Plastic Man #1 (February, 2004)
Written & Illustrated – Kyle Baker
Editor – Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $2.95
Here’s one that caught my eye while flipping through the ol’ library. Never was much of a Plastic Man fan… I know I watched the cartoon when I was younger, and sorta-kinda dug him as the oddball in the JLA, but never thought about reading his solo exploits. This issue comes from the tail-end of my stint as a DC completionist. I would grab one of everything they put out, regardless if I had any interest in the character(s). At the time I had a decent job, no real responsibilities, and my wallet must have just been too damn heavy to lug around (that has all since changed).
It’s quite interesting for me to revisit this point in my fandom, as back then I did not separate the wheat from the chaff. I just bought, and bought, and bought… even if I wasn’t really reading. I suppose I have something of an obsessive streak in me, which makes me an easy mark for most of the comics industries gimmicks and sales ploys. I also paid full price for all of my books… like I felt it was my civic duty to keep my local comic shops in business. Caring more about their bottom line than my own, I spent, and spent, and spent.
What a difference a recession makes, eh? Today we’re gonna find out if Plastic Man was worthy of my
hard-earned three bucks.
Down at the docks, a pair of mooks try and concoct a plan for their latest caper. They huddle around a curiously colored table and plan. One of the goofs spills a shaker of pepper all over the table… ultimately causing it to… sneeze? That’s right, it was not a table at all… it was the hero of this story, Plastic Man. The ne’er-do-wells empty their pistols at Plas, which proves to be as ineffective as one may imagine.
With the help of Woozy Wink’s backside Plas makes short work of these lugs, and hauls them off to the police station.
We get a brief look into Plastic Man’s current lifestyle, he is surrounded by pretty women and is considered a local hero. Even though everything seems great, he cannot shake feelings of loneliness that gnaw at him. As he goes to bed for the evening, he hopes he doesn’t dream.
Unfortunately for him (though fortunately for us) he does dream. As he lulls to sleep, his face contorts to that of Eel O’Brien, his former, more crooked self. He dreams how his transformation occurred. He was doing one last job, at the Crawford Chemical Works. He and his gang sought to loot their safes and make off with one last take.
A security guard happens by and attempts to chase Eel’s boys off. As they flee, O’Brien suffers a both gunshot wound in the shoulder and getting splashed with acid. He manages to get away, though his gang drives off without him. He struggles to maintain consciousness, however, his injuries prove too severe. He stumbles through a swamp, and rubbery-legged, collapses.
He wakes up at the Rest Haven Monastery, where a monk had nursed him back to health. It is here that Eel realizes that he’s “turned into plastic”. He sees this as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and perhaps use his new found powers for good.
Back in the present, Plas is shaken from his slumber by a ringing phone. It is the Police Chief, who informs him there’d been a homicide. Plas hops into the phone’s receiver and pops out the other end.
As they investigate the crime scene, erstwhile bum Woozy wanders in. He observes a wallet on the ground, and attempts to pocket it. Plas excitedly announces that Woozy has found a clue causing him to drop the wallet right into the hands of the Police Chief.
The Chief believes the wallet belongs to the murderer… and it just so happens to belong to one, Eel O’Brien.
This volume of Plastic Man just feels special. It’s unlike anything from its vintage. Remember wandering into an arcade or a bowling alley during the mid 1980’s? You’d see all the normal video game cabinets… then off on the periphery, you’d see Dragon’s Lair. Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man was the Dragon’s Lair of the mid-2000’s comic book shelf. It just demanded your attention… it was almost as though you were powerless against it. You may not have bought or played it (as the case may be)… but, if you saw it, you remembered it. It stuck with you.
In reading, it’s a fine story. A great introductory piece for Plastic Man and a bit of his supporting cast… okay, just Woozy Winks. The origin segment in this issue is inspired, and actually plays into the overall narrative of the piece. You actually begin to feel for Plas/Eel as he is seemingly haunted by his past. The cliffhanger is quite interesting, and makes you want to come back for the next issue. The opening bit was a little hokey, however, it served its purpose well.
The art? Are you kidding? This issue looks like a collection of animation cells… and makes it work beautifully! The art style is what makes this book special… it fits the character and concept almost perfectly. The only aesthetic complaint I have is in the book’s lettering. The lettering looks like a like a poorly calibrated typewriter… it kind of pulls me out of the story. I feel that a more traditional lettering style would have served this issue far better.
Is it worth checking out? Hell yeah. This series ran for 20 issues throughout the mid-aughts, and was a fun ride throughout. This issue was part of a collection, Plastic Man: On the Lam, and the entire series is available digitally at DC Digital. Definitely worth a look-see, even for just the novelty of the amazing art.
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This issue also featured a DC Focus (remember that?) Promotional insert