Damage #1 (April, 1994)
Writer – Tom Joyner
Penciller – Bill Marimon
Inker – Tom McWeeny
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Buzz Setzer
Assistant Editor – Chris Duffy
Editors – Archie Goodwin & Jim Spivey
Special Thanks – Bill Kaplan
Cover Price: $1.75
Well, well well… figure it’s about time I stop dragging my feet and see what this “New Age of Heroes” is all about.
Whattaya mean, “wrong Damage”? You mean to tell me there’s more than one series with that title? What is the world coming to?
We open with our man Damage in his superhero togs… but that’s not where we’re starting. We’re actually going to jump back one day prior… to Grant Emerson’s first day at Nathan B. Forrest High School in Marietta, Georgia. Which… wow, that’s a pretty unfortunate name, ain’t it? A bit of Google-fu learns us that Nathan B. Forrest was not only a Confederate General… but the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan! Ay yai yai. Anyhoo, upon introduction to Grant, we learn that his family moves a lot… and so, he now lives by a few (simple) rules for fitting in.
He immediately breaks Rule #2 (make friends, not enemies) by out-racing Brad Fetter, the Big Man on Campus (this surprises even him). Then, he breaks Rule #3 (don’t even think about girls) when he sees some sweet thing named Mandra (not Mandy) sitting in the stands. For competionist’s sake, Rule #1 (go out for a team) is the only rule he’s followed so far.
After school, Grant tries to make a bit of time with Mandra (not Mandy)… and it would appear that she’s at least somewhat into him. Yeah, Rule #3 didn’t stand a chance. He walks her over to her sister’s car… and as they pull away, our man is confronted by Fetter and the boyz. Before things can become too heated the Coach pops his head outside and tells them all to “move along”. Angry, Grant punches the hood of a nearby car… and destroys the thing!
At home, Grant breaks Rule #4 (never tell your parents anything), when he… well, tells his parents everything. They assure him that he’s overreacting… and there’s no possible way he destroyed a car with his fists. Grant throws a bit of a tantrum, and punches the wall… and, surprisingly… doesn’t destroy it!
He’s grounded to his room for the night for this display. Outside, his “folks” claim that he won’t be their problem anymore tomorrow… and his “dad” makes a call to report that Subject Telemachus has become “active”. Telemachus, if you’re wondering, was a character in Homer’s Odyssey. Worth mentioning, Grant has a pretty sweet Wizard Magazine calendar in his room!
We jump ahead to the following day, where… while sitting in (third period) American History class, Grant is attacked by… Metallo?! Man, Metallo’s so swollen it looks like he fell into a beehive or something.
Grant manages to push his new schoolmates to safety before getting BAFOOMed out of the building by a wild punch. Grant lands on the other side of the campus… and is shocked to find that he’s A) still alive, and B) no worse for wear.
Metallo joins him, and the fight continues. All the while, it feels like Metallo is trying to reason with the boy… insisting that it’s “just business” (and maintaining his reputation). He still plans on killing the lad, but he seems to really want him (and us) to know that he isn’t getting much pleasure out of it. He then punches Grant into a school bus.
That bus must’ve had one of them Altered Beast “power-up” orbs in it, because when Grant emerges, he has inflated a great deal! He actually picks up the busted bus and hurls it in Metallo’s direction!
The fight continues. Just when all hope seems to be lost, Grant musters all of his energy into a single punch.
And it is a doozy! So big, it causes him to not break Rule #5 (never be afraid to make a name for yourself). Well, just like Meatloaf said… two outta five ain’t bad!
Turns out this spectacle has really freaked everybody out… and, duh… it totally should’ve! Well… that’s not completely true, our new love interest Mandra (not Mandy) seems genuinely interested in seeing how her new friend is. He pushes her away and runs off into the nigh… er, afternoon… fearful that he might accidentally hurt her.
We wrap up with Grant arriving at home… where he is greeted by some… oi, awful looking characters.
Heyyy, this was more fun than I expected! Definitely not something that would’ve “moved my needle” back in 1994… but, there’s some perfectly decent “coming of age” teen-superheroics here.
The way we were introduced to Grant was pretty cool. I like the idea of an outsider trying so hard to fit in… or fly under the radar, that he’d actually made himself a list of “rules”. Whether or not he actually followed them is immaterial… he’s a kid, he’s not supposed to. I do appreciate that he seems to feel that he’s the only person he can count on… that might serve him well as the series progresses. We’re not going to go into the Devin Grayson-era Titans reveal about him… because… well, that would make for a far-longer post than I’m interested in writing today.
It feels like we’re going the “shadowy organization” route… which, is… ya know, played out. I’m sure it was even played out back in 1994. There’re are only so many “Department H’s” we can be introduced to before we completely lose interest, right? I suppose it facilitates the story… so, we gotta allow it. Just wish we could put a moratorium on that sorta thing… like, forever. There’ve got to be other ways to launch a superhero book… right?
The use of Metallo is pretty smart… it really allowed Grant to go “full damage” without actually killing a flesh and blood human. Not that Metallo’s actually dead… but for all intents and purposes, I think we’re supposed to think he is. Hell, maybe he was supposed to be dead… this was the mid-90’s after all, nothing was really sacred!
The art here feels like Marimon doesn’t want to fully commit to the 90’s style. There are some really nice pages here… and the work only seems to suffer when a given panel is full of 90s-ness (like that last page). I really do hate referring to things “by decade”… it just feels so lazy and dismissive… but sometimes, that’s all we’ve got!
Overall… I dug this! I think many’a comics fan would dig it too. Can’t yet compare it with the new Damage, as I haven’t read that book yet… I couldn’t even say if there were any sort of link, though I very much doubt it. Surprisingly, this is available digitally! I figured it wouldn’t be so folks wouldn’t get as confused as I’m pretending to be. Either way… it’s pretty fun, not likely to rock your socks… but there’s a good time to be had here.
(Not the) Letters Page: