Illustrated By: Jerry Ordway
Letterers By: Taylor Esposito
Colors By: HI-FI
Publisher: DC Comics
If it wasn’t for my store’s huge end of the year sale, which runs for four more days, I probably wouldn’t have picked up this comic. My stack of pull list books was already way too high, plus the extra off-the-rack incentives like the “Gangnam Style” Avengers parody cover only added to the mound. That still didn’t include the ton (18) of $10 or less back issues (and collections) for only a buck (It should have been 19, but someone [I know who] pilfered my stack and I lost out on a sweet All-Out War Stories Dollar Comic). However, when everything else is 40% off, it’s hard not to try something new. And the cover of Human Bomb was just too captivating to leave it on the shelf with its classy Jerry Ordway art, cool logo, and dazzling orange colors. Of course, I snuck a peek inside as well and liked what I saw. So get ready for a SPOILERS filled review of the first chapter of this four issue mini-series. It’s gonna be a BLAST!!!
Former Marine Sergeant Michael Taylor has been having a recurring nightmare. He’s in his dress uniform about to receive the Medal of Honor for a heroic deed performed during his tour in Afghanistan three years ago. His mother is proudly beaming in the audience. Everything is perfect until his hand starts to glow while shaking a superior’s hand. The dream ends with an entire wing of the White House exploding from the inside.
With this fresh on his mind, possibly a nervous subconscious reaction to the real medal ceremony that he’s scheduled to attend soon, Michael heads to his job at the World Trade Center construction site. What better way for a Vet to still be fighting the good fight then to help resurrect (albeit in a new form) the very building whose destruction likely inspired him to enlist in the first place. While Michael’s busy welding, one of his co-workers is standing around with two others recounting how some rowdy Eagles fans quickly got really respectful when they recognized the war hero in the stands during a recent professional football game. After the foreman breaks up the group, he pulls Michael aside to ask him to ask the President for a favor when he sees him. The conversation is abruptly interrupted by a series of loud explosions. When the five guys look down toward the city below, there are large plumes of smoke and fire in several locations. From news reports the subway has been hit, Wall Street too, and the Mayor has been killed as well. Worse yet the attacks are occurring nationwide.
After evacuating the building, Michael recognizes one of his former unit buddies (who should be in Ohio) heading toward it with a distressed trance like look on his face. He calls out to him, but gets no response, and then he springs into action and tackles him to the ground, ripping his jacket off to see the man’s chest start to glow. “Remember the C.R.O.W.N.” is what the man says before he blows up. It’s a huge explosion, but miraculously Michael actually absorbs most of the energy.
Flashback to Afghanistan: Michael and his unit are tasered by a mysterious uniformed army all dressed in black with gas masks. This is not the Taliban. Michael wakes on the ground with his shirt in tatters at the construction site with the smoke and dust still hanging in the air surrounding the twisted and bent safety fence. Watching this scene is another man dressed in black (kinda like Neo in the Matrix) talking on a cell phone to the orchestrators of the attacks. Apparently, Michael’s friend, Smitty, was Human Bomb #23, and Michael is #17. The unnamed man dashes over to the still dazed Michael, grabbing him by the neck and commanding him three times to “DIFFUSE!” Michael starts to glow, but instinctively reaches out toward the man and hurtles him across the street where he smashes into an SUV. Upon recovering the man gets further instructions that he has to capture Michael before the government gets a hold of him. The man not only looks like Neo, but he can leap like him too, landing on a taxi, partially crushing the roof. Michael just explodes it backwards with his hands, but the man is able to deflect it away (telekinesis? – it doesn’t seem to be a mental ability, rather a physical one). He was trying to get Michael out of the public eye, but there is no privacy in this age of smart phones. “Human Bomb 17 has compromised public security. Too many eyes are on site.” “Human Bomb 50. Failure is unacceptable.” KABOOM goes the man in black.
Cut to the S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) operations in Washington D.C. where all the internet footage is being analyzed. They’ve identified Michael and the man in charge, Uncle Sam (think movie Nick Fury only with both eyes and hair), has determined that C.R.O.W.N. represents a hybrid of the top terror organizations. He informs his subordinates that this terror attack is only the first wave and their top priority is to find Michael.
What an AWESOME story! I was fully engaged by the glass shattering second page. All of the backstory and setup came via the natural flow of the story, so it wasn’t a “setup” issue like we usually get in a number one. I really liked the “real world” connections too. Michael didn’t fight in Qurac or some other fictional locale and there were no DC superheroes anywhere to be found. So, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t take place in the regular DC universe. In fact there isn’t even a “The New 52” emblazoned on the cover. No, this is the Freedom Force world (once upon a time Earth X). Now, I remember a critically acclaimed Ray (another member of Freedom Force) mini-series from early this year and I checked to see if it was written by the same writers and it was! (Fortunately, my store has that mini-series on sale for 75% off and I’m really anxious to read it now.) So, we’ve got some subtle alternative universe world building going on, telling a story that couldn’t take place with regular capes. I love it!!!
The premise is great, but the execution really sells the story. This is certainly on par with Ordway’s best work. I love the little details that are included down to the stickers on the construction hard hats. We get a couple of full or half-size splash pages and the rest of the panel layouts and pacing are just perfect. It’s a dense book that flows fast. You could say that it “ticks” along at a good rhythm. You may have missed this title amidst the flood of Marvel Now books (All-New X-Men is still great three issues in), but this is one to definitely check out.
GRADE A+: An explosive start to a fast moving, enthralling story that literally blows you away!!!