Graphic Detail: Resurrection Man Volume 1
Graphic Detail takes an in-depth look at a new graphic novel or trade paperback released each week.
"Here's all I know. My name is Mitch. Mitch something. I've been living rough for as long as I can remember. Which isn't very long at all. And today, ten seconds before the end of my life, I found out I could fly."
So opens Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Butch Guice's Resurrection Man volume 1, a collection of the first half of a comic series that was originally published from 1997-1999. This character's been out of the spotlight for quite awhile, but with his being given a series as part of DC's line-wide relaunch last year, it probably seemed like as good a time as any to reprint the first batch of his stories for a new generation of readers. Since this volume contains the very first appearance of the character, then, new readers have nothing to fear; going into this book, knowledge of either the new or the old series won't really help you.
So what's this story about? Well the book starts off with our homeless hero, Mitch something (aka Mitch Shelley), getting caught up in some gang war crossfire. He dies on the second page, and on the fourth page he learns something pretty important: he actually can't be permanently killed. It takes him a bit longer to figure out the even cooler part—every time he comes back to life, he does so with a different super power. He never knows what it's going to be and sometimes he has to undergo some trial and error to figure out how to use it. This book gives him both pretty standard powers (flight, heat blasts, armored skin) and pretty inventive ones (channeling emotion, being "at one with the cosmos," turning into a flaming skeleton). And in case you're wondering if there's a scene where he dies over and over again to make sure he comes back with a cool power—yes, there is.
Resurrection Man's got a great concept behind it, and the story delivers as well. Throughout the 14 chapters collected here, Mitch Shelley's on a mission to piece together his past. Why's he homeless? How did he come upon such a weird super power? Why is everybody trying to kill him? Shelley's a valuable commodity, it turns out, and a lot of people want him dead or in their custody. That means this book ends up having a pretty great cast of villains that range from his nasty ex-wife to a couple of stripper bounty hunters obsessed with UFOs and celebrities to his darker half, a man named Hooker who can't die but doesn't really resurrect either… he just plows through whatever injuries he sustains, no matter how they damage his actual body. While these folks track Mitch down, Mitch slowly rebuilds his life. Along the way, he stops and helps people who need it to make up for some of his own past sins. It actually feels a lot like a TV show; each week, he's got a different person to help with his powers, while a "season-long" arc stretches through the whole book that ties everything together.
While the story of Resurrection Man is surprisingly sophisticated, the book definitely feels dated on the art front. That's due mostly to Carla Feeny's super-90s coloring, a relic of a time when the palette for comic books was very… unsubtle. It's not bad, but it definitely doesn't look like a book you'd pick up today. The actual pencils are good, though, and flashbacks tend to switch to a sepiatone look that feels very artsy and tasteful. There are a few other decade-old hiccups to deal with in this book—in one chapter Superman shows up, and for some reason he's blue and electric—but for the most part this book reads like very modern suspense fiction. One could argue it's actually even more satisfying than the current Resurrection Man series at DC, which is written by the same guys.
If you were around and reading comics in the '90s, it's very possible Resurrection Man flew under your radar—he was a new character with a creative team that still hadn't really broken out. If you weren't around, you maybe have never even heard of this guy. But 15 years later, this first volume of Resurrection Man is a real joy to read. It's got interesting characters, compelling situations and a really unique use of super powers. It really does feel like a TV show, which is not a bad plotting model for monthly comics to adopt. If you kinda like superheroes but are looking for something just a little different from the norm, this book comes highly recommended. A-
Which super power do you want to see in Resurrection Man?