The Terrifics #3
“War Wheel of Doom”
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Joe Bennet
Published by DC Comics
Released 4/25/18 / $2.99
The Terrifics! DC’s newest team of super-friends!
Or, ok, maybe not friends exactly.
More like a conscripted chain-gang of super awesomeness. That portrayal is probably more accurate at this point.
But they must be named the Terrifics for a reason! Must be a story in there. Three issues in, and that saga is still playing out. In a finely mangled mélange of action, repartee, super-science and all-around crazy.
If there was one word I might select to describe what’s going on in this book it would have to be… Bizarre.
Not to say that that’s a bad thing. Fact is, I kinda like it.
At least I think I do.
Jeff Lemiere is no stranger to the strange.
And he has a pretty good track record when it comes to throwing unlikely random elements together and making it work. His exemplary work on his own Black Hammer series being a fine case in point. That’s good. Because the nature of this entire project pretty much requires it.
The Terrifics is the latest book in DC’s recent, fairly heavy-handed effort to model new creative projects off of some of rival Marvel Comics’ most successful titles. In this case, it’s with a brand-new A-team that’s more than a little suggestive of the mighty Fantastic Four. (Shh! Don’t tell.) Though again, it’s hard to call them a team at this point. And it’s still unclear just how well it’ll all come off.
That’s OK. For now, I’m content to see Lemiere casually throw together several of my fan-fave, under-utilized DC heroes into a sequence of highly (highly) improbable events, just to watch what happens.
Who’s who, do you ask? Metamorpho is our lovable, emotionally-tortured powerhouse. Plastic Man is, as usual, a combination of hyper-elastic ingenuity and impetuous cray-cray. Mr. Terrific is the team’s necessary brilliant scientific mind, a veteran adventurer whose assumptive command presumably leads to the naming of the group.
And then there’s… Linnya Wazzo (aka the 21st century Phantom Girl of the planet Bgztl and seemingly descendant of Tinya Wazzo (a 30th/31st century member of the Legion of Super-Heroes).
Linnya’s the single, seemingly ineffectual female member of the group. Or is she? She’s young, unsure of herself, and, oh yes, chronically intangible. But she’s got a pretty potent explosive touch!
So, there’s that. If this all seems, as it should, to cut the barest outlines of a new FF, the similarity ends about there. And that’s good. Aside that is, for the penchant our brave heroes apparently have, right out of the gates, for encounters with the, well, fantastic. Which also is good.
Here’s the sit-rep: Michael Holt, Mr. Terrific, while off helping to save the universe from Scott Snyder’s demonic Batman universe, has had his life’s work bought out from under him by the megalomaniac multi-millionaire Simon Stagg. Arriving at Stagg’s compound to confront the weasel, Terrific finds Rex Mason, aka Metamorpho, stuck in the form of a great elemental construct he has foolishly agreed to adopt in order to help Stagg (once again, foolishly) open a portal to this self-same Dark Multiverse which has nearly just destroyed our own. Pulled inside while trying to solve Metamorpho’s problem, Mr. Terrific frees Plastic Man from a traumatized cocoon state (in the shape of a Plastic Man-colored egg naturally), and then all three rescue Linnya from a doomed existence as a living phantom on the giant corpse of a dead – whoops, now re-animated – space God. Oh right, and Tom Strong shows up, ala a Princess Leia-esque hologram, to warn of a dire inter-dimensional threat.
Yes, that Tom Strong.
Did I mention bizarre?
That’s OK, they all escape, return to our own universe, close the portal, and make to go their separate ways. But they can’t! The odd dimensional energies of their adventure have somehow bonded the quartet together. According to Mr. Terrific’s terrifically calculated readings none of them can go more than a mile from the others without “exploding in a flash of dark energy.” Sucks to be them.
Thankfully that seems to be about the way they feel about it too. One of the thing that makes this super strange, dare I say, ‘forced’ assemblage of heroes work from a reader’s perspective, is that none of these characters seem to get along very well at all. Which is fun.
Linnya is sweet but, like, kinda sad. Rex is dependably grumpy and caustic. Plas is, well, insufferably Plas. And Holt is a pre-occupied stick in the mud who hasn’t the time for things like social niceties or playing nursemaid. He’s got problems to solve! Wrongs to fix! He can’t be bothered! In other words, he’s kind of, as Rex succinctly puts it, a dick. (And I’m pretty sure that’s a comics’ first.)
Still they’re stuck together. Our third issue is all about driving this point home and providing the bare bones of a status quo for the team on which to hang this all on. (Don’t worry they’re all gonna bunk it at Stagg’s while Mr. Terrific works on fixing their problem. OK.)
Joe Bennet’s art is sufficiently dynamic to be engaging. I’m not as enamored with it as I am with Ivan Reis’ lead work in the first two issues, but his highly illustrative style is distinctive and fun. Think a cross between Phil Jiminez and Robert Crumb. It’s a little like something out of Heavy Metal, which is a good look for the book, if for some reason we’re losing Reis on the run.
Meantime, there’s a monstrous alter-Metamorpho running around amok somewhere in middle America. Apparently. I’m sure we’ll figure that all out soon enough. It surely can’t be our Metamorpho. Rex is busy trying to not fight with his girlfriend, Simon Stagg’s daughter Sapphire, who true to form refuses somehow to see that her father is a lying manipulative scumbag, despite the fact that he’s directly responsible for turning her lover’s face into a calcified freak-show. Poor Rex.
And then there’s the giant rogue War Wheel. Obviously.
The whole thing is a little hard to get a grip on frankly. And that is either a sign of its inevitable demise, or… its genius. I’ll just go with option B for now. Like I say, I’ve always loved each of these characters, so it’s hard not to want to see this book succeed.
And if anyone can pull this off it’s Lemiere. Long as he can keep the dialogue entertaining, and the hits a-coming, it’s just a matter of time before he pulls off the sort of emotional pay-off he does so well, the ones that make good comics, good.
Perhaps a quick jaunt to outer space will do the trick. Next issue!