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.