23 December 2016

DC's 2011-12 My Greatest Adventure Revival: A Brief Return into Space

The original My Greatest Adventure was an anthology comic from DC that ran for 85 issues, from 1955 to 1964. In issue #80, the Doom Patrol (a group of superpowered misfits) became the focus of the book, and with issue #86 the book was retitled Doom Patrol. The Doom Patrol book lasted until #124, and the book's been revived many times since. My Greatest Adventure, however, remained moribund from 1964 until 2011, when it was brought back as a six-issue follow-up to Weird Worlds. Like Weird Worlds, each issue of My Greatest Adventure contains ten pages apiece of three features. Garbage Man and Tanga return from Weird Worlds, while My Greatest Adventure replaces Lobo with Robotman, who was in fact one of the original members of the Doom Patrol back in 1963.

Like with Weird Worlds, I'm reading it as part of my mission to read all of DC's non-Green Lantern space comics, as Tanga takes place in space.

Robotman (written by Matt Kindt, art by Scott Kolins, colors by Mike Atiyeh, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)

I've never read a Doom Patrol comic, so I don't know what here is preexisting and what is new by Matt Kindt. Kindt depicts a Robotman who's left the Doom Patrol and set himself as a sort of high-tech troubleshooter. Robotman was created when a daredevil's body was destroyed in an attempt to set a new landspeed record, and nanites created a robot body for his brain; his assistant is same woman assigned to him for the landspeed record attempt by the mysterious U.N.R.E.A.S.O.N. organization, who feels responsible for his accident.

Kindt flirts with interesting ideas here: mind/body dualism seems to drive his take on the character of Robotman, whose body must obey Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, but whose mind is under no such obligation. But I don't think the story ever did much with that concept. In this story, he investigates creatures created by the same nanites that created him, and returns to the island of his accident. Part six doles out some interesting revelations-- but by then the story's over! So it's oddly paced, especially given that part six's big revelations are mostly given by Robotman in narration, not in actual dialogue. Less time on the giant monster fights in earlier installments could have balanced this one out a bit better.

That said, I'm falling in love with Scott Kolins as an artist, having recently encountered his work on The Flash with Geoff Johns a couple times. He draws a great Robotman (Robotman's form can change as the nanites rebuild him to suit his current situation), amazing Kirbyesque monsters, realistic-looking but attractive human beings (I really liked the appearance of Robotman's human assistant), and ornate-but-eminently-readable layouts. This feature had the best art in a book of good artists doing excellent work.

from My Greatest Adventure vol. 2 #4

Garbage Man (story and pencils by Aaron Lopresti, inks by Matt Ryan, colors by John Kalisz, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)

This continues the story begun in Weird Worlds, with Garbage Man returning to Gotham to investigate the crooked law firm that had him bumped off, seek revenge, reunite with his old flame, fight with Batman, and battle mysterious monsters in the sewers. I guess you can't say that Aaron Lopresti doesn't pack it into his ten-page installments! The premise clicked a bit better for me here than it did in the first six parts; I like the idea of the scumbag high-powered lawyer becoming the protector of Gotham's homeless. The pacing was better in this half of the story, too, and I was so sure there was going to be a certain twist I ended up surprised by the lack of one.

Lopresti's unity of art and story continue to impress, though the whole thing still seems to be a bit too much Swamp Thing; the "twist" that does happen is one that Alan Moore did with Swamp Thing back in the 1980s! The end sets us up to expect more adventures for Garbage Man, but to my knowledge, this was the character's final appearance.

Tanga (story and art by Kevin Maguire, colors by Rosemary Cheetham, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)

Similarly, this story was the last appearance of Kevin Maguire's free-spiriting space adventurer Tanga, even though the story ends with her flying off into space for more hijinks and also indicates there's some mysteries behind the character.

Like with Garbage Man, this half of the story hangs together better than the half in Weird Worlds, as the secret of Za is revealed. I'm not so keen on making female characters overcome sexual threats to prove themselves-- it seems very limiting-- but other than that I enjoyed this. Maguire always does great stuff with facial expressions, and an outraged Tanga gives him a lot to play with. The events of the last part were very good, too, being a lot more downbeat than I expected, and giving some tragedy to the otherwise exuberant Tanga. It seems like it would be easy to work Tanga in as a guest star in another space-based book even if she's not going to get her own feature again, but then again, I suppose there haven't been very many DC space heroes books post-Flashpoint that she could appear in.

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