Review | Mister Terrific #1

In theory, I like the idea of Michael Holt headlining his own title. The former JSA member is reimagined as a science/tech-based hero who's in peak physical condition, but whose greatest asset is his intelligence. He's also a highly successful businessman and a philanthropist, running a foundation "renowned for being on the cutting edge of our planet's future." He's basically Reed Richards and Tony Stark rolled into one. And did I mention he's African-American?

Unfortunately, at least in this first issue, Michael mentions it pretty awkwardly himself—"Actually, a simple 'Thanks, black guy, for saving us from a homicidal lunatic wearing weaponized body armor' will do," he tells a passel of London onlookers after taking out said baddie. Race is clunkily addressed as well in a scene between Karen Starr (who may or may not return to her former identity as Power Girl) and a black coworker of Michael's, setting the two women up as romantic rivals. It'd be nice if Mister Terrific's race was simply a fact that didn't require comment.

We get about half of an origin story when it's revealed that Michael contemplated suicide when his wife and unborn son were killed in a car accident, but an interdimensional visit from an adolescent boy claiming to be his son stopped him. Writer Eric Wallace doesn't yet show us Michael's decision to go super or how and why he chose the Mister Terrific identity. And Wallace handles the sci-fi elements of the story in a half-baked fashion, with "science" represented by squishy, generalized semi-concepts like "a quantum experiment to open a dimensional rift." (Gianluca Gugliotta's art, full of cartoonish, oddly proportioned figures, is equally loosey-goosey.) We've seen more convincing pseudo-science in two other New 52 books released so far, Static Shock and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. If we're going to be convinced that Michael Holt is "the third-smartest man in the world," we're going to have to see him demonstrate it rather than just telling us he is over and over.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)