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30 Days of Comics, Day 13: Mister Terrific #1

September 18, 2011

Mister TerrificI’ve said before that I’m a fan of second stringers; superheroes that don’t usually carry their own titles but operate in a support role of sorts. As such, I really enjoy DC’s Justice Society of America franchise as it’s almost exclusively populated by re-imaginings of heroes from the Golden Age of comics. Among my favorite JSA members is Michael Holt, the second hero to hold the mantle of Mister Terrific. I really like Michael as Mister Terrific because he’s more of a thinker and a problem solver than an action hero. That’s not to say he can’t kick your ass; he’d just prefer to find an easier way to do so. Being a fan of the character I was definitely curious to see how he’d fare in a solo series so let’s take a look.

Our comic starts with Mister Terrific investigating the London headquarters of Dalton Technologies to confirm whether or not the company is creating weapons to sell to mercenaries. Under whose authority he’s investigating a private corporation is never explained nor is it explained if Dalton’s activities are actually illegal. We get our first look at the new Mister Terrific in action as he fights and ultimately defeats Miles Dalton’s powered suit over the skies of London. It’s a decent, if not rushed, action sequence and gives us a good introduction to how Mister Terrific fights his battles.
Mister Terrific
With Dalton apprehended, Michael waxes nostalgic and we’re treated to a brief flashback detailing his origins. Michael is something of a Renaissance Man and savant, holding several advanced degrees, a multi-billion dollar corporation, an Olympic Gold Medal and, most importantly, his wife Paula. This falls apart for Michael when Paula is killed in a car accident and he can’t do anything to help her.
Paula's death
With his wife dead, Michael sinks into a deep depression and engrosses himself in his work to try and feel better. It doesn’t work and so he decides to commit suicide after his latest experiment to open a dimensional rift fails. However, he regains his will to live when the rift mysteriously activates and a young man appears to deliver a message to him.
Newly emboldened, Michael continues his work and, I’m assuming, takes on his super hero persona as a proactive means of trying to make the world a better place.

We’re first introduced to our antagonist when a man named Edgar Holowitz is having lunch at a diner in Los Angeles. Edgar is suddenly imbued by a mysterious energy which seems to overclock his intellect to obscene levels. The apparent consequence of this is that it removes any restraint or ethics he may have had; this causes him to piss off everyone in the diner by pointing out their flaws rather dickishly. This takes a darker turn when he’s approached by a panhandler; Edgar concludes that the man is a parasite and that the best solution is to apparently give him a fatal noogie.

Edgar Holowitz killer noogie

Egads! He's become a Libertarian!

Edgar is quickly picked up by the police and in holding he proceeds to do nothing but scribble complex calculations. Puzzled by this behavior, the police enlist Mister Terrific to help to gain more insight into Edgar’s motives.
Power Girl fanservice

Also, Power Girl makes a cameo; just sayin'.

While I enjoyed this book overall I have some very mixed feelings about it. First of all, I find some of the writing and dialogue a little grating. This goes back to DC’s goal of promoting more diversity in their new lineup and Mister Terrific is definitely an effort to elevate an African-American superhero. Unlike Static Shock or Batwing, I feel that this effort is a little forced and it comes across in some of the dialogue.

What's that even supposed to mean?

This is not how people talk about race and it just sounds really awkward and forced any time they try to mention issues of race. Mister Terrific’s politics are also discussed in a very unnatural and forced way. In other words, it seems like they really wanted to cram as much social commentary as possible into this first edition to attract new readers. This is understandable, but it also means that the story does not progress as naturally as it should.

Another issue I have that probably won’t affect most people is that the artwork is a little inconsistent and grating at times. It doesn’t upset the flow of the story, but it really bothers me personally when characters look a little warped and disproportionate at times. This is mostly related to some issues with perspective but probably won’t bother most people.

Overall I did enjoy this book and do want to see which direction this story heads, especially regarding the true nature of our villain. I can’t really give it a solid recommendation, but there are a lot of great ideas and concepts here and I think the foundation exists for something much greater. I’ll at least try a few more issues before I make up my mind.

Tune in tomorrow for Superboy #1.
Superboy #1

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