I wasn’t quite taken by Plastic Man #1, but I’m glad I’m sticking around for the ride. Issue #2 delves more into the “man” part of Plastic Man, Eel O’Brian. He has amazing powers, but what that means exactly is still very much in question. Eel is trying to be a hero, but it’s not as easy as it might look. Instead Plastic Man is much more conflicted about being a hero. It is the conventional, “good v. evil” debate that new super-powered people often wrestle with. No, for Plastic Man it is a matter of confidence. He questions whether or not he has the right stuff to be a hero.
This all comes to light in a flashback portion of the issue. We were left with a cliffhanger at the end of issue #1. The police arrived right after Plastic Man met his dying associate. He comes out of the building and is surrounded by the police in full tactical gear. As the fight ensues, the mysterious Pado Swakatoon, who we met in issue #1, comes to his rescue. However when Man-Bat arrives and kidnaps Pado, Plastic Man, who mistakes Man-Bat for Batman, turns tail and runs.
Running away is a pretty natural response of a criminal when confronted with Batman. Plastic Man, however, realizes he abandoned a child, not exactly hero behavior. As he reflects on what being a hero really means, he doubts if he has what it takes, but he’s determined to save Pado, Batman be damned. One of the people that witness this vow to save Pado narrates this idea of heroism, which feels a little heavy handed. We got the glamour pose a few panels before, so the reinforcement of the epiphany is unnecessary.
I’m not sure if the examination of Batman will continue, but I hope that it does. Plastic Man’s biggest fear is Batman, which is one of Batman’s primary goals, to make criminals fear him. As Eel points out, “from shoplifters to Luthor,” criminals fear Batman. It makes the reader wonder if Batman is a little too extreme. We all know that the Dark Knight is about force, but broken bones for stealing a television doesn’t seem like justice.
Plastic Man gets a tip from the mysterious Spyral agent Obscura on the whereabouts of Pado. The relationship between Obscura and Plastic Man opens up another avenue to explore about authority as well. Plastic Man, even if he wasn’t a former criminal trying to make good, doesn’t take Obscura at her word. He has an objective, save the child, but the rest of it isn’t his fight, at least for now. As he says, “I don’t believe you lady.” Simply saying she’s the good guy isn’t good enough.
Pado gets saved, but not before we are introduced to the overall villain, The Cabal. Man-Bat is the muscle for the group. Plastic Man defeats him in a great movie montage sequence, but instead of leaving him vanquished there is a surprising twist. Plastic Man wants to become part of The Cabal for his own protection.
Not only is asking about joining The Cabal a surprise, but it came up suddenly. I couldn’t believe the book was finished. I have so many questions that I’m already beginning to worry they won’t all get resolved in the remaining four issues. For instance, we never find out why Eel is laying in the parking lot to get the story going. And are The Cabal the ones who killed Benny? And quite a few more. Gail Simone, however, is a great storyteller, so I just need a little faith. Kind of like Eel.