Comet #1 (1991)

The Comet #1 (July, 1991)
“First Flight”
Story/Art – Tom Lyle
Script – Mark Waid
Colorist – Tom Ziuko
Letterer – Tim Harkins
Editor – Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $1.00

I’ve never really sat down to read through the !mpact Comics books I’ve (somehow) come into possession of.  Seems like a lotta folks my age have a stack of these, and I’m no different.  Haven’t the foggiest idea how and why I have them… but I do!

I remember when they were first announced, I was mildly interested… after all, they were bound to launch with “valuable” #1’s!  When they actually hit the shelves… I dunno.  I took one look at them, and thought they seemed… for lack of a better term, cheap (plus, they weren’t part of actual DC continuity… which was apparently something that bugged me even as a kid!).  I still thought the characters looked cool… especially the Fly, but not enough for me to actually plunk down my buck… after all, there were X-Men just beggin’ to be bought.

So, after a… ay yai yai, quarter-century… I’m finally going to give this line a shot.

*Note, the blogger label I’m going to use for !mpact comics is just going to be impact comics to avoid confusion/to assuage my (questionable) sanity.

We open with our man the Comet preparing for his first case at St. Helen’s University… which, is kiiiiinda underwhelming.  What we’ve got is a quartet of geeks (calling themselves the “Tech Wizards” who really aren’t ready for prime-time.  Their flustered back-and-forth is rather humorous… you can tell they’re just not up for this, it’s almost endearing.  Comet waits for them to break-and-enter before swooping in to dazzle them with his superheroic prowess.  They take a few shots… 

… but they’re not all that successful, or is that… not successful at all?  Comet snags one named Charles, who from the looks of it, is attempting to affect an olde-English accent… “verily”.  Comet tells him to cut it out with the purple prose, and snatches the disk the geeks were trying to swipe.  Of note, he takes a look some of their weaponized inventions and suggests that they’re wasting their talents on petty theft… which is true!

The police show up, and Comet introduces himself while handing over the reclaimed loot, and learns that it’s… a computer game?!  Ay yai yai.  Our man muffles some laughter while ingratiating himself to an officer.  It’s funny, the cop immediately accepts him as an ally… seems almost adorably naive, but it’s neither here nor there.  Comet asks how they found them so quickly, and is advised that the serial-slasher Applejack has struck again right across the campus… this time his victim is a girl named Vicki.  Comet is immediately concerned, as that’s his girlfriend’s name.  Luckily (for him), it’s a different Vicki.  His Victoria (Johnson) is currently reporting on the tragic event KNOQ News.

And so, we shift to Ms. Johnson.  After delivering the report and the cameras turn off, she asks her detective friend Ben if he can share some more information about Applejack… ya know, “off the record”.  He says no… but does anyway.  Well, at least he tried to keep confidential information… confidential.  We learn that Applejack has a sort of macabre “calling card”, wherein he leaves a note next to the victim… written on skin!  Upon seeing the handwriting, Victoria produces a note that had been left for her, from someone claiming to be Applejack.  Looks like somebody’s got a crush…

We rejoin Comet as he flies over Evergreen, Washington… luckily he’s feeling nostalgic because it provides him the impetus and opportunity to recall the events of his super-hero origin!  Picture it, Alaska… I dunno, a little while ago… Rob (the soon-to-be Comet) arrives at his parents’ research facility.  He plans to break the news that he’ll be leaving Alaska in order to try out for the Quintook Mariners, a Triple-A ball club.  Unfortunately he doesn’t get the opportunity, as his parents are nowhere to be found, and the place has been left in shambles.

Rob checks the entire area for signs of his folks, without finding diddly squat.  He tries to radio out, but there’s no signal… and so, he decides to climb up a radio tower to futz with the satellites… at which time, it explodes!

When he comes to, he finds himself trapped under the twisted steel of the radio tower.  Attempting to push it off his person, he begins to panic… which somehow triggers his new kinetic blasty super powers!

