Review: HUMAN BOMB #1

Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Art by Jerry Ordway
Release Date: December 5, 2012

Ex-Marine and recent war vet Michael Taylor has been having nightmares — about receiving the medal of honor and inexplicably exploding, and taking the White House with him. No run-of-the-mill PTSD, these dreams quickly become reality as human bombs set off all over the country and Michael finds himself at the center of a conspiracy against our government. What do you do when you find out you’re meant to destroy the very country you fought a war for? And who will have your back if you try to stop it from happening?

Human Bomb is the third mini-series in a progression by DC Comics to reintroduce their Freedom Fighters characters (those purchased from Quality Comics once upon a time) to the world of the New 52. Like The Ray and Phantom Lady (also featuring Doll Man) before it, this reimagining breaks from the past and builds the explosive 1940s character from the ground up. Palmiotti and Gray once again are at the helm, but unlike with previous lead characters, seem to developing a more classic hero archetype in Michael. A war vet and all-around responsible guy, Michael immediately jumps into protective action and isn’t initially driven by self-interest or preservation like the Ray and Phantom Lady before him. Nothing could be further from the truth, in fact. Finding himself faced with a former colleague set to blow up the World Trade Center (again), Michael willingly sacrifices himself, setting off a domino effect that will bring him to the attention of S.H.A.D.E. and Uncle Sam himself.

Ordway is the perfect choice for Human Bomb, as his style typifies more than any of his contemporaries that of heroic classicism. His action is dynamic, but he never loses sight of the details — rendering everything from facial expressions to fence crosshatch and automobile structure down to every last delicate component. On first pass, I must admit that I found this equalization of detail in subject and background a bit overwhelming, not sure where to focus my attention. However, on subsequent re-read, I have come to appreciate the depth each panel offers, providing an immersive experience when so many comics can be flipped through in a matter of minutes.

It is important to note that Palmiotti and Gray take great pains to set this latest series in as close to the real world of today as possible in the DC Universe. While using sites such as New York’s Ground Zero and Afghanistan may be initially off-putting to some readers, I find their grounding of this newest story in such heart-wrenchingly real occurrences and environments to only add to the emotional highs of the story. And intellectually, seeing Uncle Sam reimagined as African-American signals a significant understanding of our changed political reality. This is no longer a DC Universe originated in the Great Depression. The newness of New 52 is on every page, but is balanced with a strong sense of what made super-heroes great in that Golden Age — doing the right thing just because it’s right. Easily the best start of all three Freedom Fighters launches, Human Bomb is exactly that great combination of modern concepts with classic storytelling traits, and above all is a book I’m eager to come back to next month.

Verdict: 8.5/10


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