Static Shock #1
Writers: Scott McDaniel & John Rozum
Pencils/Cover artist: Scott McDaniel
Inks: Jonathan Glapion & Le Beau Underwood
Colors: Guy Major
Letters: Dezi Sienty
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
The other day, I got to thinking, and it occurred to me that in some ways, Static is a lot of Aquaman. Yes, Aquaman. (Stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this.)
Both characters have been featured prominently in cartoons and as such have penetrated the pop-culture consciousness beyond the world of comics. With Aquaman, it was in the various Super Friends cartoons. With Static, it was in his own well-received show, Static Shock (from which subsequent comic series derived their titles). That recognizability factor is fairly rare for comics characters, so it stands to reason these characters ought to be mainstays of the medium that spawned them. But titles featuring the two heroes have had limited success, and I’m there are critics out there who feel they can’t sustain an audience’s interest for all that long. DC’s New 52 initiative is giving both properties another shot, and given the popularity of the program among comic-shop customers (at least in an immediate sense), maybe this will be the time things click for Static. But honestly, after reading this first issue, I doubt it. It’s a solid super-hero book, but it treats its title character like any number of other similar characters. This was a fun read, but it didn’t feel special or particularly unique.
Virgil Hawkins’ family has moved from Dakota to New York City, and he’s loving his life. The brilliant high school student is interning at S.T.A.R. Labs, and his mentor and ally Hardware has set up him with his very own secret headquarters and gadgets for his adventures as Static, the electro-magnetically powered super-hero. His presence at S.T.A.R. proves fortuitous for dozens of bystanders, as he’s able to save lives in the wake of a crook’s rampage after his theft of a “plasma-protection suit.” After his encounter with the criminal ends in an unexpectedly violent manner, Static is unaware his exploits have attracted the attention of a conspiracy of criminals who run New York that won’t tolerate any potential interference.
Scott McDaniel has always been adept at conveying movement and energy in his comic art, and that remains true with this latest project. His loose, exaggerated, angular style seems to suit Static fairly well. The design for Static’s new “ride,” six connected, metallic hexagons, makes for a striking, memorable visual, though I’m not sure it merited inclusion in the cover logo. It’s a shame the script doesn’t explain what the construct is or why Static isn’t just using his powers to fly around on a manhole cover, as he once did. The most interesting thing about the artwork in this comic book isn’t the line art but the colors. Guy Major employs some incredibly bring tones to convey the energy effects of the hero and the bad guy he tangles with in the first act. Those brilliant colors really add a lot of energy, literally and figuratively, to the visuals. At first, I thought the effects for the bad guy were too bright, as they obscured the figure, but I quickly realized that was the intent. We were meant to focus on the ball energy, and we were meant to have a hard time seeing what was within.
The first act of this comic book has an undeniable Spider-Man/Peter Parker at play, but I think the easy comparison interferes with the reader’s effort to immerse himself or herself in the story. The script kept hitting me with traits Virgil has in common with Spidey, and the overall tone of the dialogue and the New Yorkers’ reactions to his heroic deeds just screamed “SPIDER-MAN!” It took me out of the story for a bit. I suspect the similarities are intended, but I doubt the overt homage was meant to intrude on the story.
In some ways, Rozum’s script is accessible, but in others, it fails in that respect as well. New readers won’t find any reference to how Static got his powers or he opted to become a hero. There’s a reference to his sisters needing help, but it’s not explained how or why. The family’s move to New York is left unsaid as well, though I did appreciate the fact the writers avoided the cliche of having Virgil wallow over having to leave friends and familiar places behind.
As some readers know, the original Static series was one of several published through DC by Milestone Media, the goal of which was to present a diverse array of genre characters to a wide audience. It’s unfortunate that Milestone co-founder and Static co-creator Dwayne McDuffie didn’t live to see this relaunch. I don’t know if he even knew of the New 52 idea or was approached to be a part of it. He certainly would’ve been the logical choice to guide Static back into regular publication. Still, I’m encouraged by the fact writer John Rozum, a Milestone Media alum, is involved in this project. He definitely should bring some credibility here in the eyes of longtime Milestone fans.
DC’s effort to reach a wider audience includes a stated mission to offer a more diverse array of characters to its audience, and launching a new Static title, featuring one of the publisher’s best-known black super-heroes, was a logical choice in that endeavor. I find myself questioning, however, if the ultimate goal is to offer black characters that could be essentially interchangeable with white ones or to craft stories featuring black characters that specifically delves into the cultural and social elements that are specific to the black experience. If the race of the protagonist doesn’t matter at all in a story, does that mean society is that much closer to complete equality and has grown beyond historical and racial divides? Or does it point to assimilation of black characters? I’m not equipped to answer these questions, but they are ones that came to mind as I read this comic book. Maybe I’ve taken more away from this periodical than the creators intended, or maybe asking those questions serve as high praise. I just don’t know. 6/10
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