Freed from the wreckage and after a “test flight”, Rob accidentally causes another explosion.  Later, the authorities arrive… however, they seem more interested in what Rob’s parents were researching, and less with the fact that they appear to have been abducted!

Once the interrogation wraps up, Mark decides to fly back to Evergreen to try and wrap his head around this strange event.  His first stop is his girlfriend Victoria’s place.  She’s upset that he has been gone for ten weeks and never wrote her once… which confuses him, as he’d sent letters every week.  Hmm.  Anyhoo, they have a brief and somewhat uncomfortable chat, during which Rob sorta hints that he’d like to stay with her… but she shoots him down.

And so, Rob heads… home?  I thought he needed a place to stay… didn’t expect him to have a giant empty house he could use.  While home he reads up on the Applejack murders… and decides, hey… I should maybe do something about him.  And so, the next day he heads back to Victoria’s to a) apologize, and b) announce his intentions.

She is, understandably incredulous… and so, he decides to show her his all-new powers.  She is, understandably freaked-out… but they’re able to power through.

We shift to later that night, with Victoria in bed.  Her phone rings… and the machine gets it.  It’s Detective Ben, and he is calling to tell her that in light of the Applejack note she’d received, the PD has set her up with two patrolmen to keep a watch on her place.  At that very moment, someone enters the room and leaves… another note.

We jump ahead to the next day’s news program.  Victoria reports that the two patrolmen watching her home… were killed!  Oh, and some nut left her another note.  Well, to be fair… she refers to Applejack as a “twisted menace”.

… and, speak of the devil… it turns out that this news report is being watched by… Appleja– eh?  Waitasec, this is Applejack?!  Bwah-ha-ha-ha… what a goofball!  I’m sorry, this dude looks ridiculous.  Anyhoo, that’s a wrap!

This was pretty good!

I’m surprised I dug this so much… it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, though I can’t put into words exactly what I was expecting.  I dunno, I guess I just expected it to feel kinda flimsy and dated before its time… but it didn’t!

During my initial flip through, just from looks alone it felt like a Marvel comic… no big surprise considering the Tom Lyle art.  I’ve always dug his work, so that was a welcome sight.  It wasn’t much of a surprise to see Mark Waid listed as scripter, as I recall him being a part of the (semi) recent Red Circle relaunch over at Archie Comics… but, again… another welcome sight!

The story we get here is quite well told.  It’s always something of a challenge (re)introducing an established character to new or lapsed eyes.  It’s a fine line between going with 22 pages of origin retelling/revamping… or attempting to intermingle an actual present-day narrative, while providing at least a passing mention of how our hero became… a hero.

What we get here is a great introduction… followed by some reflective exposition… then a cliffhanger ending that kinda pulls it all together… all peppered with breadcrumbs for future revelations.  Great!  I think there were some convenient facilitators in the mix… like Rob deciding to take on Applejack out of nowhere, but no biggie, it moves the story along.

I think if I were to pick a single nit… hoo boy, Applejack looks ri-damn-diculous.  I mean, woof.  I was expecting like a play on Jack the Ripper… not a dude carrying a spooky staff and wearing a noose for a tie.  He might as well be wearing a shirt that says “EVIL”.  Now, to be fair… we do learn that Applejack was a slasher from a century ago, who was hung back in 1898… so, I think we can assume that some of his “fashion sense” is in tribute to the original… or, perhaps he’s possessed or something.  Either way though… he just looks silly.  The rest of the characters, and The Comet especially, look pretty great though.

Worth checking out?  Sure, I’d say so.  It’s a comfortable read with storytelling that feels like a mixture of 1980’s Marvel and DC, and I think a lot of folks would enjoy it.  Am I motivated to continue a read-through?  Well, I’m motivated to fill in the holes I have in the line and give it a fair shot, so… yeah, I guess so!  From the looks of it, this has not been collected and doesn’t appear to be available digitally… so it’s single issues (not floppies) only.  Luckily, the !mpact line is a cheap-o bin staple, and this shouldn’t be terribly difficult to stumble across.

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