Showing posts with label Eric Wallace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eric Wallace. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Requiem for Mister Terrific

It's far too late for me to save what I thought was the most innovative new title to come out of the New 52.  Now all I can do is mourn, admonish you all for not giving this wonderful high-concept book a chance and use what space I have to ensure that this title is remembered, even if only as a lost treasure that helped to set up two new titles that have gone on to greater critical acclaim. 

Mister Terrific could have been a slam-dunk for DC Comics.  Ignoring the following that the original character had from his days in JSA and Checkmate, the book would have been a perfect sell to hard science-fiction fans as well as the fandoms of other weird-science shows with Fringe, Eureka and Doctor Who.  Indeed, the first issue of Mister Terrific made a Doctor Who reference and the very last page of the final issue seems to be something of a nod to the time/space vortex imagery of the Tom Baker days.  But what really made this book the prefect complement to those series was the hero - a super-genius who used intellect and romance to combat evil rather than brute force and cynicism. 


I think it's worth noting what an excellent job Eric Wallace did of bringing this series to a close, even as he had to step-up the introduction of the character I think was clearly meant to be Mister Terrific's arch-enemy - a treacherous underling executive whose attempts to steal Michael Holt's technology result in him becoming a technopath.  A shame he couldn't last past his premier appearance for while the idea of a machine-manipulating madman has been done before, Wallace did put a unique spin on the concept.  And Gianluca Gugliotta's art continued to be excellent to the very end.


If you're a fan of the new World's Finest book (and why wouldn't you be?), you might want to pick up issues #7 and #8 of Mister Terrific while they are still in the store or pick up the upcoming trade paperback.  Not only do you get to see how Power Girl was starting out on Earth 2 but you get a bit of a preview of what led to the events of the first issue.  Fans of Earth 2 will also want to check these books out, as it appears that Michael Holt will be teleporting himself into that book within a few issues. 

Here's to you, Michael Holt.  See you soon!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

52 Catch-Up: Mister Terrific #1-6

Every comic book fan has at least one title that they loved that somehow got passed by the rest of the comics-reading world. Maybe it was centered upon an obscure older character, like Ka-Zar. Maybe it was based around a new character elevated by a recent mini-series, like Blue Beetle. Maybe it was the pet project of a newbie writer that editorial ultimately lacked the confidence to see through to the end, like Agent X. Whatever the case, we all wind up with a simmering resent me of the great mass of comic readers - the slack-jawed yokels whose refusal to read anything without a Bat-Logo or an X-Man headlining it has trapped the comic book industry in a vast malaise for decades, crushing all innovation. For me, that book is Mister Terrific.

Let me say at the start that I do not believe that Mister Terrific failed to find an audience because its' main protagonist is a black man. I do believe that Mister Terrific failed to find an audience because it is a smart book by a smart writer that refused to talk down to its' audience. It centers upon Michael Holt - Doctor of Many Things, Olympic Gold Medal winner, third smartest man in the world, head of a high-tech company and a snappy dresser. Driven to near-suicidal depression following the death of his wife, he had a vision which inspired him to use his fortune and his talents to help people. As an activist and businessman, he tries to make the world a better place. But when bad people use science for wicked ends, Michael Holt becomes Mister Terrific.

Eric Wallace is a writer for Eureka and it showed. Every issue was as full of high-concepts and technobabble as your average Doctor Who episode. Indeed, the first issue made a Doctor Who reference and Mister Terrific himself travels through an extra-dimensional space, though he never got around to traveling in time and he looked more like The Silver Surfer than Tom Baker as he traveled.

That may be a piece of the puzzle. At its' heart, Mister Terrific wasn't really a super hero book - it was a science hero book. Michael Holt is cut from the same mold as Tony Stark but unlike the infamous Iron Man, Michael would rather use his brains to help people than play dress-up with the rest of the costume set. He also takes his responsibilities as a businessman a lot more seriously than Tony Stark and his motivations for going after the telepathic villain Brainstorm - whom he contested with in the first three issues - are more about the attack on his business and his personal feelings of violation at being telepathically controlled than they are about any sense of justice.

Maybe that's the problem? Michael Holt does heroic things but he only does them because of obligation. Logically, he deduces what the right thing is to do. Emotionally, he's trying to do something to make his dead wife proud of him. There's no real drive for him to do the right thing for the sake of being the right thing. I personally find this conflict fascinating but I know some people who would be turned off by that.

Or maybe it was the artwork? I thought Gianluca Gugliotta was a good fit for this book after the first issue but as time went on, his human figures became more and more alien-looking with elongated necks and odd expressions. Ironically, this became clearer in the two-part storyline in Issues #4-5, where Michael Holt is held captive on an alien slave galley and must fight his way to freedom.

