REVIEW: Human Bomb #3 (of 4)

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Or – “BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!”

The Quality Comics stable of heroes have served DC well since they relaunched ‘em back in the 70s, but mostly as supporting characters or as a team of Freedom Fighters.  Now that the New 52 has The Ray, The Doll-Man, Phantom Lady and an Uncle Sam who looks like Samuel L. Jackson, we’re on our way for a revival of the team, ala Marvel’s ‘Ultimates.’  How has the Human Bomb’s first solo series treated the explosive Freedom Fighter?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

HumanBomb3CoverHUMAN BOMB #3
Writer(s): Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Artist: Jerry Ordway
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, on Human Bomb:  Michael Taylor is a former Marine, a man who returned home from war to try to rebuild a normal life.  Of course, he didn’t expect to be kidnapped by an alien race, genetically altered (albeit not with the frozen head of Vivian Vance) and turned into a human bomb, then brainwashed to be used as a living weapon.  Taylor has broken free of the mental control of the aliens, but has fallen in with a secret government squad intent on finding and destroying the creatures that gave him his powers…

I’M A BIT WEARY OF UNDERGROUND BLACK-OPS TEAMS…

We open where last issue left off, with H.B. and “Joan” (who seems to be a New 52 version of Joan “Miss America” Dale) in the middle of a mission to infiltrate and destroy the alien’s hidden base, full of innocents transformed into Human Bombs.  Jerry Ordway’s art is excellent, as always, and his rendition of the waves and waves of semi-human monsters attacking them is pretty cool, but the story feels awfully familiar.  With issue #1, I was somewhat leery of the whole “Iraq war veteran” plot point, given how many underwhelming 80s comics started with the phrase “a Vietnam veteran who…”  Nothing in this issue ever entirely puts that fear to rest, and the bland characterization of Michael is at least, in part, as bland as it is because the writers don’t want to put a soldier in a poor light.  The majority of this issue consists of fighty-fighty, including a cameo appearance (I think the first in the new reality) of Neon The Unknown, who is just as homogenous as Joan and Michael.  Then, ALIENS ATTACK!!!!

KINDA UNREMARKABLE, EXCEPT FOR THE ART.

The New 52 is now pushing 18 months of stories, and it seems as though there have been a LOT of “young hero learns the ropes of his new powers” tales in play, one of the pitfalls of a complete reboot.  By this point in time, I’ve seen issue after issue that feels just like this, from The Ray to the Blue Beetle to Firestorm (times two) and while I understand WHY it’s happening, I can’t get excited about reading it again here.  There seems to be a plan to build to a new Freedom Fighters title, with The Ray’s four issue mini (passable and visually interesting), The Phantom Lady’s mini featuring the Doll-Man (visually uninteresting and suffering from some serious Batman envy) and this book, which seems determined to take a kinda quirky 40s third-stringer (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and recast him as a generic tough-guy who blows things up.  The end of this issue has a moment that is as sheerly ridiculous as any goofy Golden Age tale I’ve ever read, as the Human Bomb and Joan are teleported somewhere, and she immediately cries out “We’re on a moon of Jupiter!”  Leaving aside issues of HOW she can tell that from her perspective, it’s a perfect example of the dullness of this issue’s “tell, don’t show” storytelling.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  NOT SETTING THE WORLD ON FIRE…

I’m kind of sad that my reception of this issue is as poor as it is, as I very much enjoy the work of all the creators involved, especially Ordway, but Gray & Palmiotti have done much better stuff than this in the pages of All-Star Western, Power Girl and such.  Human Bomb #3 is kind of a disappointment, but at least the art is good, and I hope that they don’t keep him in generic body armor throughout his whole career, earning a not-so-stellar 2 out of 5 stars overall.  I hope that this is just a one-time blip on the radar, and that we’ll get a full-speed Freedom Fighters revival made of pure awesome…

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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