Plastic Man #1
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Adriano Melo
Publisher: DC Comics
In a world choked by plastic waste, comes a hero created from the non-biodegradable product, rising to become the champion of the environment... Plastic Man!
Wait, what do you mean that’s not what Plastic Man is? Oh... THAT Plastic Man.
Let’s start over, shall we?
In a shady underground world of gangsters and crime, comes a hero so strange and stretchy that he is more Rubber Man (no, not that sort of rubber) than Plastic Man.
Eel O’Brian is a former ‘petty thug, thief and con artist who runs a strip club’. Not exactly hero material to begin with, I have to say. I say ‘former’ because he is also supposed to be dead, since his unsavoury associates tossed him unceremoniously out of a car after he had the gall to get shot during a botched job. What a bummer.
Anyway, Eel didn’t die after all, and he ended up becoming the stretchy, shape- changing Plastic Man. How he became Plastic Man is probably a question that will be addressed in future issues of this new mini-series by writer Gail Simone and artist Adriano Melo. But for now, we’re glad he’s back, because his bright red costume, bug-eyed goggles and incessant wisecracks are a ray of sunshine in the dark, gritty world that is so prevalent in so many of DC Comics’ recent titles.
In case you’ve never heard of Plastic Man (and he HAS been out of the limelight for quite some time, though he did play a prominent role in recent DC events), he was created in 1941 by Jack Cole, and is one of the first superheroes who actually managed to make superheroing funny for a change.
However, superheroes trying to be funny are a dime a dozen these days, especially with Harley Quinn and Deadpool leading the pack. So, instead of trying to make this a full-on comedy book, Simone decided to incorporate some crime and detective elements into the plot, with Plastic Man focusing on trying to figure out how he became Plastic Man in the first place.
Yes, Plastic Man is sort of doing an Elongated Man here. Go figure.
It’s a premise that would probably work better if the main character was someone other than Plastic Man though. The contrast between the gritty, violent world of the criminal underworld and Plastic Man’s red costume and wacky powers doesn’t quite gel as well as Simone might have hoped, though Melo’s art does help to integrate the two pretty well.
Most of this debut issue doesn’t have Plastic Man at all, and anytime Eel is out of costume, the story gets a little dull, as it’s just a bunch of generic human characters talking to each other.
But the few times Plastic Man gets to let loose here are the major highlights of the book. From a straightforward bouncy ball to an actual car, Melo’s art manages to capture how Eel’s imagination and slightly insane persona can (literally) shapes the hero.
And with a twist in the end that potentially involves some heavyweight DC characters as well, there’s hope that Plastic Man will be able to stretch out his story just a little bit longer.