This Is Diversity??? – A Mr. Terrific: Mind Games Review
TITLE: Mr. Terrific: Mind Games
AUTHOR: Eric Wallace
PENCILLERS: Gianluca Gugliotta, Scott Clark, Oliver Nome. Cover by J.G. Jones.
COLLECTS: Mr. Terrific #1-8
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
RELEASED: June 13, 2012
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Mr. Terrific is an important character for DC Comics to have right now. In an era where the company is drawing heat over a lack of character diversity, having an ongoing series about a black superhero can only help them….Unless they screw it up of course…*sigh*…
This book collects the entire eight issue run of Mr. Terrific, one of the first casualties of DC’s New 52 initiative. Mr. Terrific’s true identity is Michael Holt, the super genius CEO of Holt Industries. Via flashback, we learn that after his wife was killed in a car crash, Holt threw himself into his work as a revolutionary scientist. Then, his son came to visit him from the future, and ultimately convinced him to become a superhero. In Mind Games, Mr. Terrific takes on colorful supervillain who controls minds, a threat from the ninth dimension, a tough-as-nails French baddie, and more.
About an issue and a half into Mind Games, I realized the book wasn’t going to work. In the second issue, Michael Holt and Karen Starr (a.k.a. Power Girl, see Earth 2) are trying to stop some kind of big energy collector thingy from causing a gigantic earthquake and taking out everything in a 10 mile radius. Holt says a bunch of pseudoscience gobbledygook about the machine creating Bose-Einstein densates, which are more or less ultrasonic waves. His solution to the crisis is to create a sonic black hole, something that’s never been done before. Then he and Karen move a pipe and “freeze those condensates,” solving the problem…I guess.
I’ll admit, I don’t have a great mind for chemistry, physics, etc. But what I do have a mind for is storytelling, and what makes sense to me. We see Mr. Terrific use his immense intelligence and quick thinking to stop a crisis that would have destroyed a good chunk of California. But how did he do it? What are Bose-Einstein condensates? This isn’t all pseudoscience! Eric Wallace isn’t making all of this up. How do they work? What purpose does this big machine serve, anyway? Give us a little asterisk explanation, maybe one sentence long, to clue us in a little bit. That way we at least have an idea of what our hero did. Otherwise we’ll give up trying to figure it out and simply stop caring. I know I did. That’s certainly not to say you can’t have a science-based superhero, or action sequence that’s effective. In the mid-20th century, Carmine Infantino used scientific elements to make The Flash one of the most unique and influential books of its time. But he was able to seamlessly weave the scientific in with the dramatic. In Mind Games, the scientific often robs the book of it’s dramatic. Plus, the whole sequence is anticlimactic anyway! Can’t you come up with something a little more creative as the payoff for your first issue cliffhanger than having our hero talk, press buttons on a keyboard and point a pipe at something? That’s weak writing.
But it wasn’t just the pipe sequence. In the first issue we were introduced to two supporting characters, but in a manner that was far too brief to justify their involvement in the crisis that occurred in the following issue. At the tail end of the second issue we meet two characters at a big dinner party: Jamaal, a 15-year-old boy with an IQ of 192, and a woman whose name we don’t know. We see her smart off to Karen about how being a black woman, and overcoming “things you can’t even imagine. Or never had to.” This makes for a rather awkward introduction to a character we later learn is Aleeka, Michael Holt’s second in command, or whatever. But without learning her name, who she is, or what Jamaal’s role in all of this is, both characters are thrust into the big disaster that occurs at the end of the first issue, going into the second. Again, if we’re left without necessary information about who people are, or what they’re doing then we don’t care! I’m still not sure who Jamaal was when we started this book. Was he an intern? A mailboy?
While there are some pretty cool science fiction elements to Mind Games (Mr. Terrific’s use of the ninth dimension as a base comes to mind), most of it met with apathy from me because I was so frustrated with the lackluster introduction to the characters. The book also swapped out artists twice, which can cause obvious problems. But again, at that point I was too frustrated and apathetic to care. For what it’s worth, Scott Clark has the strongest showing here. I’d much rather have seen him tackle the entirety of this book than Gianluca Gugliotta, whose figures look downright weird at times. Look at the image on the left. What’s Mr. Terrific doing exactly? He’s supposed to be looking up at a supervillain. But apparently he decided it was time to play his invisible keyboard. Karen Starr also looks like a mega-botoxed Real Housewife on steroids.
Near the end of the book, things do pick up a bit, but it’s too little too late. At this point the creators seem to realize the book is doomed, and by the final pages we’re tying up loose ends, and setting Mr. Terrific up as a character in Earth 2. This character will get another chance to shine soon enough. It’s just a shame he got such a bad break with this poorly written, and at times poorly drawn book.
Front page image and image 2 from 52review.blogspot.com. Image 1 from everylastpanel.tumblr.com. Image 3 from author’s collection.