An amazing friend of mine that goes by the name of Troo (and who herself has 2 great blogs: Troo Adventure about her amazing adventures around the globe and Troo Grit about her healthy obsession with gaming) has been lovely enough to send me Amazon gift cards for my birthday and Christmas (despite me being an utter swine and not even getting her a card). When I’m buying graphic novels out of my own cash I tend to go for stuff that I know I am going to like. It’s a fair bet that when take a trip to the Waterstones or Forbidden Planet I’ll be buying a Superman collection or the latest volume of The Walking Dead. When I was perusing Amazon for something to buy I was looking at the usual stuff; characters that I already knew and loved, authors that I respected and artists that I admired.
It was about the time that DC began releasing the collected editions of The New 52, and I was looking at the Justice League, Batman, Teen Titans, that sort of thing… the titles that take up most of my collection. However, the reason that I was able to buy these comics was because of a person that I greatly admire (and who, frankly, scares me a little bit on an intellectual level, although she could kick my arse physically as well) and is always up for new experiences and expanding her horizons. On some level I wanted to reflect that in my purchases, which sounds a bit daft when I write it down, but there you go.
The Resurrection Man in question is called Mitch Shelley and, as far as I can tell, has a unique super power. Whilst there are plenty of heroes that can fly or have super strength Mitch keeps returning from the dead with a new power each time. That sounded pretty cool to me.
The point in the New 52 was to get new readers on board for characters that have been around for a long time and writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (who also created the character back in the day) grab the opportunity with Mitch. Despite reading comics for the vast majority of my life I don’t think I’ve ever come across the chap before. My lovely new DC Comics Encyclopedia that I got for Christmas (who says and ex-wife can’t buy you a thoughtful gift?) tells me that he’s fought alongside the likes of the Justice League of America and Supergirl, so he’s probably been in at least something I’ve read but, y’know, if you need an encyclopedia to keep track of them all then you’re bound to forget a few of ‘em.
As you’d expect the story starts with Mitch coming back to life. The New 52 wasn’t really about doing the origin stories again so Mitch has already been living this life for some time, but in the great tradition of fiction he has amnesia as well. He knows who he is, and he knows he has this power, but that’s about it. As a jumping on point for a new reader it’s not bad. It’s fairly basic storytelling but there’s a reason that it works – it allows the reader to learn at the same pace as the character. It creates suspense and empathy and, when it’s used well it’s a brilliant device (the film Memento is a great example of this). The question is: Does Resurrection Man do it well?
The series lasted 13 issues before it was cancelled, but this isn’t indicative of quality (Firefly lasted 13 episodes and is regarded as one of the greatest genre shows of all time, after all) and, after reading the first volume, it’s a shame that it didn’t last longer but with 52 different comics all being pumped out at the same time it’s no surprise that some of them fell by the wayside. The popular ones were always going to be popular, but it’s ones like Resurrection Man that don’t get the readership they deserve.
It turns out Mitch is very popular, in a “being hunted by different people” kind of way. There’s an angel called Suriel trying to collect his soul and a couple of ladies called the Body Doubles trying to get their hands on him as well, while Mitch tries to figure out who he is and why he keeps returning from the dead. Heaven and Hell want his soul as his inability to die is causing ‘bookkeeping problems’, which is a tidy little idea with both sides warning that Mitch’s constant returns are beginning to cause a problem in the grand scheme of thing.
There are a couple of great little scenes that inject some nice humour into what is, essentially, a very dark story. The Body Doubles attempts to retrieve Mitch by repeatedly killing him (it makes their job a lot easier) raised a smile, as well as Suriel using a mobile phone to call Heaven and ask them to look out of the window to see if Mitch’s soul is heading up there.
In fact the only problem that I have with Dead Again is the Body Doubles themselves. They’re unkillable ‘retrieval experts’ as well as being in a lesbian relationship. Their dialogue is great and they’ve got the partners in crime quipping down to an artform. The issue that I have is their physical portrayal. Our introduction to the characters is of them lying in bed wearing lingerie and surrounded by guns. It’s pure fanboy wank fantasy and completely unnecessary to the story. This is the 21st century, for crying out loud. Bonnie spends the rest of the story wearing an evening gown that has a habit of getting ripped and Carmen… she wears a schoolgirl outfit where her tiny tartan miniskirt has a habit of flapping up to reveal her underwear. It’s exploitative and degrading. Don’t get me wrong – it looks great to see a sexy couple of chicks shooting and fighting, but there’s just no need for it in the story. As titillating as it might be it’s hard to read a mature comic like this and not see it as the basest exploitation.
Overall, despite this quibble, Resurrection Man is a decent read. Fernando Dagnino is as polished an artist as you’d expect from a DC Comics publication and he illustrates the pain that Mitch feels upon his returns very well. Whilst Mitch might die a little too often in order to progress the story (9 times in 7 issues? That’s a bit much) he gets some fun and varied powers to play around with. The downside is do you really want to spend £10.99 on a series that you already know got cancelled?