Overall, I liked Plastic Man #3. It is one of the middle issues in this six issue mini-series. So some strong plot development was to be expected and the issue didn’t disappoint. The Cabal we learn about in issues #1 and #2 remains shadowy, with some details emerging toward the end of the book making it even more mysterious. There were just enough threads strung through the rest of the story to keep things interesting as well. We still don’t know what part the JLA is going to have in all of this but with each mention, each little sprinkle of their involvement, the suspense gets ratcheted up that much more. We also don’t know how the Gotham underworld is tied to all of this, but they, especially Suitcase Sam, have a part in the overall case.
Unfortunately, the characterization of Suitcase Sam and organized crime in Gotham seem out of place in the entire tone of the book. Lines like, “We shake paws” and “Give the dog a bone” are a bit cringe worthy. It’s moments like these that make you want to say, “NO ONE TALKS THAT WAY!!!” Not even gangsters, maybe not ever, but especially not in 2018. For a point of reference, watch Barry starring Bill Hader. It’s a comedic take on organized crime, but it comes off as very authentic as well. It isn’t just the writing either. The portrayals of Sam and his girlfriend are right out of Guys and Dolls. I love classic musicals as much as the next guy, but it just doesn’t work here.
Other than that, what makes Plastic Man such a fun read is on display in issue #3. The slick pop culture references, the inventive shapes that Plas takes on during fights and in transit are just fun. Watching Plastic Man develop into the hero of the story has been a strong theme thus far as well and with issue #3, Plastic Man is ready to take on the really bad guys. He is developing a bond with Pado and his supporting cast and unlike the other heroes of Gotham, he is able to reach out to villains in a way they can’t. When the story reaches the end, I doubt Eel will be ready to join either the JLA or Spyral. Instead, like his powers, he’ll shape—pun intended—his mission as he sees fit.
One final note about this issue. On Twitter, and I’m assuming other social media outlets, there was a controversy about Plastic Man taking on the shape of Harley Quinn, especially the bulge that is present in the characterization. Some in the trans community felt that it was an inaccurate and potentially harmful portrayal of trans people. Not to be flippant, but I’ll take their word for it. I read the scene in a particular way, but not as someone who is transexual. I don’t get to tell people how to feel, or what should and shouldn’t offend them. I felt that writer Gail Simone handled the comments especially well. She didn’t respond defensively, but openly and showed a willingness to discuss the material and the issues surrounding it. I’m a big fan of Ms. Simone and she showed great concern and empathy when many writers and artists would have been dismissive. Yet another reason to support Gail Simone and her work, if you ask me.
(Also, gotta love that cover by Alex Ross!)