[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Adriana Melo
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
We meet Eel O’Brian getting beaten up in an alley. It’s a bit harsh until it’s revealed that Eel is already Plastic Man and has tricked his former associates in order to find out what really happened on that night….
In flashback, we learn that Eel was using his safe cracking skills to break into a chemical company’s safe when the gang was surprised by a guard. There was a shot, and another shot. And, Eel can’t remember everything…. He knows he was shot and contaminated with some chemicals and that he got shoved out of the getaway car and left for dead by those he thought were his friends. His memories seem to make him believe that he killed the guard!
In the present, Eel is confronted by an agent of Spyral with an offer. Spyral need’s Eel’s special talents as Plastic Man to help infiltrate a secret organization that may have already compromised the world’s super-hero teams. Eel and the Spyral agent are interrupted by a phone call from Benny, Eel’s former associate who seems to be in trouble. Eel rushes over to Benny’s place only to find him nearly dead. Benny writes “JLA” in answer to Eel’s query of “Who did this?” Eel then believes what the Spyral agent said about the super-hero teams being compromised.
It doesn’t get any better as the cops arrive and Benny’s neighbor fingers Plastic Man as the culprit in Benny’s murder!
This has to be the first month since sometime in the late ’40’s when he was in his own title and the lead feature in Police Comics that Plastic Man has starred in two titles in the same month! While this is the first issue of a new mini-series, Plas can also be seen monthly in The Terrifics.
Before I read this issue I was thinking to myself that Plastic Man, much like the original Captain Marvel (Shazam! to you youngsters) seems to work well in his own world. While he’s functioned effectively as part of the All-Star Squadron and here and there with the Justice League at times, it’s the original Golden Age run that defined the character. So, it is a good sign that this series is set in Cole City (named after Plas’ creator, Jack Cole) which seems like it will provide Plastic Man a place not dissimilar from his original milieu. This might be the key to making Plastic Man work in a solo series.
In this first issue there is a balance of humor and seriousness as Plastic Man’s origin unfolds in flashback. Maintaining an element of levity to the series is critical in making Plastic Man work. There is an absurd nature to the character which Cole was always able to exploit. In this first issue, it seems like Simone and Melo are on the right track with the balance both in story and visuals.
While this may seem counter intuitive, the inclusion of Spyral is welcomed for two reasons. It allows Plastic Man a connection to the greater DC Universe and it provides him a similar role to play much like his position with the F.B.I. in his original incarnation.
With all the positives it seems like there shouldn’t be any negatives. However, Plastic Man is a tough nut to crack and while the humor seems to be headed in the right direction, it’s not there yet. Some of the gags seem a bit forced and not quite natural. Though Plastic Man has always been wise cracking and over the top, today’s audience needs some depth of character with which to connect. There’s an attempt to provide something more as Eel’s sad story unfolds, but it doesn’t tell the reader much about the content of his character.
This is a solid start for a Plastic Man series. The character has always been unique and iconic. He’s one of the few characters from the Golden Age of Comics that are neither DC or Marvel creations that people know. Giving Plastic Man a city all his own that can be a bit of a throwback should allow the character to thrive and exist in the types of stories that suit him best.