by Bill Willingham (writer), Jesus Merino (pencils), Jesse Delperdang (inks), Allen Passalaqua (colors), and Rob Leigh (letters)
The Story: Mr. Terrific tells the story of how the JSA tried to rally against the Fourth Reich while he, and some big name allies, plot a jailbreak.
What’s Good: It’s already pretty clear that Mr. Terrific is probably Willingham’s favourite character on the JSA and so it should be no surprise that Willingham also has the best handle on the character’s voice and how to write him in general.
He continues to be well-written and I really do enjoy having him as the lead character. Willingham does a great job with Terrific’s dialogue; he’s snarky but genuine and you really do root for him. Indeed, the fact that he’s a know-it-all and calls it like he sees it only adds to the appeal of the character. Indeed, Terrific’s dynamic with his “memoir writer” was also quite well-done, achieving a good back and forth with a dash of hopelessness.
I’ve always loved Mr. Terrific and seeing him in more or less solo hero position and in a leader position over Superman and Batman, revealed to be two of his fellow inmates, is all kinds of awesome. I found these prison scenes to be by far the most engaging and creative parts of the book. The planned jailbreak had me intrigued, while the dialogue and the means the former superheroes are forced to employ to enact their plans really spelled out the brutality of the Fourth Reich’s world. These portions said a great deal about the dystopic world Willingham is working with here and the sense of horror and desperation is tangible.
What’s Not So Good: The problem with the book is that while the present-day jail portions are great, the flashback scenes to the JSA’s initial battle with the Fourth Reich is a bit of a wash. While the former is fairly interesting, these action scenes really do feel a bit “paint by numbers.” There’s just not much unique here, nor is anything especially gripping.
The stupendous number of D-list, ancient Nazi-themed villains that Willingham has dredged up certainly doesn’t help. Much like Willingham and Sturges’ almost catastrophic first arc, the sheer number of no-name, outdated, and obscure villains is baffling and gives a really unpleasant feeling of randomness and insignificance. The fact that all of these villains look so different from each other only adds to these problems, as does their lack of dialogue and the speed with which most of them are dispatched.
Also, I have to give a great, big UGH at the sight of yet another power drainer based plot. How many times must this be done? I swear, power draining may very well be the most overused gimmick plot in comics. I feel like there has to be at least one comic on my pull-list running a power drainer story at all times. It’s stale beyond belief and it’s really pretty disappointing that the plot Willingham has been building up to with Obsidian would end up being something so pedestrian.
Conclusion: Half the comic is fun, the other half isn’t. What to do?