The Terrifics 1: Discussion

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?


9 comments on “The Terrifics 1: Discussion

  1. My read on this was somewhere in between Ryan’s and Michael’s. It actually was very much the title to the preceding article, “Embracing the Unknown.”

    I have little to know connection to any character in here. I read the New 52 Mr. Terrific (very, VERY not-terrific), liking the idea of him, amazed at how bad the comic was. I am familiar with Plastic Man in that his name tells me he’s plastic-like and male. I don’t know Metamorpho at all. I know the name Tom Strong, but I wouldn’t have even guessed he was a DC character (I would have guessed him to be a compatriot of Doc Savage, and maybe I don’t know the difference between them…)

    But I liked this quite a bit. It felt fresh and new (things I don’t often say about DC comics) and while it brought up a lot of questions, they didn’t keep me from understanding the story and made me want to see more. I thought Reis’ art fit well and captured the mystery of all of this.

    You know, the whole thing kind of reminded me of The Ultimates more than FF. (I didn’t get a FF vibe at all other than Plastic Man’s powers) because this felt more about ‘impossible problems being solved by people you’ve never heard of’, not a family exploration type comic.

    Maybe I’m the right level of ignorant for this. Because no character had to be true to their past for me to enjoy this – I could read this continuity free. I just sat back and enjoyed the insanity.

  2. Can DC make any creative directions these days other than ‘let’s be grossly unethical and piss off ALan Moore?’ As they produce more banal bullshit, could they find something else to do except more awful shit to that magician they pissed off in the 80s (Question: Is current DC so bad because they decided they needed a relaunch centred around bad writing, empty nostalgia and bigotry? Or is it because of a curse by Alan Moore? Or is it because they decided to cross over JLA with an actual magical spell Alan Moore wrote, which is just irresponsible). It is one thing for DC to be so consistently bigoted and bad, but the fact that they also can’t seem to go a week these days without doing something gross to Alan Moore is fucking atrocious
    (Probably worth noting that, while Tom Strong and Promethea were published by Wildstorm, they weren’t part of the Wildstorm Universe. Wildstorm just published Alan Moore’s imprint. This isn’t like Midnighter or other Wildstorm transplants. So the fact that DC are using Moore’s characters from his own universe after they broke the promises made to him and backstabbed him when he returned to DC as part of the Wildstorm deal is grossly unethical. Especially in the context of DC’s current other unethical actions with respect to Moore)

    Oh, and while there has always been a similar self hating streak to Metamorpho, he is generally playful and has a smile on his face in a way that Ben Grimm isn’t. He is generally a really fun character. Though it isn’t surprising that a modern DC book nor a Lemire book gets characters so wrong

    • I guess I don’t read most comics thinking about the creators or former creators. I have no particular attachment to Alan Moore and didn’t read any of this thinking about his feelings or contract with DC. DC betraying Moore legally or personally could be an interesting take on whether or not one should buy this comic (or DC comics in general), but it certainly didn’t affect my interest in this.

      As I had no previous knowledge of Metamorpho, I can’t state how he was misrepresented. But he seemed fine as a character for this particular story (ie, his personality didn’t ruin anything for me).

      But you can say this is insulting to Moore and I won’t argue – I don’t know and upon about 5 minutes of pondering, I don’t really care that much either. You can say that the character of Metamorpho or anyone else is wrong, and I don’t care that much either, because the characterization fits the only story I know them from, and that is here (with the Mr. Terrific exclusion, but the stories I know him from are so bad they almost shouldn’t count). But I can’t and won’t argue those points because they don’t apply to my reading.

      But about Jeff Lemire getting things wrong? I guess I just don’t agree with that at all, unless you are just stating that he doesn’t portray characters with history for the big publishers wrong. But honestly, I think it’s possible that he’s the best comics writer out there right now. Descender and Black Hammer are on my top 5 best of 2017 list. I haven’t read much of his modern Marvel stuff, but his New 52 runs on Animal Man, Justice League Dark and Frankenstein were some of the only bright spots.

