Michael Holt AKA Mister Terrific is a character best known in his association with the Justice Society of America and Checkmate…At least until the JSA was retconned out of the DCnU (to be relocated to Earth 2 in an upcoming JSA project). Now, with the scripting by Eric Wallace with pencils by Gianluca Gugliotta and inks by Wayne Faucher, Mister Terrific is brought to the forefront of the DCnU with his own book. Although I’ve been a fan of the character for many years and was really looking forward to checking this one out, I’m sad to report that while Mister Terrific does have some potential as a series, #1 is all around a pretty terrible book.
First impressions are everything, and while Mister Terrific makes a great entrance fighting a power mad villain, things rapidly go south. He refers to himself as the third smartest man a couple times—once aloud in the intro—which makes him sound like an arrogant jerk. Mister Terrific’s first appearance is saving everyone on the London Eye (a giant Ferris wheel), introducing himself as the third smartest man, and after he’s asked about that by a couple of civilians he saved (“Who’s one and two?”) he retorts by saying “Actually, a simple ‘Thanks, black guy for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armor’ will do .” It just doesn’t seem like Mister Terrific would do that (especially when one of the people he is talking to is black also), but maybe that’s just me. There is another example of forced racial tension in a later scene where other characters feel necessary to point out their race in comparison to one another. While this certainly could have a place in a story about a black super hero, it feels drummed up here and just seems out of place.
One interesting aspect of the book where Wallace deserves some credit is Mister Terrific’s new origin. I don’t want to give anything away, but the reasons Michael Holt becomes Mister Terrific are very true to the character’s history and make for an interesting twist on his motivations. There’s also an element of mystery to the origin, which is a definite hook. Another welcome sight in the book is Karen Starr AKA Power Girl (who prior to DC’s New 52 had her own excellent series) though she’s purely in her civilian identity here—and apparently is worth 340 million. There’s an implication that Michael and Karen are “friends with benefits,” which plays out a little in the issue. Here’s hoping we see Karen back in her Power Girl guise before too long, as she does not go into action whatsoever at the sign of a serious dilemma later in the issue.
The evil at work in the issue is something that increases its victims IQ exponentially, which turns them into murderous jerk and while disturbing, it plays out kind of silly. Still, it is pretty cool to see Mister Terrific on the case using his intellect to decipher what’s going on. Other than the braggart moment where he wears race on his sleeve as previously mentioned, Mister Terrific is very true to his character. His new costume looks slick too, but isn’t that much different than the old one, it’s just sans the jacket.
The art is bad. Blunt but true. While it manages to do the job overall, there are parts where things just fall apart under casual examination and don’t look well drawn. Gugliotta does do a great job rendering the many various inventions Mister Terrific has created in his Sanctum in the 9th dimension (which he invented a way to travel into) but a lot of the other stuff is average or worse. With the almost universal high quality across the line of New 52 books, it’s almost surprising to see the occasional flagging artwork on display here. It’s not irredeemable, but it could really use some polish.
Super-Fly owner Tony Barry shared my disappointment about this issue, and was pointing out that this comic could have been a book featuring Zatanna, Power Girl, the JSA, the Secret Six or Captain Marvel (SHAZAM!). It could have even been a good Mister Terrific comic. Instead, we get a lukewarm book that delivers on the super genius of Mister Terrific and the resulting science, but also dishes out subpar art and a so-so story. On the other hand, store manager Jared Whittaker liked the book a bit and I’ve seen praise for the book elsewhere. For me though, a long time fan of the character, it just fell flat of its potential.
When the quality of Mister Terrific is considered, it’s quite out of place with the majority of New 52 releases on the low end of the spectrum. With some better art and less tacked on racial tension, Mister Terrific could be alright. There has also been some word that the Huntress mini-series will tie into Mister Terrific somehow, and there’s a good possibility Mister Terrific may have something to do with next year’s Justice Society project. For now however, the first issue fails to impress despite some really imaginative super science that Mister Terrific utilizes. As a big fan of Mister Terrific, I’ll definitely take a look at issue #2 to see if things improve but for now I don’t plan on buying any future issues.