Michael Holt, the superhero known as Mr Terrific, isn’t a happy bunny. While he’s been off saving reality from the Dark Multiverse, sneaky billionaire Simon Stagg has stolen his hi-tech business. Well, depending on your point of view
The large gentleman’s name is Java, defrosted caveman and Stagg’s number one lackey. Java takes Mr Terrific to a lab, where he finds Stagg is out of his depth.
Trapped due to Stagg’s attempts to access the Dark Multiverse, Metamorpho the Element Man needs help. He’s been turned into Nth Metal, the wonder element that powers Hawkman, Hawkwoman and, as of DC’s Metal event, all kinds of DC Universe people and things.
Happily, Mr Terrific has never met a problem he doesn’t think he can fix, and he has an idea. Change one letter of ‘ego’ and you get ‘egg’ - an egg which proves to be the hero known as Plastic Man, dormant but ready for rebirth.
Soon, our three heroes are on what seems to be a planetary mass, searching for the source of a bleeping beacon. And it’s then they find the fourth member of the Terrifics cast - Legion of Super-Heroes veteran Tinya Wazzo.
I’ve gone quite some way into the issue so far as recap is concerned because DC have already spoiled much of it, via preview pages and publicity puffs. So yes, this is artist Ivan Reis and writer Jeff Lemire giving us DC’s answer to the Fantastic Four. These explorers of the unknown map onto Marvel’s first family pretty well, despite two of them being shapeshifters. For the Invisible Woman, there’s the transparently smart Phantom Girl. Rough, tough and maybe a little gruff Metamorpho would be the Thing. Flexible friend Plastic Man is akin to Mr Fantastic. And Mr Terrific equates to, er, Mr Fantastic. With an even bigger ego.
OK, so no one wants to be the Human Torch. Where’s Beatriz DaCosta when you need her?
The team title, The Terrifics, is up there with The Ultimates when it comes to annoying-adjective-used-as-noun, but as it evoke off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks, it makes some sense.
But are we meant to like Mr Terrific? From the moment he shows up it’s a case of The Ego Has Landed.
No, you call yourself Mr Terrific. Other people just laugh, or shrug.
Which isn’t to say I don’t love this bit of narration. It’s bringing a relatively little known character into definition with stylish economy.
The breakout star of this issue - mainly because he spends most of his time getting the others out of scrapes - is Plastic Man. We’ve been told in the Metal event that he’s much more powerful than every comic this side of Joe Kelly’s Justice League run has shown him to be, and we see here that he has tremendous resistance to decidedly dodgy other-dimensional energies.
Sadly, he’s not safe from a terrible costume tweak. Yes, the bare legs Plas has flashed since the Golden Age are a little... different, but black cycling shorts below the red shirt look truly horrible. Metamorpho also has black shorts, and they look far worse than his traditional dark trunks, clunky. The overall look is still miles better than the New 52 redesign he had for the Legends of Tomorrow comic, though.
Phantom Girl seems to have nicked her outfit from her 31st-century relative’s wardrobe, while Mr Terrific sports his regular threads. Basically, everyone looks, well, terrific, courtesy of Reis, inker Joe Prado and colourist Marcelo Maiolo. Reis, a fine storyteller, gives us big-scale Kirby-esque action which, allied to nicely expressive faces and body language, ensures the visual pleasure is high. It’s always a gamble when an artist with a non-cartoony style is in charge of Plastic Man, as the more rounded, 3-D, you make him, the less he looks like himself; Plas suits a flat treatment. Reis does more than fine, especially when Plas manifests a second head to talk to Metamorpho and Mr Terrific inside his own mouth - it’s oddball without being gross.
And Lemire’s script is as tight and smart as we’ve come to expect, I can’t wait to see where he’s taking our heroes. The most immediately intriguing mysteries - well, apart from ‘why does Reis love black shorts?’ - are the questions of just who Linnya Wazzo is and what she’s doing there. The Dark Multiverse stuff I could live without - what started as a fun blockbuster was quickly derailed by a constipation of Batmen. And delays don’t help this book, which refers us to Dark Knights: Metal ‘to see how crazy things got’. I’m sure we would if we could.
Ah well, the main thing is this comic, and I like it a lot. Lemire gives distinctive voices to the characters, especially Mr Terrific, and I like that Plas isn’t going to put up with his nonsense - this guy is a federal agent, he can deal with a snooty superhero.
And how about those cute crab monsters?
While we don’t see the team christened or learn their mission statement, this is pretty much a perfect debut issue - we meet the characters and get a sense of the stories they’ll feature in, via a sterling script and dynamic artwork. Job done, in grand style. Everyone involved - and let’s not forget talented letterer Tom Napolitano and sharp editors Jessica Chen, Paul Kaminski and Marie Javins - take a bow.
The Terrifics #1 review, Jeff Lemire, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Marcelo Maiolo, Tom Napolitano, Jessica Chen, Paul Kaminski, Marie Javins, DC Comics.