proves bracing, and Mr. O’Brian wakes up just in time to form a protective barrier around Rex and Michael, while they get their bearings.
The Dark Multiverse is, apparently, supposed to be lifeless at this point, but – after refreshing the somewhat-amnesiac Plas about what’s happened in the time that he was dormant, which Plas is none too pleased about – some of Michael’s tech detects signs of life and a distress signal.
Mr. Terrific gives Rex, who has also come to his senses, the advice on how to alter his body chemistry to survive in the Dark Multiverse that Simon should have said before trying to send Rex through the portal, and activates a force field which will allow him to stay safe, and the three land near the source of the signal.
They get attacked by some weird bug creatures, who stop attacking once Ms. Wazzo shows up and tells them to stop. Introductions are made – and the fact that Linnya’s stuck in her intangible phantom form is made known – and the quartet heads for the source of the signal, which Linnya was unaware of.
The source is a broken flying saucer, which Linnya says “doesn’t do anything.”
However, being, you know, tangible, Mr. Terrific pushes a button, which activates a holographic message.
“My name is Tom Strong. If you are seeing this recording, it means I am probably already dead. That means it is up to you to save the universe.”
This was a fun little comic. I liked the shades of the introduction of Fred on Angel, when, after her years of captivity in Pylea, she’s unwilling to accept that Angel actually exists, when Linnya, who has similarly been trapped and cut off from contact with other people, isn’t entirely sure that she’s not just seeing things.
While I don’t have much interest in most of the other titles launched under the brand, the whole “New Age of DC Heroes” concept is kind of interesting.
In many ways it’s intended to parallel the beginning of the “Marvel Age of Comics” back in the ‘60s, and that idea is made manifest by the new comics serving as analogues, or as they say in the industry, homages, to the comics that debuted back in the days of Stan and Jack, with The Terrifics bearing some obvious – though ultimately superficial – similarities to The Fantastic Four.
I’m not certain if the comics are being produced via “The Marvel Method,” which consisted of the writer and artist working together to plot out the story, the artist drawing it, and then the writer filling in the dialogue and captions (as opposed to a writer providing a completed, detailed script that the artist would then work from), but they are taking a very artist-centric approach, even going so far as listing the artist first in the credits.
I’m not certain how advisable that approach is, given that it often seems that the primary cause of missed deadlines for most comics is the artist not finishing on time. I say this not to find fault with artists – drawing a comic is a lot of work – but simply as an observation. And when a specific artist is viewed as being a central and integral part of a book, that’s bound to cause problems. Readers often feel cheated as it is when some other artist has to step up and fill in for a book’s regular artist even under normal circumstances, so when a given artist is promoted as a book’s main, er, draw, that will only serve to exacerbate the problem.
Again, it’s not my intent to beat up on artists**, but, well, life happens, and even the most reliable and timely of artists are bound to miss deadlines somewhere along the line, and it just seems to me that DC is kind of painting themselves into a corner with this approach.
But speaking of art, Ivan Reis is a fan-favorite, and with this issue, I can see why. (I just hope he’s as reliable as he is good.)
This is the only one of the books in the new line that piqued my interest, particularly after having read the previews for some of the others that have been included in several of DC’s regular books for the past month or two, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next issue. I mean, I need to know what holographic Tom was talking about, don’t I?
The large image on the inside of the gatefold cover depicts “The New Challengers” – another book in the line that I might check out – though there’s also a bit of Plas in it, as well as the Hulk-like Damage, so I gather that it’s part of some much larger image that’s distributed across the other books in the line.
The Terrifics, so far, can’t lay claim to the title of “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine,” but it’s got potential.
BLACK HAMMER VOLUME 1: SECRET ORIGINS – Once they were heroes, but the age of heroes has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City–Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien–now lead simple lives in an idyllic, timeless farming village from which there is no escape! But as they employ all of their super abilities to free themselves from this strange purgatory, a mysterious stranger works to bring them back into action for one last adventure! Collects Black Hammer #1-#6.
PROMETHEA, BOOK 1 – Sophie Bangs was a just an ordinary college student in a weirdly futuristic New York when a simple assignment changed her life forever. While researching Promethea, a mythical warrior woman, Sophie receives a cryptic warning to cease her investigations. Ignoring the cautionary notice, she continues her studies and is almost killed by a shadowy creature when she learns the secret of Promethea. Surviving the encounter, Sophie soon finds herself transformed into Promethea, the living embodiment of the imagination. Her trials have only begun as she must master the secrets of her predecessors before she is destroyed by Promethea’s ancient enemy.
TOM STRONG DELUXE EDITION VOL. 1 – Tom’s remarkable exploits over a nearly century-long career feature an amazing cast of characters including his wife Dhalua (the daughter of a mighty chieftain), their daughter Tesla, the enhanced ape King Solomon and Tom’s robotic valet, Pneuman.
I almost didn’t do this. I knew that, technically, I was supposed to, but I figured no one would notice if I didn’t, particularly because I only bought this issue because I liked the cover (which was actually why I bought the first issue, really), and I was planning to drop it after this. It turns out, however, that this is the last issue anyway – I don’t know if that was plan from the start or it’s due to low sales – so, for the sake of completeness, let’s see how Bettie Page wraps things up with #8.
This final issue finds our Bettie experiencing the thrill of seeing her (terrible) movie debut at Cannes, which is, in some ways, made even more thrilling by doing so while being held captive – unbeknownst to everyone around her – by Soviet agents. The Reds want the alien MacGuffin that Bettie has in her possession in exchange for the release of her G-Man boss.
Bettie manages to trick them and escape with her partner, and the two locate their boss on a yacht, and our about to make good on their rescue…until the Reds show up and pump Bettie and crew full of lead.
Well, not really. It turns out that MacGuffin – they go so far as to refer to it as “the MacGuffin” and have a discussion about the Hitchcockian concept; they are at a film festival, after all – can stop time, which it does, just in the nick of…well, you know.
An alien doing the whole “taking on a form that you etc.” shows up looking like Buster Keaton and explains that Bettie is the first human to manage to activate the MacGuffin, however inadvertently, and while he’s impressed, it’s not something meant to be in the hands of humans. Bettie agrees to give it back to its rightful owners, in exchange for helping her get her boss and partner off the yacht to safety, sinking the yacht, and, oh yeah, getting time moving again.
I can’t say that I’m sad to see this end, nor will I be sad if it doesn’t turn out to be the end, as the book promises, only “for now.”
There’s potential for a fun and interesting book based on the famous pin-up, but this book, while certainly not terrible, didn’t deliver.
Unlike Ms. Page’s adventures, this ending is definitely only of the “for now” variety, so be sure to stop by for the next Showcase Saturday so that you can see what I’ll be selecting from when I craft the next Spotlight Sunday!
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*There was a “New 52” version of Terry Sloane, but he was very decidedly not the “FAIR PLAY” type. **Though some of them are pretty terrible. I mean, the artist on my comic Worldtamer couldn’t even manage to deliver a single page on time this past week! I should fire his ass!