Friday, February 16, 2018

Chase #1 (1998)

Chase #1 (February, 1998)
"Baptized in Fire"
Story - D. Curtis Johnson
Penciller - J.H. Williams III
Inker - Mick Gray
Colors/Separations - Lee Loughridge
Lettering - Comicraft
Associate Editor - Dana Kurtin
Editor - Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50

I don't want to alarm anyone... but, you might want to be careful with how you handle this humble blog today... because, we got some Collectible Cards included, bay-bee!  Make sure not to bend the blog!  Better yet, just get this one slabbed.

To be serious for a moment... today we're reading a very special book.  One that I only recently got my hands on.  Ya see, I kinda read Chase backwards (heck, we've even covered an issue here!)... not because I couldn't find the first issue, or for any "real" reason... I just never picked it up, because every time I saw it I thought I already had it!

I'd even passed up on it in a Half-Price Books dime bin a few years back!  Also in that bin... complete runs of Hex and Scare Tactics.  I should've just taken the entire box!  Sad but true, that keeps me awake some nights.

Oh well, enough of my psychosis... let's "officially" meet Cameron Chase.


We open in Daily, Ohio (which I'm not sure is a real place... apologies to any and all "actual" Dailians out there).  It's 8 am, and school is in session.  It's here that we meet a little nerdy kid named Jerry who, if not for the protruding proboscis could very well have been me.  Anyhoo, he's crushing hard on a classmate named Amy... whose boyfriend Chad (they're always named "Chad", aren't they?) catches him sneakin' a peek... and so, heads over to "feed him some table".  Unfortunately for ol' Chadwick, this is the moment where young Jerry's Meta-Gene comes active!

We shift scenes to New York City, where new DEO Agent Cameron Chase is running late for her first day on the job.  I guess things like "traffic" and "rush hour" are alien concepts to her.  Overhead, she sees Kyle Rayner flying around... and is nonplussed.  Just another day in the big city.

She finally arrives at the Department of Extra-Normal Operations building and heads inside, ready to make the most of her day.  Once inside, she is guided to her office, where she plans to meet with the Director of the DEO.  Instead, she runs into Field Personnel Manager, Sandy Barrett.  She's informed about the odd goings' on in Ohio... and before we know it, she's swept onto a Dayton-bound plane.

While in the air, Cameron looks over some information Sandy brought.  It's some pretty interesting stuff... it shows that the DEO is working with schools, altering tests in order to suss out who might have a Meta-Gene.  This is starting to feel a little X-Menny.  Get used to that...

The ladies arrive at Daily Junior High, where they are given the quick and dirty on the day's event.  They produce the list... and ask a Sheriff if anyone on it has gone missing.  Well, asamattafact, a certain Jerry Harris has flown the coop.  Cam looks over the scene, and is able to deduce that Jerry is very likely a pyrokinetic... which, I mean... everything's burnt and in ashes, so that's not really much of a leap.

From here, Chase and Barrett conduct some... pretty natural and entertaining interviews with Jerry's classmates.  This is a really well done (pun!) bit.  We learn here that Chad survived the blast... but is in a really bad way.  He's blinded and suffering third degree burns.

That night, Jerry Harris is found.  Chase and Barrett accompany the police... causing Jerry to "light up" again.  Cameron lines up her shot... hoping that she won't have to pull the trigger.  Jerry explodes one of the cars and attempts to flee... however, falls into a nearby pond.  Whoops... that ain't gonna keep ya lit, kid!

From here, Jerry is taken into custody.  Cam chats him up a bit, and makes him an offer he can't refuse.  They plan to send him somewhere where he can hone his newfound abilities.  Those X-Men pangs shifting into X-Factor ones?  Yup, me too.  Hell, Jerry even has a similar power to Rusty Collins from X-Factor #1!  Anyhoo, Jerry's totally on board... after all, if he becomes a superhero, whatsherface would have to notice him!

The kid is taken back to his cell, leaving Chase to talk to Barrett about how messed up she thinks everything is.  She doesn't feel it's a good idea to "reward" a kid who nearly killed his entire school with the promise of becoming a superhero.  Barrett has a more grounded perspective... the kid's got powers, would we rather he grow up to be one of the good guys... or one of the bad guys?

