In Space #1
S! Maggin and Grant Morrison
artists: J.H. Williams, Jerry Ordway and Mark McKenna
Of all the fifth week/extra-special/cool
summer events tried by publishers over the years, "DC Comics
Presents" has to be the coolest. Inspired by classic Julius
Schwartz covers, which were often commissioned before any
stories were written to match them, the cream of the crop
of comics talent would create a new story to try and capture
the spirit of the Silver Age. Even better, it's not just
the cream of the crop of who's hot in this month's Wizard.
Some of the old guard are coming back to pay tribute to
the late Schwartz.
So all of the
line, with one issue coming out each week, has a bittersweet
tinge, as it memorializes a giant of the industry and hearkens
back to simpler times. But this week's entry, Mystery
In Space, has special weight to it.
First, it proves
how utterly viable, fantastical and gripping the character
of Adam Strange can be. No wonder we're getting a relaunch
in the Fall.
In both stories,
writers Maggin and Morrison highlight the things that made
Adam a popular character in the early space age, and manage
not to make them seem silly. Especially Morrison, who gives
the intrepid archaeologist an excuse for wearing the red
jumpsuit. It confuses the monsters of Rann, who are always
attracted by the appearance of a Zeta beam. Maybe you have
to take it on faith, but it seems reasonable for a comic
book, and far more satisfying that Will Pfeifer's recent
dismissal of Robby Reed's origin in HERO.
The two writers
also offer very different tales. Maggin's entry is straightforward
adventure, with one of those eleventh hour pseudo-scientific
explanations that were characteristic of his work on Superman
back in the seventies. Even if you don't believe in Rann's
special geologic signature, the rest of the story holds
up surprisingly well. The comic relief of a kid and a donkey
accidentally transported to Rann works without being overly
cute. Heck, it makes one wonder why Maggin isn't seen more
often in the pages of comics today.
Of course, he
then has to be contrasted to the guy we can't get away from
in comics, nor do we want to: Grant Morrison. People, if
for no other reason, buy Mystery In Space #1 to read
a Morrison story that you can grasp in one sitting. There's
an all-too chilling sense of modern paranoia, but leavened
by hope and heroism.
still has to push the post-modern envelope just a little
bit, as Adam Strange hallucinates running commentary on
the development of his own feature in the National Periodical
offices, but it only serves to underscore that sense of
wonder that comics once routinely had. And that Morrison
recaptures time and time again, even if you often scratch
your head afterward.
to that bittersweet quality. Maggin uses The Elongated Man
and his wife Sue in the story. No doubt he was unaware of
Sue's fate in Identity
Crisis, and the story here could easily be from
some unspecified point in the past. But Maggin gives Sue
a lot of life here, making the case for both her and her
husband as characters almost as strong as Adam Strange.
Brad Meltzer would agree, but now it's too late.
The art is great,
especially by Williams. Ordway is a superb draftsman, but
McKenna dulls his impact with the inking. Maybe it's because
we just saw Ordway inking Byrne on JLA, where the
art almost made up for the badly done story, but the guy
is capable of more flash than McKenna lets him show. And
yet, McKenna clearly has skills as an inker. Throw him over
on Outsiders and let's see what happens.
If this summer
event continues to be this kind of quality, these books
are going to be keepers, the kind that when you go through
your collection you have to stop and re-read. Buy the individual
issues rather than waiting for the trade (though yes, Virginia,
there will inevitably be one), because they should be savored
the way Julie would have put them out in the first place.
It's a fine tribute to the man who treasured imagination,
and will cast a shadow spurring comics on for quite some
time to come.