DC Comics’ The New 52 rolls on in its second week! I’ll be reviewing all 52 #1 issues released this month, and you can find all of the reviews on the Comic Book Reviews index page. This week we get 13 more new series, including a solo book featuring a character who’s never had one before: Mr. Terrific! Probably the most unknown character to get a book in The New 52, Mr. Terrific is a character I’ve seen in a variety of supporting roles over the years in books like Checkmate and JSA, so I was interested to see how well he’d fare in his own first outing. Was this book, well… terrific?
This review will contain spoilers.
I love that DC is launching some underdog books as part of The New 52. Mr. Terrific is a hero from the Justice Society, which couldn’t even support a team spin-off of its own as part of the pre-New 52 DC Universe, so Mr. Terrific was really going to need a promotional boost to succeed in the marketplace.
Eric Wallace is a recent writer I’m unfamiliar with, but he turns in an accessible, competent script here. Mr. Terrific’s past and motivations are clearly explained here, and anyone can read this comic book and feel like they have a pretty tight grasp of what’s going on. The art is a solid effort as well, making this one of the most well-rounded books in The New 52 for new readers.
I didn’t like that Mr. Terrific’s abilities are never overtly explained in this issue. I seem to recall that Mr. Terrific was invisible to technology in the old DC Universe and that was his only super-power. That’s either not true here, or it’s just not mentioned. That’s one of the more unique traits about Mr. Terrific, so I really hope that that ability is still intact. Without it, Mr. Terrific is just a really smart, athletic guy with some tech.
In addition, I don’t particularly care for the notion that Mr. Terrific is like the perfect person. As far as I could tell from this issue, he has no personality flaws of any kind and is always in the right (unless being mind-controlled by an outside force). Even his origin story has Mr. Terrific’s wife death be no fault of his own, and then her dying words are telling him how amazing he is and how much he has to offer the world! Having a main character who’s always in the right and makes the correct decisions does not necessarily make for compelling storytelling, and it definitely doesn’t make it easy for the reader to relate to or make a connection with him.
I wasn’t going to say anything because I’m sure I’ll catch flak for saying it, but it turns out I can’t bring myself to refrain: this book feels excessively racist. Or more specifically, reverse-racist. Mr. Terrific #1 glamorizes African Americans and makes all non-African American characters look like villains or bad people.
The book opens with a wealthy white CEO acting altogether insane and evilly trying to murder Mr. Terrific in an exo-suit to show off how impressive his technology is to investors. Later, the issue’s other protagonist is introduced–a bitter, greedy non-African American who’s angry about having to support his family. A waitress in a restaurant is a white woman who foolishly tried to pursue show business and ends up a broken-down wreck. In addition, Karen Starr (the voluptuous Power Girl in the old DC Universe) appears as a rich Fortune 500 businesswoman having a friends-with-benefits relationship with Mr. Terrific, keeping him from the middle-class African American woman who is truly in love with Mr. Terrific.
Meanwhile, Mr. Terrific is a black guy who’s the third-smartest person on Earth, an amazing Olympic gold medal-winning athlete, successful businessman, and is an all-around near-perfect person. Mr. Terrific has a close relationship with Jakeel, a 15-year old African-American boy with a ridiculously genius IQ of 192. Mr. Terrific is public supporting a black politician who is so honest that he rebuffed his own political party because of his deepset beliefs. The African-American woman competing for Mr. Terrific’s affections actually says something along the lines of “I’m a black woman! That means I’ve endured more than you can possibly imagine!”
This was just too much. Every character made out to be intelligent or honest or forthright in this book is African American, whereas all the other characters are evil, greedy, bitter, angry, or have poor moral values. This may be the most racially one-sided comic book I’ve read in my 20+ years of being a comic book fan.
Overall: This was a well-rounded book, but Mr. Terrific just doesn’t grab me as a character. The reverse-racist undertones really bothered me, which is saying a lot since I don’t think I’ve ever been offended by a book’s racial depictions before. I feel that there is a specific demographic that DC has targeted this book at, and it’s not me.