      So I just don’t get the Lemire hate.

      This wasn’t the best #1 I’ve read (Just last week I liked Punk is Dead and Death Bed more than this), but I’ll at least buy issue 2 of this.

      • It isn’t so much abotu Alan Moore, but it is about creator rights and the fair treatment of creators. Alan Moore is THE modern example of shitty treatment of creators, and we should be holding publishers to account for that. Because we don’t want a comics industry that is hostile to creators, because that hurts everyone. So the fact that DC is currently actively malicious to a creator they have cheated and abused (Doomsday CLock literally attacked people for being Alan Moore’s friend) is horrific. Alan Moore is not the only person getting hurt here. His collaborators, like J H Willliams III, are also getting hurt but DC’s current malicious actions on Moore. That is bad
        While there is nothing wrong with DC using Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Killing Joke or any other Moore related DC material, the use of Watchmen and Moore’s Windstorm work cannot be separated by the fact that on both of these instances, DC betrayed Moore (even stealing residuals from Watchmen merchandise Moore was owed) and created a pattern creator directed abuse. To not acknowledge and address this is bad for everyone.

        On Metamorpho, the thing is… DC have other characters. And the ability to create new ones. They could have used someone else, instead of screwing up Metamorpho’s character to create a cheap Thing ripoff. A properly done reinvention, Fraction Hawkeye style, is a great way to fix a character, but that isn’t the case here. Just because Metamorpho is obscure doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be written properly. And Lemireing a character is just about the worst thing you can do.

        And I really, really do not like Lemire. He is a bad writer, whose work is is superficial and soulless.Books like Animal Man, Justice League Dark and Frankenstein were all superficial and whose good qualities are entirely due to the art. Lemire creates characters impossible to love, because they are just so empty and generic. Stripped of everything that makes them interesting. When given something with lots of potential, he wastes it a way while using his artist as a crutch (to his credit, he nearly always brings the best out of his artists. The Terrifics and Justice League Dark may be the sole exceptions).
        And Lemire has a really big problem where he gets characters wrong, and renders them less interesting in the process. I think the best example is his Hawkeye run, where he picks up on the ‘Kate’s father is actually evil’ twist from Fraction. And he tells a flashback of how Kate found out, ignoring the fact that Kate only found out in Fraction’s run. Very wrong, and puts Kate in a less interesting position than Fraction’s Kate, who was having to deal with her whole world being turned upside down by the reveal. That’s a very clear example, but there are more. Like Thanos. The first two issues of that were nothing more than the systemic stripping of every interesting element of the characters involved. Corvus Glaive’s sole interesting feature is forgotten, while Thanos is reduced to a generic brute devoid of depth or interesting features. Z-grade Darkseid clone instead of a rich villain. Lemire’s Thanos is so bad, I’ll actually compliment Jim Starlin and Infinity Gauntlet, which is a harsh criticism.
        That’s always been Lemire to me. Soulless, wrong and worse. Which is a great fit for DC’s current goals, but not for a book I’d want to read. That’s why I have several unread volumes of Descender in my account, despite Nguyen being one of my all time favourite comic book artists. Because the first volume was just as soulless and empty and SO, SO BAD.
        Every time I see a Lemire book, it seems like he fundamentally doesn’t get things. He fundamentally doesn’t understand what and who he is writing about, and then combines that lack of understanding with his own vapidness to create yet another lifeless husk of a book. I’m glad he works for you, but he’s among the worst writers around for me

        • I read a little bit about the Moore / DC relationship. I wish I hadn’t. It reinforced previous ideas I had about both Moore and DC and they differ pretty strongly from yours and don’t affect my reading or enjoyment of any DC comic. Spats between creators and publishers aren’t why I read or comment about comics. It’s like reading about holdouts and walkouts in pro sports to me – not why I pay attention to them.