Incidentally, did you know that this storyline featured a controversial element which used a hermaphroditic alien as a metaphor for all GLBT acceptance? No? Well, I'm not surprised. Because Eric Wallace made it a part of the storyline and didn't feel the need to make a big deal about it, unlike some writers who love to toot their own horn about every single relevant story they write. And it was all the better for being a surprise and only being a part of the story.

Issue #6 was the first issue I felt really fell flat. Wallace's script was strong as ever and The Tomorrow Thief was an interesting take on the standard phasing-burglar bad guy. But as stretched-out and sloppy as Gugilotta's pencils became, Oliver Nome's pencils were blocky and restrained. Whereas Gugilotta's necks were freakishly long, Nome's men lacked them completely.

I don't know why Mister Terrific got canceled. All I know is that it was probably too good for the teaming masses of comic book readers and that I will miss it. So long, Michael. Maybe they'll let you team up with Green Arrow sometime down the line.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

52 Pick-Up - Week Two, Part Two

GRIFTER #2 - Cole Cash tries (and fails) to explain about his alien abduction and the aliens in disguise all around them. After getting attacked by the aliens again and digging himself in deeper, Cole escapes only to be attacked by his own brother, who has been sent by the federal government to kill him. This one is falling back to "Wait For The Trade" Status. It is very well written and the art is good but it's paced like a marathon and I like my monthly books to have a little more speed to them.

MISTER TERRIFIC #2 - This issue is hard for me to summarize because so much happens in it. Seriously, I don't think any book in the New 52 manages to throw out as many interesting concepts and ideas as this one. It's very much like a good Doctor Who episode. The art is a little bit sloppier this time around but it's not bad. And while Power Girl fans may be disappointed that Karen Starr doesn't have any super-powers (yet) she still proves herself to be intelligent and a cool-hand in a difficult situation. Also, the new baddy - Brainstorm - is a close second to The Mirror as the best new villain of the New 52 line. Definitely on the pull list.

RESURRECTION MAN #2 - As with the original Resurrection Man series, this issue focuses upon an amnesiac Mitch Shellley as he's trying to remember who he was. He's tracked down by two super-powered female assassins, who call themselves "Body Doubles", who apparently know who Mitch is and have some previous relationship with him. This is a change from the original series, where the Body Doubles were just two ordinary women turned assassin who took the job to track down and capture Mitch Shelley. These changes are academic, however, and this is another solid title that is definitely going on my pull list.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mister Terrific #1 - A Review

When I first heard that Mister Terrific would be getting a solo book as part of the New 52, one thought came to mind – It’s About Time! Mister Terrific has been one of the most unappreciated heroes of the past decade. Despite holding command positions in the JSA and Checkmate, he’s never really been a big-name character. With any luck, this book will change that.

Michael Holt is a modern-day Renaissance man, with dozens of degrees and an Olympic Gold Medal. He was happy and content until a traffic accident claimed the life of his wife and their unborn son. Despite his wealth, fame and power, Holt grew depressed and was on the verge of suicide... until he had a vision while working on an experiment to open a dimensional rift. Newly inspired, Holt vowed to use his intelligence, his technology and his fortune to make the world a better place as both an activist and as a masked hero, fighting those who would use science for evil as Mister Terrific.

There’s a lot to like in Eric Wallace’s script, which neatly alters Michael Holt’s background to remove all trace of the supernatural as Holt’s revelation originally was the result of a visit by The Specter. This new origin better fits Holt’s status as a man of science and I think the book is better for it. Wallace writes Michael Holt as a good-humored genius, defying the typical “professor” characterization that usually seems to take over most super-science heroes.

The script also betrays Wallace’s background as a writer for the TV series Eureka, featuring a lot of the same “weird science”. Fans of that show as well as Doctor Who (which gets a shout out at one point) will love this book for that reason alone. Power Girl fans should also take note as Karen Starr has a role in this book as Michael’s colleague and possible love interest. Don’t worry– she may not have displayed any powers yet, but her strong attitude is very much in evidence.

The art by Gianluca Gugliotta is a perfect match for the story. Dynamic is the only word I can think of to fully describe it. Everything in this comic looks lively, from the opening fight/chase scene across the skies of London to the more mundane scenes of Michael’s organizing a gala event at his company. Energy arcs convincingly in the backgrounds of the various labs we see and Gugliotta is able to subtly convey the possession of various characters by an unknown intelligence as the plot of the book thickens..

Simply put, this book lives up to its’ name. If you were a fan of Mister Terrific before the revamp, you won’t find any big changes here that are likely to turn you off of the character. And if weren’t a fan of Mister Terrific before, you more than likely will be after reading this book. Either way, you’re in for a treat.