Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review: Static Shock #1 (2011)

Let’s try to keep this review shorter than yesterday.

Created by the late Dwayne McDuffie and John Paul Leon in 1993 Static was one of several heroes developed by Milestone Comics, an imprint of DC whose mission statement was to address and possibly help balance the severe lack of minority superheroes.  In 2000 a cartoon based on the character called Static Shock was broadcasted giving Static a significant boost in mainstream exposure (Putting him heads and shoulders above his fellow Milestone characters).  In 2008, noticeably several years after the cartoon had ended, DC finally decided to bring Static into the DC Universe proper (They did the same with other characters from the Milestone continuity but Static was clearly the bigger deal) where he was mainly associated with the Teen Titans.   Throughout his return to comic book DC had been saying that a new ongoing title, something Static hadn’t had in years, was in the works for a 2011 release.  However Static Shock #1, as it was titled, was canceled earlier this year before it had a chance to see print but we now know that was likely done in order to save the title for the DC Reboot this month.

This issue, titled “Recharged”, was written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum with pencils from McDaniel and inks by Jonathan Glapion and LeBeau Underwood.  There has always been a serious lack of black superheroes with ongoing titles and this is one of three new solo books staring an African American crime fighter in DC’s Reboot.  Was it worth the wait?

Full review after the jump.

No relation to Black Lighting
Virgil Hawkins, the teenage superhero known as Static, has just moved to New York City with his family.  On his day at his new after school job at S.T.A.R. Labs a runaway plasma protection suit that has begun a rampage on the city and he go forth to put stop to it and the pilot inside.  What Static fails to realize however is that this is part of a larger scheme and by interfering h has inadvertently made himself a target for a mysterious group of super criminals.

Let me just say that I applaud DC’s initiative to bring more diversity to their titles.  Between this book and several other new first issues the monopoly on white men in superhero comics feels a bit less tight.  It’s always good to see a character that looks like me starring in fiction in a genre I love and so I must say “thank you” to DC for going through with it.  See, I’m not just a negative nerd who poo poos on everything DC does so I hope the company can remember that a lot of positive comments come from the internet as well.  Also despite what they implied of me in Justice League International I am not basement dweller. Assholes.

Anyway this is a really good introductory story for Static.  Mostly.  But if you know nothing about the character this issue tells you exactly the type of person he is by showcasing his personality and also displaying his capabilities both with his super powers and high intelligence.  Sadly Static’s background is a bit mysterious here because the last few years he’s been associated with the Teen Titans but in this new continuity they’ve never existed (I guess) so none of that could have happened.  The fact that he’s talking the Milestone character Hardware would imply that his adventures in Dakota City still happened, but there’s a lot we don’t know.  Thankfully it doesn’t feel like we’re missing out on important information while reading this.  It starts off right into the action and gives us everything we currently need to know about Virgil Hawkins.   It’s true I would like to have some questions answered, such as the how/why/when of the partnership between Static and Hardware, but that’s something that I assume will be coming in future issues.

Hey kids: don't tell your parents about you high tech base or adult benefactor
Because grown-ups just don't understand!!!!!
The artwork is…alright?  I felt it was mostly okay when we’re focusing on characters in the foreground but people and things in the background seemed too lack details and looks kind of bizarre.   It worked well enough that my first time reading through it I didn’t think anything of it, but subsequent readings it caught my eye.   Also the whole book felt unnecessarily dark to me, though as half the book takes place in the late evening and the other half in even later evening that may have been intentional.   I wasn’t in love with this art style but it’s possible that it’s just me.

I’m also not particularly impressed by the character designs of the costumed villains introduced here.  What they’re wearing seems so generic and dull to me.  Though to be fair these guys may not be all that important as villains for Static in the coming months; I suppose we’ll see.  Speaking of character designs I’m a bit undecided if I’m okay with Static’s new costume or not.  I think I might be fine with it insofar as I can since I think the way his mask is set up it’s a bit silly his family hasn’t realized he’s a superhero and it’s been like that for years.  You see a superhero who looks like your son except with goggles may be coincidence. Maybe.   But that same superhero suddenly showing up in the new city you just moved to means it’s time to start going through your kid’s stuff.   That point is actually one of the reasons why I like Blue Beetle so much since he doesn’t keep his super heroics a secret from his family.

Also the flying disk Virgil uses to travel look a bit silly and I think he didn’t really need a new one.  A lot of Virgil’s jokes and dialogue in general were pretty annoying.  I get that he’s a wise cracker but I suspect that in the end he’s no Spider-Man.

Not once did Virgil use the word "turkey"!  Hurray!
This is a pretty good first issue and I certainly liked reading it, however I didn’t find it as engaging as I would have liked.  It was well written, sure, but I wasn’t left with the burning desire to know what happens next, despite the fact this book needed on a pretty damn intense cliffhanger.  It’s a must-read for any fans of Static, but if you liked the cartoon you might be put off by the change of setting and lack of the supporting cast you remember.   If you don’t know much about Static and are looking for a “new” hero to check out in the middle of all this rebooting this is probably a really good place to start.   I’ll certainly be checking out the next issue, despite its flaws.

Static Shock #1 gets 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


Pros

-Good introduction to Static

-Action stats right away

Cons

-The art could be better

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