Mister Terrific #1
Writer: Eric Wallace
Pencils: Gianluca Gugliotta
Inks: Wayne Faucher
Colors: Mike Atiyeh
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover artist: J.G. Jones
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
I was thrilled when DC announced this as one of the New 52 titles as part of its revitalized line of super-hero comics. I’ve always been a fan of this incarnation of Mr. Terrific. I love the notion of a hero whose super-power is really his intellect. I’m also a fan of the Justice Society and DC’s “generational” heroes, but that connection to a heroic legacy seems to be the one element that’s been removed from the character in the relaunch. Nevertheless, I thought Terrific was an unconventional but good choice in DC’s effort to offer a more diverse array of characters starring in their own titles. After reading this debut issue, I see potential in the storytelling, and I like the shift in the title character as a solo player rather than a member of a team. But some unfortunate plotting choices and exaggerated artwork ultimately led to a disappointing reading experience. Despite my affection for the character, I don’t expect I’ll be reading Mister Terrific beyond this opening installment.
Michael Holt is the third smartest man on the planet, and he’s used his scientific intellect to build a massive corporate empire — Holt Industries. But his life as an influential businessman, philanthropist and hero almost didn’t come to pass, as he wallowed in despair after the death of his wife. On the brink of taking his own life, a mysterious figure appeared to him, urging Holt to make the world a better place. And he has, both as Michael Holt and the technological titan Mr. Terrific. Today, he investigates a mystery, trying to determine what turned an average, Los Angeles family man into a stone-cold killer from one moment to the next.
Gianluca Gugliotta’s artwork reminds me of the styles of such comics professionals as Justiniano and Eric Battle, and what they all have in common is an exaggerated approach to figures. Sometimes, distorted, exaggerated figures can work well in certain comics stories, but this isn’t one of them. Mr. Terrific is a hero armed with sleek, state-of-the-art technology. He’s a meticulous man, a genius, and the somewhat gritty tone to the art and twisted anatomy just aren’t in keeping with the character. J.G. Jones’ cover art offers a more appropriate and fitting interpretation of the character. Furthermore, Gugliotta never quite gets the hero’s costume right, and I’m referring specifically to his depiction of the “mask.” As the cover logo and figure demonstrate, we’re meant to see a distinct T shape on Mr. Terrific’s face, but the dark shape the interior artist employs rarely looks like the letter. It’s the most memorable and distinct visual trait of the title character, and it’s missing throughout much of this issue.
One of the issues I raised in my recent review of Static Shock #1 was how the script was pretty much silent on any kind of element involving race, and I wasn’t sure ignoring the issue altogether was in keeping with Dc’s stated diversity goal. In this comic, however, writer Eric Wallace does bring it up, and I found the minor conflict that arose to be interesting. Two rivals of the protagonist’s affection spar verbally in a brief scene, and the fact that one’s white and one’s black plays a role in the encounter. The tension made for an interesting moment, and I found it convincing that both characters seemed to regret the fact race arose as an issue in the first place.
Of course, romantic interest in the title character is a troublesome aspect of the story. Right after the flashback scene in which we see Holt’s wife’s death and his overwhelming grief, we’re presented with the image of a shirtless protagonist chatting casually in his home in the morning with a woman wearing nothing but a basketball jersey (likely a man’s garment) and socks. The implication is clear: they’re friends who have just slept together. I realize that the two scenes are separated by years, but jutting the scenes against one another in the book was a poor choice. The reader is left with the impression Holt has recovered from his loss quickly, when in fact it’s a driving force in his life.
DC officials have stated and it’s been suggested in the context of a story in Legion Lost #1 that time travel is prohibited in the new DC Universe, yet elements from the larger story arc introduced in this issue seem to require time travel. Mr. Terrific is visited by a figure who claims to be his unborn son, though I suppose it could be attributable to an alternate-reality shtick rather than time travel. Ultimately, I think the title character, a hero with super-powers to speak of, is portrayed as far too powerful. He has a secret super-hero headquarters in the Ninth Dimension. His T-spheres can seemingly channel any kind of energy, serving as all-too-convenient plot devices. He has gadgets that can literally tear the Earth apart. He has a machine that can wield quantum energy. There seems to be nothing he can’t do. His moments of technological triumph and instances of potential peril therefore are random, subject to the writer’s desire to advance the story rather than any kind of logic or natural progression. 5/10
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