Barrett heads into the next room to talk to Jerry's folks... leaving Cam behind to give a call to her boyfriend.  He's still in California and hasn't made the cross-country move just yet.  She fills him in on her day... and suggests that she feels a measure of responsibility for what's happened.

Later that night, some torch and pitchfork wielding Ohioans surround the station.  Looks like Chad didn't make it... and they're wanting to take it out of Jerry in trade.  The prison guard... really isn't much help.  He intends to allow the mob inside to do whatever they'd like to the kid!  This causes Jerry to "light up"... which causes ol' Barney Fife to fire a shot into the kid's shoulder!

This doesn't stop Jerry though... and he runs off into the night.  Nearby, Cameron sees the kid attempting to flee, and she gives chase (pun!).  When she catches up to him, he lashes out... leaping toward her.

Then... something... happens.  Before he can attack, his flame is extinguished.  It's as though Cameron Chase was able to cancel out his powers... hmm...

We wrap up with Barrett giving Chase her due.  It's been one heckuva first day on the job.


Now, this is one of those books that seems to be universally praised... and that almost always raises a red flag for me.  The internet "hivemind" is one of those things I've grown to... I dunno, accept.  Apropos of nothing... this week I reacquainted myself with the Comicbook Roundup website... kind of a meta-critic collection and aggregate of review scores.  I was quite taken aback by the amount of Perfect 10 scores there are in the world.  Damn near every book on that site has at least one 10/10 score.

Makes me wonder... if everything gets a "10", what's the point of reviewing anything?  I mean, that "Perfect 10" bookshelf used to be pretty sparse... it only had the best of the best on it.  Now, it's... I dunno Watchmen... maybe Crisis... and Squirrel Girl (vol.3) #4.  Yeesh.  Really makes you stop believing in anything.  I get that giving high scores ingratiates us to the publishers... but have some integrity.  Keep in mind, this is coming from a guy who has been taken to task several times over for being "too positive" on this very blog.

Ahem... apologies for the detour/rant there... but, I said all of that, so I could say this... sometimes the hivemind is right.  Chase is a wonderful book... and I've enjoyed every issue that I've read of it.  Is it a book that was cancelled too soon?  Perhaps... or maybe not.  "Leaving them wanting more" isn't a bad way to go out, right?

Now for the issue itself... this was a great way to introduce us to our main character.  She's very much our point of view character here... which is to say, it's as though we're seeing everything through her eyes.  Much as this is her first day with the DEO... it's ours' too!

Information is given out in drips and drabs... and we're learning everything along with Cameron.  Schools altering tests to find potential Metas?  We get to react to that with Cam.  Learning about the "deals" the DEO cuts with young Metas?  We get to experience that reaction as well.  We see that not everything is so cut-and-dry... and have to make our own moral concessions.  It's really quite well done.

I really enjoyed the classmate interview scene.  Very natural reaction from the kids.  Amy is kind of grossed out by Jerry's crush... that other kid is more interested in how long school's gonna be out than the well-being of Chad.  This page really stood out to me as something special.

I made a few references/comparisons to the X-Men during the synopsis in regard to metagenes activating.  I want to be clear, I don't see that as a negative... I'm just surprised it's something I never actually "connected the dots" on before now.  It seems so obvious... though in fairness, I can also be particularly dense at times.

I don't think DC went as far with the "feared and hated" angle as Marvel did... which is, to my mind, a good thing.  It really shows how different the cultures are between the universes.  Marvel has always been more cynical... where DC's heroes are often propped up as examples.  Neither are right or wrong, or better or worse... there's room for both, it just depends on what kind of story you're looking for.

Gotta mention the art.  Really great stuff... and thankfully this issue hit after the industry's (relatively) brief flirtation with super-shiny, super-blistery glossy 1990's paper.  The "science" just wasn't there yet.  Man, that era produced some ugly books!

Overall... a wonderful book, well worth your time tracking down.  The entire series has been collected, and is available digitally (this issue is listed for just 99 pennies!).  Is it a 10/10?  Well... no, but they can't all be... or, can they?


Collectible Cards! (print 'em out... trade 'em with your friends!)


(Not the) Letters Page:


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