DC's answer to the Fantastic Four begins not with a bang, but with a "coming together" story superhero fans have seen too many times before.
The Terrifics is arguably the flagship of DC's "New Age of Heroes" line, a new comics imprint created by DC to put the spotlight back on artists and introduce new characters to the DC universe. Written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Ivan Reis (although both are credited as "storytellers" in the book's credits), The Terrifics is one of the few "New Age of Heroes" books to feature established DC characters, albeit ones not recently featured in DC books.
In addition, The Terrifics was seen by many to be a direct shot at Marvel, as its characters all roughly coincide with a member of the Fantastic Four, a team that Marvel benched at the end of its "Secret Wars" event allegedly due to declining sales and Marvel not holding the team's movie rights. Mr. Terrific is a stand-in for Mr. Fantastic, the genius leader of the team. Metamorpho is the Thing, a gentle-hearted man transformed into a monster. Phantom Girl is the Invisible Woman, because they... both have somewhat adjacent powers and are the sole women on the team. And Plastic Man is the Human Torch albeit with Mr. Fantastic's powers, the resident joker with super-stretchy powers.
The Terrifics can be seen as a chance to read Jeff Lemire's take on the Fantastic Four, a superhero group that Lemire should excel at due to its forays into weird super-science and melancholic interpersonal relationships. But while we get a couple of weird super-science moments in the issue, but it feels a bit bland due to it going through the standard paces of showing how the team comes together and establishing its (very, very direct) ties to DC's ongoing Dark Nights: Metal event. It's unfortunately mundane and standard superhero fare, not necessarily bad, but uninspired and a bit too on the nose. Outside of a controversial last-page twist, The Terrifics doesn't stand out at all in terms of plot, largely because the comic has to spend so many pages setting up its core premise.
The strength of this issue is definitely Ivan Reis' art -- easily his finest work since 2015's Multiversity. His artwork gives The Terrifics an air of importance and legitimacy as well as offering readers something to latch onto as the book goes through the motions of explaining why the characters have come together and how the book ties into the larger DC Universe.
Reis does a magnificent job of capturing tons of emotion in his characters, especially the buffoonish Plastic Man. In the hands of a lesser artist, Plastic Man's expressions are too often overreactions for the sake of comedy. However, Reis manages to capture Plastic Man's distrust, betrayal, and confusion while also retaining some of his trademark goofiness. If The Terrifics doesn't have a lengthy shelf life, I hope that DC considers putting Reis on a Plastic Man book, because it's legitimately a pleasure to watch him stretch and mold the character in unexpected ways.
Another way Reis prevents The Terrifics from falling into standard first-issue territory is how effortlessly the book switches between tense arguments to "Holy Smokes, will you look at that!" moments without any disruption in storytelling or style. There is a lot of explaining and arguing in this issue between big and weird moments, but Reis's art mostly stays consistent through the entire issue. There are a couple of small hiccups -- Reis has some serious problems drawing Phantom Girl's arms for some reason -- but overall, you're going to get your money's worth just on art alone.
The final "twist" would have a lot more impact if DC hadn't already spoiled it months in advance. While the inclusion of an Alan Moore character is intriguing on some level, it does push The Terrifics into a greater discussion about creators rights that the book's creators might have wanted to avoid. Those who take issue with how Alan Moore has been treated by DC will want to avoid this book, and I question why the creative team felt it was necessary to drag The Terrifics into an already heated topic.
All in all, The Terrifics #1 won't win any awards for best issue of the year, but it does lay a solid enough foundation for what could be a fun story. Here's to hoping that it does a little less setup and leans into the strange and mysterious a bit more in its next issue.
Published by DC Comics
On February 28, 2018
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Ivan Reis
Colors by Marcelo Maiolo