By: Eric Wallace (writer), Gianluca Gugliotta (penciller), Wayne Faucher (inker), Mike Atiyeh (colorist)
The Story: If you’re such a hot-shot, how come you don’t have your own reality show?
The Review: By a show of hands, who else has ever wondered at the premise behind the modern Mr. Terrific? You can instantly grasp the appeal of being the smartest man in the world. But to be third smartest—one step below second banana—well, it’s just an odd premise.
This issue incontrovertibly shows that even a rank three genius is capable of some heady accomplishments: dimensional portals, something called infinite fractal mechanics (allowing him to bridge folds in space), an impressive machine that uses electromagnetism to deflect the effects of earthquakes. Yet fancy as these all sound, they all ultimately boil down to your usual pseudo-science, conceived as easily as the writer’s imagination can idly wander.
When you really examine Mr. T’s (yup—I went for it) “genius,” there’s actually little in the way of advanced intelligence. In his opening battle with a Brit in a battle suit, he dismisses his foe using one of the oldest gags in the book: essentially, a giant magnet. Compare that to the clever applications of physics Static (about twenty years Mr. T’s junior) uses in his opener, and you can see Wallace doesn’t really go as far as he must to convince us of the first-rate mind at work here, though he puts in a good try.
In fact, Wallace tries a little too hard to highlight Michael’s most appealing features: an Olympic athlete with money out the wazoo and brains to die for—and he’s black! Wallace spends far too much time mentioning them than putting them in action: “You’re not the only one who took a first in physics.” “I had…more degrees than half the faculties of Harvard and Yale combined…” “These are differential equations. The kind that would give Stephen Hawking a headache.”
Also overdone is the emphasis and re-emphasis on race: “Actually, a simple ‘Thanks, black guy, for saving us…will do.’” “And I’m a black woman, which means I’m built to handle things you can’t even imagine.” Personally, I’ve never been too impressed with the knee-jerk, pull-out-the-race-card move. Unless it somehow informs the circumstances of the story at hand, I view it as a pointless distraction and a very strange, awkward, attention-getting strategy.
And the story could use the extra attention. The idea of folks spontaneously gaining improbably high IQs has potential, certainly. As it turns out though, the most noticeable effects are an uptick in pretentious language, nauseating condescension, and jerky behavior, all at once. A blue-collar worker after ruthlessly putting down a part-time waitress: “You should pay me to eat this putrescence.” We’ll need a little more than that to really grip our interest in this title.
The first two pages look beautifully rendered, but the rest of the issue grows cartoonier and less realistic until you wind up with some unsettlingly imperfect figures. Perhaps it has something to do with their irregularly-shaped heads, or the dead-centered, miniscule pupils of their eyes, or their inconsistently rounded bottom halves—it just looks off. You may know of my dissatisfaction with Atiyeh’s coloring, and I have no reason to change my mind. The part-time waitress is meant to be an aspiring starlet, yet her hair is colored dead white, making her look like an astonishingly well-preserved sixty-year-old.
Conclusion: Mr. Terrific may have all the necessary qualities to be a prime candidate for The Bachelor, but so far, nothing really recommends the notion that he deserves a solo comic book title.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Here’s another art snafu for you: in one panel, Aleeka seems to be walking away in front of Karen Starr. In the next, it appears as if Aleeka has somehow teleported behind Karen.