Review – Resurrection Man, Vol. 1: Dead Again

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning return to their cult 90′s hero Resurrection Man in the New 52 in an extremely uneven but largely enjoyable collection of fantasy action stories.

Who is Mitch Shelley?  What does he want?  How did he get here?  Why is he going there?

Perhaps the book’s biggest problem is that it leans so very, very hard on these questions… to the exclusion of actually, you know, answering them.  By the end of this first volume, we begin to see who Mitch Shelley was, but we’re left with little insight into who Mitch Shelley IS.  Like this week‘s panned new release, The Phantom Stranger #0,  the hero’s life and journey are driven almost 100% by outside forces – forces we neither know about nor care about.  Because of this, Mitch sometimes comes across as aimless, meandering, or (periodically) painfully dull.

When great cosmic forces are jerking the character around, you’d better have a) a really friggin’ interesting cast, and b) some pretty thrilling set pieces, locations, and twists.  Though there’s some neat stuff on the sidelines, the first seven issues of Resurrection Man rarely does much of anything with them.  It introduces a fairly solid cast in a too-hectic opening arc, and then abandons them for the remainder of the book, which focuses more on flashbacks and stand alone action stories.  The pacing feels weird, here, like the order for the scripts was reversed.  Resurrection Man #6 is actually the best introduction to the character (much stronger than the actual opening issue) and #7 takes its cue from that… but after the epic, hectic, overblown opening arc, both feel like stopgaps before we get back to the real story and the more interesting characters.

Meanwhile, Mitch Shelley, as presented here, just isn’t a terribly interesting character.  Which is understandable.  Amnesiac characters are incredibly tough to do well.  A good amnesiac story often posits its hero as something of a detective, searching for their own past, finding it either through intelligence or sheer bloody-mindedness.  A bad one – as this often is – just has everyone around throw out enigmatic clues all the time before revealing everything in a meaningless dream sequence or flashback.  It’s incredibly clumsy writing from a writing team who have in general specialized in some pretty damn excellent action storytelling.

Fernando Dagnino’s art is solid.  There’s a lot of overblown cheesecake in there, especially involving the Body Doubles, but when you see segments like Mitch get trapped in limbo with one of the most chilling ghostly beings in comics history, you really start to see where Dagnino thrives.  His action may be slightly stilted, but when it comes to design work and the more  horror-focused aspects of the title, Dagnino’s work is incredibly impressive.

Like Justice League International, Batgirl and Suicide Squad, this is just about as mediocre as they come.  Abnett and Lanning do have some genuinely interesting ideas, and the mythology they build around their hero could lead down some pretty fascinating roads, but this first volume does little to explore that.  I’m not willing to write the book off just yet, though.  Given a few more issues, the supporting cast – the Body Doubles, Suriel and the Transhuman, whose interactions together in issue 4 gave the book a manic, thrilling energy it generally lacked – could reappear and, fleshed out a bit, give the title some of the heart it needs to thrive.  There’s a lot of potential here, but these opening issues aren’t exactly putting the best foot forward.

read/RANT

3 Responses to Review – Resurrection Man, Vol. 1: Dead Again

  1. 1) I was really interested in this when it came out, but my interest waned very quickly. I was glad the original creators got to work on it again, but like much of the New 52, something special was missing…

    2) Sorry if this is the wrong place for this but I didn’t know where else to put it.

    I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award! Check out http://chaosmechanica.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/one-lovely-blog-nomination-one-for-me-15-for-you/

  2. I rather liked the supporting cast Abnett and Lanning introduced, and I agree that by the end of issue #5 the cast had given the book a “manic, thrilling energy.” My sense of it was that the first five issues served to bring the reader to that sense of energy and, once accomplished, then issues #6 and #7 could serve to slow it down and have the luxury to meander a bit.

    Maybe this comes from having just read parts of the classic series — the 1990s Resurrection Man series was even more about these one-off, episode-like issues than the new one seems to be. To each their own, but I thought the mid-section was enough to warrant sticking with this book for a while.

    • Cal C. says:

      Honestly, knowing that the series has been canceled, I’m probably even more likely to pick up the next volume – it’s a small investment, and as I said, I genuinely liked the directions the book was heading in. This was solid, and every book goes through growing pains… but when I’m reviewing the book, I only have the content of the book to go by. I haven’t read later issues, so I can’t really say what DnA ultimately does with the momentum they built up. I do hope you’re right, though!

      I do agree that, in the context of an ongoing series, dialing things down a little with #6-7 was a good idea, and one that I didn’t really give enough attention to. Constant stimulation, constant action, can grate quickly, while a rise-and-fall narrative structure can take the book in some interesting directions. Of course, it’s still an awkward fit for THIS volume, but in context of an ongoing series, and in context of the next trade, it does make a lot of sense.

      Thanks for reading, and for the insight!

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