Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Brent Anderson
I couldn’t resist picking up this book. Random team-ups are a cornerstone of the comic industry. When it features a character like Plastic Man who is fairly underexposed at the comic shop and a creative team of established talent it’s a worthwhile gamble of $4.99. Except for one small piece of dialogue the entire book could actually take place long before Hal Jordan went Hannibal Lector on the GL Corps. Ageless tales of comic book heraldry are what’s missing from today’s comic shop. The crumbling of the comic industry can be traced to the continuity obsessed fanboy creators that turned the spinner racks of yore into the wood shelves of bore. Nothing is fun with comics anymore and you can’t find much plain enjoy. Right here we have an interesting anachronism for today’s comic reader. Unfortunately, old school doesn’t mean greatness. There are a number of problems and one real success, but I’d file this as a noble failure not worthy of a second read.
I wonder aloud why this comic book even exists. It doesn’t fit into any current event, there’s no real setup for a future launch, and it’s totally a one-off. Anyone looking for Mauve, Black, Teal, or Off-White Lanterns is going to be sadly disappointed. What we have is a classic buddy cop story featuring a square peg and a round peg. The two eventually get on the same page and learn to respect one another, but that respect is a long time coming. Even though you’ve seen it all before that’s not the problem.
I read an interview with Marv Wolfman recently that stated this was all Brent Anderson’s idea. In some respects you can see why this project was suited for Anderson’s artistic gifts. I haven’t read Astro City in quite some time, but heroic deeds with a classic sensibility are what Anderson has always drawn best. If you picked this comic up without a cover and ignored the ads, you might have difficulty nailing down the period it was from. It’s especially odd to get 42 pages of story for $4.99 when most 22-page DC comics cost 3.99 this month. Next month it will only be 2.99 for 20 pages, but this is still a steal if you’re talking pages for your money. The look and page count are definitely debits on the ledger.
What holds it all back?
The biggest failing of the book is that it’s not particularly funny. I think that’s a dual-failure by Wolfman and Anderson. First off, Anderson’s ageless style doesn’t accentuate humor in any way. The look and tone would be far better suited for a Denny O’Neill Green Lantern/Green Arrow story from the ‘70s. He draws Plastic Man in all sorts of contorted shapes and sizes, but he’s way too gritty for my tastes. Wolfman’s script tries for humor but it all seems forced. Plas and GL move from event to event battling a group of evil duck people smuggling weapons across the galaxy. Yes, duck people sound funny, but they really aren’t in this comic. Anderson’s designs for the quackers are kind of funny, but more stupid-weird than hilarious. Wolfman’s script has plenty of moments for Plas to let loose, but nothing made me laugh out loud. The tone always seemed downcast and serious for what should have been more pleasant and upbeat.
The one element that really worked for me was when Plastic Man gained Green Lantern’s respect. I love the television show the Office. It centers on Michael Scott, one of the greatest buffoon characters in recent memory. Steve Carell usually plays the character as a totally clueless idiot, but every now and then we see how Michael became the fairly successful leader of a group of people. Those moments make the hi-jinks pay off ten times better because you know a modicum of skill does exist within him. The payoff of Plastic Man being an important cog in the story works brilliantly even if the humor never quite does.
I will leave with one parting shot towards the character of Hal Jordan. Plastic Man may be the very best character to work with “Killer” since he can quite literally produce eyes in the back of his head, to keep a watchful eye on Hal, just in case he decides to “collect ’em all” again.
Tags: Brent Anderson, Ethan Van Sciver, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Marv Wolfman, Plastic Man