As much as my nostalgic love for Marvel and DC comics will always be present, I don’t really read their monthly titles on a regular basis anymore and find it hard to get into their storylines. And yet I’ll always have a soft spot for superhero stories.
This is why I love unique and interesting spins on superhero stories from the smaller publishers, especially limited miniseries that can be read in one or two sittings (so that years of missing issues isn’t an issue).
Recently, I reviewed one called Death Sentence from Titan Comics in which the premise was that a mysterious virus that causes terminal illness also bestows super powers on its victims. Well, a virus is also at the center of another work from Titan that I’ll be reviewing today called Ordinary which, like Death Sentence, is a limited miniseries.
Now, recent titles I’ve reviewed like Hacktivist and Interesting Drug didn’t work quite so well with such a brief, limited run, but Ordinary is exactly the kind of work that’s perfect for a short three issues.
Divorced plumber Michael Fisher is your prototypical loser. He’s unattractive, lives alone in an impressively disheveled apartment in Queens, New York, and has his sexual advances rejected even in his dreams. But things go from pathetic to even worse when he wakes up one day to find that thanks to a mysterious virus, suddenly everyone now has super powers—well, everyone except him, that is.
This cosmic scale exclusion becomes the nail in the coffin for Michael’s already ailing confidence, but he’s forced to get over it and rise to the occasion when his ex-wife goes AWOL and leaves his son stranded inside a school in Manhattan while all hell is breaking loose since suddenly everyone in the most populous city in the U.S. now has super powers. The mission? Get from Queens to Manhattan and save his son. But with super-powered petty crooks, mutated monster-teachers, and government super soldiers all in his way, easier said than done.
Rather than take its own delightful premise seriously, writer Rob Williams has made this an absurdist comedy that will make you laugh out loud whether it’s due to the incompetent U.S. president contemplating how hungry he is during an emergency meeting (while the fate of the world hangs in the balance), a man whose superpower it is to manifest beer out of thin air, or Michael’s best friend Brian who turns into a big grizzly bear and dishes out a bit of bro justice by taking a bear-sized dump on the lawn of a woman who turned Michael down for a date. This has also got to be the first time in memory that I’ve seen a Busby Berkeley-type musical number inside the pages of a comic!
Titan Comics has been bringing in some top notch artistic talent for their titles of late and Ordinary is no exception. It’s important obviously for the style to match the genre and artist D’Isreali’s whimsical, pastel-filled panels are as soothing and pleasant to look at as they are appropriate for the content. And our hero Michael’s slouch, defeated mannerisms and perpetually bemused look could not better convey the kind of extraordinary ordinariness that he is meant to embody.
My only ever-so-slight quibble here is that there were a few scattered grammatical errors here and there in characters’ speech balloons (e.g. “This country is become heaven!” or “I catch myself wondering if that’s the last time I’ll ever seen Brian.”) While no biggie, a fully staffed publisher like Titan shouldn’t allow this many mistakes to go to print.
The best comedies, even the absurdist ones, always offer a meaningful message and at the heart of Ordinary is one that points to one of my own most cherished beliefs which I often write about in my Hero Worship column, which is that there’s nothing at all boring or “ordinary” about being a regular human being and that the greatest superpowers are the ones we are all born with: courage, compassion, humor, loyalty and love.