Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art Fernando Dagnino
Colors Santi Arcas
Cover Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Rod Reis
Mitch Shelly has the power to revive from death, each time coming back with a new super power and an unknown compulsion steering him in a direction he’s unsure of. While on a plane to Portland, a mysterious figure attacks Mitch and forces the plane to crash, killing everyone on board and leaving Mitch more confused than ever.
You might be saying to yourself “Chris, you mentioned reviews of Justice League #1 and Flashpoint #5! What happened to those?” Well, they sucked. REALLY hard. Not in a “Oh man, this is different and everything changed and now it sucks” way, but in a “This undermines 60 years of character development” and “They want $4 for this, nothing happened!” way. I tried to write reviews for them, but I’ve just been at a loss for words that don’t come out like a frothing at the mouth, pants on the head crazy rant. I finally gave up and started reading the rest of the New 52 books, but nothing really jumped out and wowed me. At least not until today, when I finally got my hands on Resurrection Man #1 (well, and Demon Knights #1. And Deathstroke #1. I’ll try to have more up on those later.)
Now, full disclosure: I have a soft spot for Resurrection Man. I love the character, and will forever recommend the first run of Resurrection Man as an example of how great DC Comics can be when they try something outside the norm and tell a solid story. The original book was very well acclaimed in its time, but never really caught on despite frequent plugs with JLA and stellar reviews, leaving the first run of Resurrection Man little more than a fondly remembered cult classic. Since then, the character has been relatively obscure aside from one page in Brightest Day and that issue of Supergirl we keep bringing up. So when I read that Resurrection Man was part of The New 52, I got really excited at the prospect of the character coming back for a second volume. Thankfully, that excitement has paid off in spades. Abnett and Landing knock the first issue out of the park, nailing an amazing feel for the character. For this iteration, the earlier volumes amnesia arc and Mitch’s reluctance heroism are dropped (it’s unclear if the amnesia story line that factored heavily into the first year or so of Resurrection Man still factors in to this iteration), instead creating the feeling of a lone wanderer being manipulated by forces he can’t understand. Mitch here is solemn, but not depressed; he remains a man trying to find answers and a sense of right in a world he doesn’t completely understand.
Conflict is now in the hands of a mysterious organization who seem to work for Heaven, seeking out Mitch because “his soul is past due and must be protected”. The focus of the series seems to be on how Mitch’s ability has affected his soul, which is now a prized possession. The original run is referenced more in the brief inclusion of the Body Doubles, now updated to fit in more with the current era. The two female assassins for hire are once again in pursuit of Mitch, but it’s unclear who they’re seeking him for. The book also concludes with Madame Xanadu (pulling triple duty it seems, as she’s also a lead character in Justice League Dark and Demon Knights), who seems to know that the Resurrection Man means “trouble”.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Resurrection Man is in its willingness to embrace the character’s existing lore. The entire notion of The New 52 is to introduce the characters to new readers, but we only learn of Mitch’s abilities and unknown urges. We aren’t given any sign of a backstory or past. Fine for a first issue, but possibly off-putting to a new reader, especially given that this isn’t a traditional super hero book. However, it does benefit from being one of the few New 52 books to be a “done-in-one” story, with the only dangling plot threads being set up for a longer game down the road.
This is ultimately the best of what we hoped for in The New 52; classic, existing characters getting a new lease on life without losing what makes them appealing in the first place. Not every book has achieved this well, but Resurrection Man pulls it off very nicely, creating a dark, sci-fi adventure that will keep old and new readers alike coming back for more. Don’t waste your time on the shallow changes in titles like Batman & Robin or the needless, confusing changes in titles like Superman; pick up Resurrection Man instead, and get a character you can enjoy, understand, and relate to on some level.