          (side note – I’ve actually got V For Vendetta close to the top of my to-read pile. It’s been there for at least 3 years. I’ve tried 10 times or more to start it and I can’t get past the first 5 pages. I am not a fan.)

          Terrifics/Metamorpho : Fantastic Four/Thing. At no point did I consider this a Fantastic Four tribute/copy/analog. I guess I consider the FF about family and unity and this was definitely not about that. I didn’t think Metamorpho showed much here other than caring if he accidentally hurt someone, somewhat gruff and no nonsense. Aggravated by inane banter. But that’s just my reading one story in my life about him. I’m not going to look up whether or not that’s how he always is, but that’s what I got out of him.

          Lemire: If you don’t like Descender, I guess we’ll just disagree. I’ve introduced at least 5 people to comics through Descender (one of my modern go to comics, along with Manifest Destiny and Saga, for non-superhero stories). I think it’s a great sci-fi story.

  3. Hey Matt. What’s your reaction to the Sandman Universe line of comics curated by Neil Gaiman from the revived Vertigo imprint? (anyone can also write their reactions too).

    • Didn’t Neil Gaiman once say something about being morally opposed to sequels?

      I’m not happy. Let’s leave aside the fact that DC can’t actually be trusted at the moment, or what Sandman means to me (Sandman was the series that really got me into comics). Sandman told a story, and it ended. I don’t see what the point of having Gaiman come back and do it all over again is. Move on (there is a reason I ignored Sandman Overture. As much as I love Sandman and as great as it is, the story is told). I mean, if DC really wanted a return of 90s Vertigo, this is the worst thing they could do. Vertigo wasn’t about Sandman, or Animal Man, or John Constantine. It was about nobodies. The whole point was British creators being let loose and finding any forgotten character to unleash their creative energies on. Hell, Neil Gaiman should be an exciting enough voice that he you should be able to sell a book with just his name, just as Marvel made did with Coates’ Black Panther. He could pick any obscure character.

      And it is even worse in the greater context of DC. Just look at this list
      Jurgens on Superman
      Rucka on Wonder Woman
      Wolfman on Raven
      Isabella on Black Lightning
      Dixon on Bane
      Bates and Weisman on Captain Atom
      Ellis on Wild Storm
      Miller on Year One
      Busiek on Creature of the Night
      Gaiman on Sandman
      Gaiman on Books of Magic

      Isn’t that kind of disturbing? I swear I’m missing some, but even that is a worrying list. Just how much of DC’s output is old writers returning. So many new and creative voices that could be telling stories with these characters, and instead DC is trapped 10, 20, 30 years in the past.
      Hell, not only is the success of nearly all of the original runs above come from the place of a new creator coming in with a take no one had thought of before, so are all the major modern success stories.

      Lightning won’t strike twice. There is nothing that Ellis can do with Wildstorm that will match the impact of the Authoirty. Bates and Weisman’s deconstructive approach to Captain Atom isn’t special anymore, it is Captain Atom’s story. What can Gaiman really say about the Sandman that he didn’t the first time? Does Gaiman really have enough new thigns to say to truly make a worthy successor?
      Ultimately, what we have is a collection of footnotes on the original’s wikipedia articles. In 2017/2018, they returned to the series they defined. Nobody cared

      At the end of the day, DC has fallen into the exact trap that makes nostalgia so dangerous. They are doing everything they can to recapture their past except the thing that will actually get them there. Because if they want to return to the heights of Vertigo or whatever era, they can’t ask the same people to do what they did before. THey need to provide the same opportunities that led them to success last time. And that means, in the context of Vertigo, finding an untapped market of writers with unique voices and letting them loose on the D-list.
      The problem with nostalgia is that you always forget the real reason you loved it so much. Because it was like nothing else you’d seen before

        • Yeah, except the line is being overseen and curated by Gaiman himself. Gaiman is still there, still deeply involved. And that’s the problem

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