Review – The Terrifics Annual #1: Trio of Tales

Comic Books DC This Week
The Terrifics Annual #1 cover, via DC Comics.

The Terrifics Annual #1 – Gene Luen Yang, Mark Russell, James Asmus, Writers; Evan
“Doc” Shaner, Artist; Joe Bennett, Jose Luis, Pencillers; Matt Santorelli, Scott Hanna, Richard Friend, Jordi Tarragona, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Nathan Fairbairn, Colorists

Ray – 8.5/10

Ray: The Terrifics has been so tied to Jeff Lemire’s unique vision that it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like without him.

Hopefully, we won’t have to answer that question for a long time, but we get a brief glimpse with The Terrifics Annual #1. Three talented creative teams step on to do short stories set in the world of the misfit superhero team. The main story brings on Gene Luen Yang and Joe Bennett for a tale that brings the core four back to Earth for a party. This happens to be the same time that Simon Stagg rushes an experiment based on Plastic Man’s DNA that is far from ready to be unleashed. It creates a plague of creepy body-snatching putty monsters that place people in cocoons and replicate their features. We’ve seen threats like this before, but what makes this story work is the way that Yang – whose great New Super-Man title is very much missed – uses the threat to show us some great moments for Phantom Girl and Mr. Terrific, as they make connections that turn out to be not what they appear. It’s not a Lemire story, but it keeps his clear human touch that makes this book work.

The second shorter story is done by Mark Russell and Doc Shaner, and it focuses on Stagg’s ruthless caveman minion Java. The character’s always been a bit of an enigma, and we saw in the most recent issue that he was behind the mask of Dr. Dread.

This story takes on Java’s early years, as a Neanderthal Caveman who is the pride of his tribe. Then the Homo Sapiens emerge, using cleverness and tools to overcome the Neanderthals’ strength. It does a good job of showing how Java has been nursing this grudge for much longer than anyone knew.

The final story by James Asmus and Jose Luis picks up from the beginning of the series and shows how Tom Strong was involved in everything that this series has set up. The dead ancient being from the start of the series is still alive here, and this story is a great look at Tom Strong’s brand of weird-science adventuring. Three stories, three wins, but I don’t think any of them are quite up to the level of the main series.

The Terrifics’ night out. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Three stories. One overall adventure, one the origin of a villain, and one that can properly be called a prequel.

I, too, was worried when I saw Lemire’s name missing from the credits but I should have known better because Gene Luen Yang is a terrific (hah!) writer who has a way of combining the weird with the human. That’s evident in his tale, with the “pods” created from Plastic Man’s DNA. They’re truly creepy. But they’re also heartbreaking. For Mr. Terrific, who thought he had a connection to someone, and for Plastic Man and Phantom Girl, who both fell hard for a duplicate of Eel’s son. Joe Bennett does a terrific job with all of Plas’ contortions and making the pods as terrifying as possible.

Java’s story, which makes clear how long he’s hated humanity, also makes it clear that Java failed to adjust his thinking to survive. That means he’s a Neanderthal blaming everyone else for his problems. Hmm…no political commentary there, right, political satirist Mark Russell? 🙂

Finally, the background of what caused the Terrifics to be formed is revealed. It throws a potential monkey wrench into team unity, as if Phantom Girl ever finds out that Tom Strong is responsible for her current plight, it will likely not go well.

I wouldn’t recommend this issue as a way to get into the series, since it spoils some plot elements of the continuing story, but for those enjoying the series, the annual is a really nice bonus.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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