Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Mister Terrific #1 review

Mr Terrific may have been tweaked in DC's New 52 Universe but one thing's for sure - Michael Holt just can't shut up about how clever he is. He saves Londoners from a small-time super-villain and it's, 'some people call me the third smartest man in the world". He reminds himself in his narration that 'they say I'm the third smartest man in the world'. He even hangs out with a kid who brags about an IQ of 192, and sleeps with fellow scientific genius Karen Starr.

It's awfully wearing.  We get it, Mike - you're a smart guy in a smart world and only a couple of people are smarter than you.

I suppose I should have expected this, it's Mr Terrific's first solo book and he needs to establish his creds - third smartest man, number one braggart. Hopefully, he'll relax a bit in future issues. Maybe buy a really big sports car.

More worrying than the ego - the clue is in the name - is this issue's preoccupation with race. Mr Terrific tells those selfsame Londoners: "Actually, a simple 'thanks Black Guy for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armour will do'," as if a non-White face in the UK is a novelty.

I could let that go as a cultural misunderstanding on the part of writer Eric Wallace, but later in the issue there's this exchange (click on image to enlarge).
Are there really so few avenues to interpersonal conflict that we have to do Black v White, concurrent with two smart women arguing over a man, in the first issue?

(And Karen - who may or may not be Power Girl, it looks like we're about to find out next issue - is so dissembling here; sure, she and Michael may be just friends, but they sure seem to be 'friends with benefits'.)

The mystery to be solved by Mr Terrific has people snapping and speaking their minds, as their IQs go off the scale. That's right up his street, or rather, tesseract - he has a secret headquarters in 'the Ninth Dimension, another excuse to pat himself on the back. Honestly.

Wallace's script is overly expository, even for a debut issue, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and try a few more. He does get points for flashing back to Holt's motivation for becoming Mr Terrific, with an interesting change from the origin as seen in the Nineties Spectre series.

Gianlucca Gugliotta's artwork, inked by DC stalwart Wayne Faucher, tells the story well enough, with good layouts and no skimping on backgrounds. Mind, I'd have expected a Ninth Dimension HQ to look a little more interesting than what we see here. And some of the heads are rather oddly shaped; Michael, on the important final splash, suffers from an especially awkward upshot. The tweaked costume doesn't look bad, but Mr Terrific looks so much better with the 'Fair Play' leather jacket (and if he's meant to have a secret ID, that 'Fair Play' tattoo demotes him to way below 'third smartest man'). Karen Starr, meanwhile, dons a party dress with a cut-out circle. Funny that.

JG Jones's cover is a beaut, I hope he's a regular around these parts.

So, not my favourite of the latest batch of first issues, but not awful either. I'll give the world's third smartest man until his third outing. If I give up on him, then he'll be smarting.

11 comments:

  1. It didn't wow me, either -- and yeah, we're definitely getting mixed messages about Karen.

    It's one that the jury's still out on, regarding future issues. I'm waiting to see what the rest of the month brings before I make my final choices.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Why must the race card be played so often? It's annoying and frustrating, and just plain lazy on a writer's part!

    And I second your statement about Wallace being oblivious to the fact that the UK has plenty pf black people living there. The UK is just as diverse as the US, when it comes to housing different races and ethnic groups. This guy clearly did not do his homework/research at all. Either that or he simply doesn't care.

    I mean did Wallace not watch the TV or the internet when the riots in London were going down? They clearly showed a diverse mix of people there.

    I usually don't like to be critical of writers, seeing as how they're living out my dream and putting themselves out there, but come on. There's no excuse for this type of lazy writing.

    I'm glad I didn't pick this one up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Didn't get the issue. Is that scene with Karen playing out in some kind of harem? Why are all the women (except for Ms. Hotnbothered there) dressed like they just stepped out of a Fifties Hercules movie?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think the most pertinent question is -- why is Amanda Waller even at this party?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think I've made my mind up about this one, Rob ... But you know how weak I am. Excellent Waller gag, sir.

    It's odd, Dale, there's Eric Wallace referencing Doctor Who, which features a mix of Brits, then he writes this scene.

    Ah Carol, you're making me want to watch some Steve Reeves movies.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why is the mere mention of race seen as playing the race card? What does that stupid over used phrase even mean? Race is still a factor in society whether people want to acknowledge it or not.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thikblak, if you've read the comic and my review you'll see it's not a question of the 'mere mention of race'.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I dig what you guys are saying about the race being played up, but just to speak outside of the comic for a second:

    As an educated Black American with a diverse group of friends (whom often times incidentally introduce me to their not at all diverse other groups of friends) I've noticed that race is still a huge social issue in our multicultural and ethnically diverse society. Case-and-point: my best friend (who happends to be eastern asian) girlfriend cannot help but occasional mentioning from time to time that I am a black person. She's not even trying to be racially incesitive or excluding but in her, and many others, social sphere there is little sincere and humanistic intermingling with people from other races ethnic backgrounds or cultures. I meet my white american friends other friends and most of them are white, and so forth with my hispanic, south western asian (indian and such) Caribian, south american and of course black american friends. As indeviduals in the society we aren't as diverse as we like to claim ourselves, we fall back on the presence of diversity and our acquantance with it, to state something about ourselves, and I don't think it much different in the united kingdom (watched any bbc news that was actually about Britain last year?)

    To add insult to ignorance, and to sum up my point (and possibly Mr. Terrific's) many of these friends of friends I meet are surprised to hear how well I speak or how informed I am on issues they assume would be abstract or incosequential for a black guy whom is from, and still intentionally lives in, Harlem NYC.

    ~Twenty5beatsa2nd@aim.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much, it's fascinating to hear your perspective. Let's hope that as time goes on we'll all wind up a bit more colour blind, while respecting one another's heritages and interests.

    Did you read any Mr T issues? I'd love to hear what you thought.

    I didn't get your parentetical point - '(watched any bbc news that was actually about Britain last year?)' ... being in the UK, I did indeed, and loads of it was about Britain.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think he was referencing the fact that racial tension and misunderstandings exist as readily in the United Kingdom as he ("twenty5beatsa2nd") experiences in the United states with his BBC comment. It's exemplified in the reasons behind the riots that user "Dale Bagwell" mentioned

    ReplyDelete