The Golden Age of superheroes is pretty standard stuff, for the most part. White dude, mask, gimmick, righteous sense of justice, etc., etc., etc. But not Plastic Man, who returns in a six-issue miniseries today from writer Gail Simone and artist Adriana Melo. Created by Jack Cole, Plastic Man was stretchy, bouncy, distorted, weird. Over the years, Plas has been reinvented in a lot of clever ways, from Phil Foglio’s accidental monster to Kyle Baker’s warm, sensitive all-ages story. Simone and Melo have a lot to live up to, is what I’m saying, and they do so hilariously.
They keep the basics: Eel O’Brian is a crook exposed to a chemical that makes him super-stretchy. He wakes up after a chemical factory heist with no memory other than an innocent man being killed and Eel being chucked from the getaway car. So he’s off to investigate the crime and maybe become a decent person when he’s not running a superhero-themed strip club.
Simone, master of among other things the smart-ass one-liner, drives the pace of the book with witty captions and wittier dialogue, tweaking gangster tropes while giving the story a distinct twist. Melo, however, gets to show a huge range here, not just with the way she twists and distorts Plas, but she works in tributes to Cole, with a splash panel that could be one of his notorious Playboy cartoons, and little gags and shout-outs: Plas, it turns out, is a fan of DC Superhero Girls. That the book takes some fairly wild tonal shifts, from gag comedy to noir to espionage, and that Simone and Melo make it feel breezy speaks to just how fun this book is. Plastic Man has some classic runs in comics, and this appears to be the next one.
A Quick And Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns, Oni Press
Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson put together, well, what they promise in the title. If you’ve ever dealt with somebody who is confused about this, this book offers a quick, clear explanation as to who they are, what nonbinary is, and why gender-neutral pronouns are preferred. It’s simple, it’s direct, it’s cheap, and especially if you believe, as this critic does, that using the proper pronouns is a matter of a basic social contract (and also don’t enjoy the taste of your foot suddenly and painfully jammed in your mouth) that we’ve all agreed to, it’s a handy tool. Even if you don’t know anybody who’s non-binary, pick it up and give it a read. Avoiding being a jerk is worth eight bucks.
A Walk Through Hell #2, Aftershock Comics
Garth Ennis and Goran Sudzuka take the slow, minimalist burn of their first issue to the next level in this book, in an understated, creepy horror tale. Our FBI agent heroes wake up in a nondescript warehouse with no pulses, full weapons, and no idea what’s going on. But it’s about to get a lot worse, although this is Ennis with the brakes on, so it’s gross, but not excessive. Ennis and Sudzuka play on the idea that horror is in what you don’t see in this book, and it’s an effective chiller.
Eternity Girl #4, DC Comics
Madeline Visaggio and Sonny Liew have a little fun with their suicidal superheroine in this issue. Liew, in particular, sticks it to people who think he only has one style, riffing on everything from Charles Schultz to Jack Kirby as this issue pages through the many, many alternate realities of Eternity Girl, and muses on just what might make her so eternal in the first place. It’s both a goof on the constantly resetting and rebooting nature of comics and also a musing on the paths we don’t take, manifest in a superhero whose power is about finding those paths and making us walk down them.
Domino #3, Marvel
Gail Simone and David Balderon have a lot of fun with this book, but what really makes it click, three issues in, is how relatable Domino is. Sure, she can flash-kick doofuses for days and put a bullet in your face from 500 yards even without her luck powers, but the book works because Domino is just as human as the rest of us. She loves her friends, she mishandles social situations, she gets distracted by half-naked hot people. It’s a warm, breezy book, despite the challenges Domino faces, and a heck of a lot of fun.
Resident Alien: An Alien In New York #3, Dark Horse: Harry, the kindly doctor/space alien, discovers a fellow traveler, but one with a dark past, in Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s humanistic cozy mystery.
By Night #1, BOOM! Studios: John Allison and Christine Larsen fire up a story about friendship, homecoming, and rips in the dimensional fabric that might destroy us all.
The Weatherman #1, Image Comics: Jody LeHup and Nathan Fox take us to Mars in the 2700s, after a terrorist attack destroyed the Earth. They’ve finally cornered the man responsible, but is it really the local weather guy?
Nancy Drew #1, Dynamite: Kelly Thompson and Jenn St. Onge bring the teenage sleuth into the modern era with a very personal mystery.
Deadpool Assassin #1, Marvel: Cullen Bunn and Mark Bagley ask if an adrenaline junkie can really change in this new miniseries.
This Week’s Best Collections
Elseworlds Batman Vol. 3, DC Comics ($35, Softcover): Batman is reinterpreted in some wild, weird, and awesome ways in this collection of alternate reality stories.
Atomic Robo & the Spectre of Tomorrow, IDW Publishing ($18, Softcover): Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener use their pulp superhero to earnestly explore what it means to believe in the future in the current situation of today. A heartfelt book about belief, among other things, that’s not to be missed.
The EC Archives: Weird Fantasy Volume 3, Dark Horse ($50, Hardcover): EC Comics’ science fiction comics were some of the most bizarre, most creative stories of their era, and they get a handsome reproduction in this hardcover.