The Terrifics owes its existence to Marvel Studios trying to spite 20th Century Fox. Shocking but true! In all the feuding over film-rights over the past few years, Marvel Comics stopped publishing a monthly Fantastic Four comic book series so as to deny Fox any free publicity at their expense. Given how utterly un-Fantastic the 2015 Fantastic Four movie turned out to be, they shouldn’t have bothered. Still, the last few years saw Johnny Storm mostly hanging out with The Inhumans and the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing joining The Guardians of the Galaxy.
This apparently led to writer Jeff Lemire asking “Why, apart from the threat of lawsuits, don’t we create a team for DC Comics that will tell the same sorts of weird stories involving fantastic powers and scientists exploring the unknown that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used to tell in Fantastic Four?”
Enter… The Terrifics!
The parallels between the two groups are immediately obvious. Leading the team we have Michael “Mister Terrific” Holt – a gold medal athlete and doctor of many disciplines in the Mister Fantastic role. Rex “Metamorpho” Mason is our stand-in for The Thing – a salt-of-the-earth adventurer transformed into a hideous monster. Patrick “Eel” O’Brien aka Plastic Man is our Human Torch analog – a wise-cracking smart-alec more concerned with the fun aspects of being a superhero than the serious side of things. And Phantom Girl who is… well, a girl that can walk through things and become kinda see-through.
It’s not a perfect analogy but it is an interesting one. It should be noted though, for the benefit of those Legion of Super Hero fans awaiting the group’s return to DC Comics, that the Phantom Girl pictured here is not the heroine from the classic team, but her ancestor. She’s also the least-developed character in this first issue – a preview of which you can view below.
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Though spinning out of Dark Nights Metal and making references to events in books that we haven’t seen yet, The Terrifics does a fair job of introducing its protagonists and exploring their powers. It’s somewhat less skilled, however, in how it handles its supporting cast and more care could have been taken in introducing Metamorpho’s corrupt boss Simon Stagg, Stagg’s right-hand caveman Java and Metamorpho’s girlfriend, Sapphire, for the benefit of new readers. The action flows somewhat more smoothly after the semi-awkward opening, once Mister Terrific, Metamorpho and Plastic Man begin searching for the source of a mysterious distress call from within The Dark Multiverse.
The artwork is similarly mixed in terms of its results. Ivan Reis is a fantastic penciler, whose past work on Green Lantern, Aquaman and Action Comics has been rightly praised. Reis varies his usual style up a bit in this first issue, with many panels that evoke the spirit of Jack Kirby even before the trio of heroes discover the corpse of a giant god in an ornate helmet in deep space. Unfortunately, the inks by Joe Prado do more to obscure the pencils in some panels than they enhance them and many of the lighting effects introduced by colorist Marcelo Maiolo leave the final artwork looking washed out.
It’s hard to judge The Terrifics one way or the other by this first issue. While not the slam dunk DC Comics had hoped for, there is not enough wrong with it to merit it being completely written off either. Fans of pulp adventure and classic superheroes will find it enjoyable enough, but there’s little so far to suggest the sense of wacky fun the premise suggests. Still, it serves as a tribute to the classic weird science superheroes of The Silver Age.
The Terrifics #1 releases February 28, 2018.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.