REVIEW: The Terrifics #1-“Backstory Seldom Beats Fun”

The Terrifics #1

THE TERRIFICS #1 / Writer: Jeff Lemire / Artist:Ivan Reis  / Inker: Joe Prado / Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo / Letterer: Joe Prado / Publisher: DC Comics / Release Date: February 28, 2018

The Terrifics #1 cover

The Fantastic Four are back! They’re named Mr. Terrific, Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and Linnya Wazzo, and they appear in The Terrifics, the latest series to launch under the banner of DC’s “New Age of Heroes.” With four characters to introduce and a team dynamic to put into place The Terrifics #1 is perhaps the greatest undertaking of all these new series.

The Terrifics #1 starts with Mr. Terrific investigating a theft of his technology which brings him to Simon Stagg who has opened a door to the dark multiverse. Mr. Terrific finds Metamorpho in the center of that doorway, held in place and with his body turned to Nth Metal. Mr. Terrific brings in an egg-shaped “someone” to help close the portal because Stagg doesn’t know how, but before that can be done all control of the portal is lost and Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, and the egg that turns out to be Plastic Man gets sucked inside. For the next several pages Mr. Terrific and Metamorpho flow through the dark multiverse on the inside of Plastic Man (who has regained consciousness and “eaten them”). These pages also serve as a large exposition dump which ends when the trio land on a gigantic corpse floating in space. They fight alien insects and finally come upon the fourth member of their party: Linnya Wazzo from Bgztl. Linnya has the ability to turn intangible but has been stuck that way since she arrived “here”—whether here is on the giant space corpse or in the dark universe is unclear. With the alien insects defeated, the ad hoc quartet comes across an alien console that adds an impromptu mission beyond simply escape.

Hitting the ground running, The Terrifics #1 packs in a variety of scenery inhabited by a diverse quartet of main characters. The issue’s art team is more than up to this challenge and it begins with Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Marcelo Maiolo combining to give each of the three established characters a larger than life entrance—whether Mr. Terrific’s shading when introduced with a backlight, Metamorpho imprisoned against a field of organic greens and black, or Plastic Man’s constant over-emotive facial expressions. Maiolo’s coloring is especially impressive throughout the first third of the issue as the energies from the dark multiverse portal expand and eventually pull in the issue’s protagonists. Meanwhile I constant highlight is how everything about Plastic Man as rendered visually—expressions, body language, contortions—describe the character above and beyond any dialogue’s ability to do so. The one dropped ball is Linnya’s introduction. From an artistic point of view it’s completely ordinary when compared to the other three main characters. Her intangibility is well depicted at times but when held up to the more powerful entrances of Mr. Terrific, Metamorpho, and Plastic Man her introduction falls under the category of “less than.”

The Terrifics #1

Just as the art got off to a strong start in the issue, Joe Prado looked to have great material to play with in Mr. Terrific’s point of view narration which he presented in black boxes that matched Mr. Terrific’s costume, hitting a high point with Mr. Terrific’s introduction. This was a short live opportunity, though, as writer Jeff Lemire discontinued narration after the second page and left Prado with little more than basic dialogue work. Unfortunately this was not the only way the writer let the issue down.

The Terrifics

Lemire starts the issue on a note of urgency as the reader follows Mr. Terrific into a problem already underway. The strategy works for a few panels before Lemire interrupts the developing narrative with multiple call backs to Metal. The issue’s real slowdown comes a few pages later, after Mr. Terrific, Metamopho, and Plastic Man have been sucked into the dark multiverse. Lemire spends two pages over-explaining Metal’s impact on Plastic Man. To be clear, the fault with the extensive inclusion of Metal isn’t in how it’s written—Lemire handles it as well as can be expected—but in relying on it so heavily. At its worst the two pages explaining Plastic Man’s backstory are a forced pause interrupting art that to that point had been quite dynamic. Once the talking head section is out of the way, though, the giant alien corpse and strange insects bring renewed excitement that introduces the last of the quartet and carries the adventure to the plot twisting conclusion. Unfortunately the Metal backstory presented throughout the issue is distractingly dense, and its execution reads more like Lemire’s chief concern was the response of serious, established DC readers rather than potential new audiences.

The Terrifics #1

Lemire’s chief success—and under the circumstances it’s a big one—is the relative ease with which the characters mesh within the story. What could have been a multi-issue meet-and-greet affair happens in one issue, and it leaves the future wide open.

The review’s beginning all but promised a Fantastic Four feel to The Terrifics #1 (big scale cosmic mission, four heroes whose familiar powers lack only the ability to spontaneously combust, science!). The art team more than delivers with panels and pages that draw the eye in and practically shackle them to the page. Unfortunately Lemire’s Metal-heavy narrative choices drag down the middle of the first issue. As a whole The Terrifics #1 struggles out of the gate but it demonstrates a lot of qualities that a good series needs if it’s going to find its footing and succeed.

Verdict: 3 out of 5 unintelligible backstories

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Theron Couch is a collection of 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters trying to produce Hamlet. From time to time he accidentally types comic book reviews. Theron’s first novel, The Loyalty of Pawns, is available on Amazon and he's published assorted short stories. Theron maintains a blog with additional comic and book reviews as well as posts on his personal struggle with mental health.

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