One of the most surprising books to come out of the New 52 first wave, RESURRECTION MAN was the – for lack of a better word – resurrection of the nineties comic series of the same name. It tells the revamped tale of a man named Mitch Shelley, the titular Resurrection Man, and his adventures as an individual who can return from death with a new superpower each time he is killed.
But was it any good?
The answer of course is a resounding yes. If you’re in the right mood.
When this series began, DC started collecting the old series in trade paperback form. And while the new series didn’t continue on from the old one – we’re building from step one here within the new continuity – knowledge of that previous run would be good for understanding some of the details from a thematic standpoint. This here was basically a condensed version of that previous series, so not everything from the old one had time to come across here.
First order of business, the Tektites.
These are just nanomachines with a different name, capable of conferring a form of immortality on the one with them. But as is stated in this series as in the previous one, Tektites work differently on different people. The main character Mitch Shelley gained the ability to come back from the dead – though if I understand it correctly his superpowers, both old series and new, were something independent of the Tektites. Old series made it so he reincarnated with new powers over the course of history, and the Tektites just allowed this to go on faster and in the same body. New series was perhaps implying it was him coming back over and over that “polished” his soul, and that was what gave him power.
Then you had the two other major sets from the old series. The Body Doubles, two female assassins, received advanced healing. And Hooker, the closest thing to a nemesis Mitch had (old and new alike) was functionally immortal, but couldn’t repair damage to his body. The only issue of the old series I own depicts Hooker as an insane talking skull by virtue of having the rest of his body destroyed. Makes me sad, in fact, since this series didn’t have a chance to get that far with hooker. He just gets killed in issue twelve, and that’s the end of the matter.
Besides not being able to throw any number of supernatural beings at Shelley – in the end only Heaven and Hell got representation in the reach for his soul (kind of like America’s bipartisan system) – the biggest thing this series never got a chance to explain was that freaky alien thing that attacked the evil Mitch Shelley. If you read the previous Weekly Pull, you’d know Mitch was an amoral military contractor researching the Tektites, and that he was attacked by a green-suited thing of unexplained origin that nearly killed him and injected him with the Tektites in the first place. We won’t get to find out who that was. Not now.
It could be worse, though. It could be like OMAC which had five fewer issues to explore its planned story. Though I’ll actually be getting back to that later.
RESURRECTION MAN for all things considered got a great run for thirteen issues. It could get Shelley out into the DC universe on a good start, let him have a few adventures (and a crossover with the Suicide Squad), pair him with a potential love interest, and wrap up his backstory in a meaningful way. Remember OMAC, and how it only got one issue out of nowhere to tie up its narrative? Resurrection Man got to have a (still somewhat rushed) sendoff, with plenty of room for later appearances. That’s something I like about DC’s work these days: yes, they’re ending series soon as it’s obvious they’re not selling, but they don’t drop the characters off a cliff and forget they exist. Remember Mister Terrific? He’s over on Earth 2 right now, and is going to join the JSA!
So what did I mean when I said this was great if you’re in the right mood? Well, it’s kind of like the best aspects of the nineties brought back and allowed to be themselves. None of that over-muscled, scowling crap. And while the main character is thematically morbid, he’s not an anti-hero. He’s a regular old hero, if a hero whose failure conditions do not include dying. If anything, dying is helpful, which meant the writers could twist the story on its head. Suddenly the villains want nothing more than to not kill him, and the main ones had every reason to want to bring him in alive.
There was intrigue, since Shelley was an amnesiac – a solidly used example by the way – and he couldn’t trust anyone, even himself. Those around him were even interesting and likable in their own ways. We had psychotic gun-toting women, friendly aged supervillains, and a guy who wants to experiment on the hero because he wants to die. Oh, and a woman who knew Shelley better than he knew himself, and could help him with her psychic powers.
Oh right, there’s another plot thread we’ll never see resolved. Is that micro-bomb in Ribecki’s head placed by Amanda Waller ever going to come into play? Probably not.
This series was serious when it needed to be – tragic even – and funny when it didn’t. It showed levels of conflict from criminal violence to a war between angels and demons. It killed the protagonist off in varied ways, and brought him back with cool powers that he used in intelligent ways. And all those ways were bent towards doing good in the world. The hero did heroic things, and didn’t apologize for it.
Because the last thing we need are more “heroes” beating the crap out of one another. Marvel does that enough every summer to supply the quota for the entire industry.
So when the trades come out for this series, should you buy it? Absolutely. It’s some of the best fun I’ve had all year. And it’s a decent alternative if you’re interested in the superhero genre, but either don’t like guys like Superman et al. or don’t like what DC has been doing to Superman et al. Or if you want to go back to a time when comics didn’t take themselves so seriously. Or if you find the idea of a man being killed over and over appealing. And I honestly don’t know if that says more about you or me for trying to sell you on this series.
RESURRECTION MAN, everyone. It’s good. Read it.