by Michael DeLaney and Ryan Desaulniers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Michael: We live in a curious world where Marvel hasn’t published a Fantastic Four comic book since 2015. To fill that Fantastic-less void, DC has given us an analogue team out of a few lower-tier heroes in addition to a new one. The team that has not yet become a team consists of the eponymous Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, Plastic Man and Linnya Wazzo. The FF analogues are pretty obvious from the outset, the only thing that’s different here is the stretchy guy is occupying the “youthful/obtuse” role of The Human Torch.
The Terrifics 1 uses Scott Snyder’s Dark Nights: Metal event as a launching point. The Metal connection kind of frustrates me: partly because Metal itself frustrates me but also because I am excited for this series and would rather have it stand on its own two feet. The fact that Metal hasn’t concluded yet adds to this problem a bit. Of course event books are fraught with delays but doesn’t the fact that The Terrifics 1 doesn’t exactly require that conclusion make it’s tied-in-ness unnecessary? There’s Nth Metal and The Dark Multiverse in it, so I guess that satisfies the connection and ends my rant.
It’s rare that following a cosmic event that our superheroes deal with real-world consequences, like who paid Peter Parker’s rent while he was in off-world in any of the Secret Wars? In Mr. Terrific’s case, his company assets: “Teriffictech” were legally acquired by Simon Stagg while Terrific was palling around with Batman in the Dark Multiverse. All of this brings The Terrifics together, at Simon Stagg’s door and then in the Dark Multiverse itself.
There are other Fantastic Four flourishes throughout, most notably at a gigantic husk of a Galactus analogue drawn by Ivan Reis.
Whether or not this is just an asteroid-size Easter egg or part of a larger plot remains to be seen. However we have seen plenty of Marvel counterparts in DC’s multiverse, so anything is possible.
The FF of it all is a little peculiar to me. Jeff Lemire writes both Mr. Terrific and Plastic Man true to their characters: Terrific is confident and calculating while Plas is a living cartoon. Metamorpho on the other hand, reads almost entirely as The Thing.
Metamorpho isn’t exactly famous for his standout personality, it’s true. But something about him — perhaps Reis’ portrayal of him as a hulking hothead with a fist of rocks — reminds me of Ben Grimm. Of course it’s possible I’m only seeing what I want to see through FF-colored lenses.
I’m so happy that Plastic Man is out of his egg — the guy is severely underused in the DC Universe. I think that Reis is happy to be playing with him too, as the wobbly weirdo’s features rise and fall with his emotions. Though he transforms himself into a blimp-like vessel to protect his fellow heroes, the showstopper has got to be when Plas does an impression of a classic Batman pose.
In addition to the Fantastic Four elements, The Terrifics 1 pulls from some very specific corners of DC’s history. Our resident Invisible Woman namedrops her homeworld of Bgztl, a world associated with the Legion of Superheroes as well as her name Linnya Wazzo which is nearly identical to Legion member Bgztlian Tinya Wazzo, the Phantom Girl. The issue ends with another reference to DC’s past: Tom Strong. Tom Strong was part of DC’s Wildstorm line, created by Chris Sprouse and Alan Moore — making this the second Alan Moore creation that DC has folded into its main continuity this year. I don’t have an opinion on that inclusion either way, but it’s an interesting route to take for the first entry of this new superhero team book.
Ryan, what did you think? Were you distracted by the FF-ness of The Terrifics, or is that the point? Does throwing an Alan Moore creation into the mix make for too many ideas in The Terrifics maiden voyage? Any general thoughts on Mr. Terrific himself? I’ve always liked him as a team member for the big DC events but I’ve never thought about if he’s compelling enough to be a lead character. Your take?
Ryan D: You know, I had a nagging sense of the Fantastic Four in the back of my head while reading the issue through the first time, but now that you’ve stated your case, Michael, it’s all plain as day. Maybe that’s why I did not enjoy this issue. I’m, personally, more drawn to superhero stories driven by character and not the novelty of huge, sweeping dimensional reveals. The most successful Fantastic Four arcs play with both; I’m thinking particularly about Hickman’s FF run which found its urgency in Reed Richard’s intellectual obsession to fix the universe and how that effected his relationship with his family. Thus far, with our protagonists being assembled by mere circumstantial happenstance, there isn’t a common goal aside from survival which ties the crew together, which does not draw me in as much as something like “a group of astronauts is given freak powers while pursuing scientific exploration and must come to terms with them together” a la FF.
Which brings me to your question about Mr. Terrific. I have read him in some of the larger DC crossovers, but he never made an impression on me. He seems like a Tony Stark type of deus ex machina via technology, but without the wit or personal demons. Thus far in this title, he comes across as very clinical and thorough and…smart. That’s all I’ve really gotten from him, and I think that might be this book’s largest failure.
I am a long-time Lemire defender; I love his consistency of coming to a new title and finding a shard or fragment of a character and focus on it to show a new but faithful side of the character. In such titles as Old Man Logan or Thanos, he accomplishes a lot of this by utilizing the caption boxes. Though the issue begins with some direct address from Mr. Terrific, that disappears within two pages and is replaced with some of the most exposition-laden dialogue I have experienced since I tried reading the Metal event. I am curious as to whether or not I would have had an easier time engaging with this comic if I could see a bit of what it running underneath Mr. Terrific’s implacable exterior. Does he feel any regret over keeping Plastic Man in stasis for such a long time? How does Simon Stagg’s dangerous experiment with the Dark Dimension make Terrific feel as a fellow scientist? What is his pre-existing relationship with Metamorpho? These are all questions which could be answered by offering the audience a more personal link into the story, which I found to be sorely lacking.
Call me a bad comic book reader guy, but I did not recognize too many of the characters featured here off the top of my head. Bgztl means nothing to me. I missed the Moore/Sprouse reference of Tom Strong. Metamorpho is a stranger to me. Because of this, Plastic Man proved to be the best part of this issue. I can immediately identify who he is and what role he plays in this new group, and I agree that the creative team probably has the clearest idea about who he is over anyone else in the issue. Well, except for one character:
When I say I need a way to connect with these characters, that does not mean I’m necessarily advocating for more pages of text. I loved this opening page’s characterization of Java. I have never seen that character before, but I’m immediately intrigued by a character who dresses in fine Italian suits and eats a moth. Something’s off about this guy. Go on. Tell me more. And until they do, there’s not enough Fantastic Four parallelism in the world that will help me connect with and care about anyone on this team aside from good ol’ Plastic Man.
The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?