Who IS Damage?  And how is that he was the one to save the entire multiverse?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Damage #1 awaits!

Damage1CoverDAMAGE #1
Writer: Tom Joyner
Penciler: Bill Marimon
Inker: Tom McWeeney
Colorist: Buzz Setzer
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Archie Goodwin & Jim Spivey
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $1.75
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in Damage: The speculator boom of the early 1990s was a very strange time for comics, especially so for old stalwart DC Comics.  Known for their square-jawed, traditional heroes, DC was considered old-fashioned stuff by many readers of the day.  Batman made the transition easily, thanks to Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, but storylines like ‘The Death Of Superman’ and Aquaman’s piranha-eaten hand were much less consistent.  Into this strange new world, a place on the brink of another universe correctional schism, came young Grant Emerson…

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I remember picking this book up off the stands and being a bit amazed at how clearly and blatantly it felt like The Marvel Formula.  When we meet Grant, he’s a smart kid, picked on by bullies and ignored by girls, ala Peter Parker.  Thanks to his first-person narration, we get a full dose of his alienation after moving from school to school with his nomadic parents.  He has even created a list of rules to follow if you’re going to survive moving around, rules that he immediately breaks to impress a beautiful young woman…

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His gambit is successful in gaining the attention of young Mandra, who welcomes him to Marietta.  Then, he discovers that he also gained the attention of one Flash Thompson Brad Fetter, local dipstick and deliverer of wedgies…

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Enraged at being challenged in front of the girl he likes, frustrated that his attempts to fit in have failed already, Grant lashes out like only a hormonal teenage boy can…

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…but with a bit more force than your average teenage boy ever could.  At this point, the story shifts a bit from Spider-Man to the tribulations of a young mutant, seen many times in X-Men comics.  (But remember, it’s only 1994, so there are four monthly X-titles, rather than the 19+ that would soon arrive.)  Rushing home, Grant tries to explain to his parents what has happened, only to have them dismiss his stories of super-strength as fantasy…

…until they leave his earshot.

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His dad’s job with the ominous Symbolix Corporation may be more than just a science pencil-pusher gig, it seems, and Grant’s life is about to change forever!  The next day, in third-period American History, Grant laments that his new crush isn’t into him, angsting away about normal kid junk for the final time.  Cue the ‘splosions!

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Nothing pegs this as a 90s comic more squarely than the appearance of Metallo, whose Silver Age incarnation looked like a man in a jumpsuit and Halloween mask, as a hulking silver monster with a terrifying Terminator-skeleton face.  Also worth noting: I am a fan of Damage and this comics, but I had to deduct a full half-star from the writing score for the use of “How can something that big be that fast?”  Whomever it was that hired Metallo, they clearly gave him no instructions to be gentle in the collection of a high school kid…

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One might chalk this up to general Chromium Age viciousness on the villain’s part, but it quickly becomes clear that Grant Morrison Emerson is a major-league threat, goofy 90s razor-cut hair or not…

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The rampaging cyborg monster keeps coming, hitting our future Damage over and over with metal fists and kryptonite-eye-lasers, only to find Grant fighting back harder.  Metallo batters him over and over, throwing him to the concrete on the steps of the school, preparing to deliver a killing blow in front of the entire student body.  Then, Grant feels his power flare up…

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…with enough force to stop even the rampaging metal monster!

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Aaaaand also to destroy the entire school, leaving a massive blast crater (and possibly annihilating dozens of teenagers and faculty.)

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And, in the Alanis Morrissette Ironic file, only after he has devastated an entire neighborhood does his crush come to ask it he’s okay.  Since we’ve officially turned the corner into Mutant-Angstville, Damage does the only thing he can in rebuffing her attention in order to protect her from his own awful inhuman powers…

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For all his protestations and power fluctuations, Grant Emerson is just a kid after all, and immediately runs for home, trying to find his parents in the hopes that they will help him to deal with the madness.

Instead, he gets pure, concentrated 1994 Image Comics IN HIS FACE!

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Megafire, Flak and their partner (I’ve always thought of him as Dethstryke Bludforse, and I won’t brook any arguments on this one) nyaah-ha-ha it up in villainous fashion, proving to Grant that his life as he knew it is truly over.  Not long after this, Grant will suit up as Damage, join the New Titans, and use his explosive powers to recreate the Big Bang during the events of ‘Zero Hour’, making him a very important player for 90s-era DC Comics.

As such, Geoff Johns has him murdered in half a panel during ‘Blackest Night’.

My old grudges aside, this issue is interesting both for what it is (an attempt to create a cool Spider-Man-like teen hero in the seemingly stodgy DCU) and for what it isn’t (fully embracing the nonsense that came with the Image Comics Revolution.)  It’s kind of a stepping stone between eras, leaving Damage #1 with a better-than-average (especially for 1994) 3 out of 5 stars overall.  With a new iteration of DC in full swing, it’d be lovely if Grant Emerson somehow got a do-over, maybe even with a not-terrible haircut…

Who IS Damage?  And how is that he was the one to save the entire multiverse?  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Damage #1 awaits! DAMAGE #1 Writer: Tom Joyner Penciler: Bill Marimon Inker: Tom McWeeney Colorist: Buzz Setzer Letterer: John Costanza Editor: Archie Goodwin & Jim Spivey Publisher: DC Comics Cover Price: $1.75 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00 Previously in Damage: The speculator boom of the early 1990s was a very strange time for comics, especially so for old stalwart DC Comics.  Known for their square-jawed, traditional heroes, DC was considered old-fashioned stuff by many readers of the day.  Batman…
An interesting, if underrated book, and an fascinating meta-textual look at changing tastes in comics circa 1994.

DAMAGE #1

Writing
Art
Coloring

An interesting, if underrated book, and an fascinating meta-textual look at changing tastes in comics circa 1994.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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1 Comment

  1. Frank
    July 4, 2016 at 9:01 pm — Reply

    I picked up this one because it looked fun. When I found out it was set in Atlanta, I got a kick out of it. One thing I didn’t care for is the artist didn’t bother to see what the Atlanta skyline – or lack there of looked like.
    It’s definitely a product of the 90’s, but it was a good read at the time.

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