(Editor’s Note: This is the first review by a new member of our comics reviewing team, Doctor Comics. Click HERE to read his self-introduction.)
My introduction to Gail Simone was during her run on Batgirl with the New 52. The run showed off what Simone is best at: good dialogue, great character development and compelling story lines. She also pulled off the switch from Oracle to Batgirl for Barbara Gordon. I followed Simone when she went on to do The Movement, Red Sonja and The Secret Six. Clean Room wasn’t really my thing, but generally, I was willing to go where Simone was taking me. Which makes Plastic Man #1 a bit of a shock. I’m still team Gail, but a little less enthusiastic than I thought I’d be.
Plastic Man isn’t a bad book by any stretch (ha!) but one of those key components that I love about Simone’s writing just wasn’t there. Specifically, the dialogue just doesn’t work. It has the tone of a 1930s gangster film, including as many cliches as can fit on the page. All the guys have nicknames, “Suitcase,” “Brutal,” “Dizzy,” even the hero, “Eel.” Reading the opening scene you wouldn’t be faulted if you thought the story was set in 1932 or on the back lot of Guys and Dolls. When the scene shifts, however, the cars are modern and as the story continues, it is apparent it is set in modern times.
Another knock on the dialogue are the jokes. I have a low tolerance for penis jokes and if they are lame my tolerance evaporates. I hope the use of the term “wang” is confined to this issue. If it’s an ongoing gag, this is going to be a tough miniseries to get through. Similarly, the “Plastic Man has a big penis because he can…you know…” joke is going to get old really fast so here’s hoping it was a one and done. Finally, the Wonder Woman gag just fell flat. Of all the ways to end that scene, the punchline, “What? Too much cleavage?” wasn’t it.
The story does have plenty of pull. It starts with Eel looking for answers and retribution for a double-cross that left him for dead. It ends with a cliffhanger where the JLA is implicated in murder and Plastic Man poised to take the fall for at least part of it. There is even a plot spanning the multiverse that Spyral is investigating and wants Plastic Man’s help to infiltrate it. It wasn’t clear why Plastic Man was the choice as mole, but that can be left for now. I’m most intrigued by the kid who finds the beat up Eel early in the issue, Suave Pado Swakatoon, Prince of Pine Street. No one gets a name like that and only makes a cameo. How they figure into all of this might be the most entertaining part of the story as it unfolds.
The art is also a strong draw. One of the best parts of any Plastic Man comic is the inventiveness used to demonstrate his powers. The bouncing ball, the rocket, and the sports car morphs all bring about the whimsy that makes Plastic Man so much fun. Add to the shape-shifting the iconic costume and glasses and it is a safe bet something fun is going to happen. That’s where I hope the series goes, playing up the strengths of the hero and relying less on worn out jokes,