When asked about the genesis of this book, its creator was legendarily quoted as saying “Since nobody else is doing Fantastic Four right now, I thought I might as well.”  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Danger Unlimited #1 awaits!

DANGER UNLIMITED #1

Writer: John Byrne
Penciler: John Byrne
Inker: John Byrne
Colorist: Matt Webb
Letterer: John Byrne
Editor: Barbara Kesel
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $2.00
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.00

Previously in Danger Unlimited: “In 1960, four heroes fought to save the world.  In 2060, who will fight to reclaim it?  A freak accident gave four friends strength and abilities that set them apart from normal men, and they used these abilities to fight the tide of evil as Danger Unlimited!  Fast forward to the far-flung future, when the never-ending battle is actually nearing its end and the side of justice is losing; earth has been conquered by an alien race and super-powered humans have been outlawed.  The human race needs some help, some heavy-duty firepower, if it’s going to turn the tide and take back earth.

It needs another Danger Unlimited.”

It is the year 2060.  The days of superheroes are long gone, some 75 years in the past, and the new world has no place for such grandiose notions as super-powers.  Demolition has begun on the headquarters of Danger, Unlimited, one of the more noteworthy groups of that long-ago time, but something strange has happened when the C-Op forces began tearing the building apart…  A strange energy signature in a wall of the long-abandoned fortress.

Here we get our first notion of just how much the world has changed, as officer LaFayette’s casual references to the heyday of the superhumans is considered utterly verboten, to the point where her boss warns her about getting corrected.  Still, LaFayette’s knowledge is key to getting to the center of the complex and finding the anomalous reading, at which her commander takes the direct approach…

As soon as the cutting device is activated, though, the energy seems to trigger something inside the hidden pod, making LaFayette realize that the age of supers is not quite as over as her superiors would hope…

Turns out?  LaFayette’s suppositions are 100% correct, as the pod suddenly melts away to reveal…  THERMAL!

The hero immediately collapses, and LaFayette runs to aid him, but something else inside the tube is reacting to being freed, and the result is a massive explosion.  Flashback to 75 years earlier, as we see how the young hero got into the pod in the first place, as an attack from the wicked Umbra threatens to breach Danger, Unlimited headquarters.  Injured when the defense screen came down, Cal “Thermal” Carson’s dad, the leader of the team, makes a desperate gamble to save his son’s life…

Cal awakens from his memory/nightmare, finding himself in a medical facility, where he is told that he’s just spent two weeks in a coma after emerging.  The real surprises, though, are still to come, as he discovers just how long he has been in the pod…

The sight of the futuristic landscape of Denver, circa 2060, is a shock to Cal’s system, but Commander Brewster quickly discovers that he doesn’t really know why.  In fact, Cal Carson has no idea who he is or what he is best known for.  Elsewhere, Professor Davis Palmenter examines the rubble from the D.U. explosion, and is surprised to find samples of a substance colloquially known as “Gunk”, the very stuff that gave Danger Unlimited their strange powers back in the metaphorical day…

More ominous warnings of government control here, as it seems that not only are super-powers outlawed, but all knowledge of or studying into them is forbidden as well.  Palmenter has a slightly bigger fish to fry, though, as Cal isn’t the only one who has spent the last few weeks in a coma.  Meet Corporal LaFayette

Exposure to the Gunk has made serious changes, but left the victim completely comatose, with no brain activity at all, but the Prof worries that somehow the mutation might be virulent.  Worse still, he has no access to any of the data that would allow him to actually treat his patient…

And then, LaFayette just wakes up…

…and she’s back to normal.  Interestingly, I remember being quite surprised to find that the giant monster that emerged from a C-Op in an armored exo-suit was female back in ’95.  Part of it was the assumption that we were seeing a clear Fantastic Four analogue and that she would be the Ben Grimm, but also, Byrne played his narrative cards very skillfully.  I also love the use of limited color on the page, taking the bluish hues of her rocky form into the lab.  The use of color throughout this issue is pretty remarkable, actually, especially in the treatment of leather and metal surfaces.  Case in point, miles away in Chicago, a man named Esteban brings important information to his boss about the return of Thermal.  Check out the detail, the texture and use of color in these panels…

Esteban’s words worry his mysterious boss, who steps out of the shadows to reveal the truth of who is behind the prohibition of super-powers and the information pertaining thereto…

ALIENS!  AH SEEN ‘EM!

The thing about Danger, Unlimited (and Legend Comics and indeed, the comic industry of 1995) was the fragile state of the market.  The speculator rage that spun out of the Image Comics revolution was spinning down, and retailers were operating with little room for error.  Byrne says in the collected edition of this comic that the orders for #2 were slashed before #1 even made it to stores, and by the time orders for D.U. #3 came in, it was clear that Danger Unlimited was untenable.  That’s really a shame, because Danger Unlimited #1 is a solid first issue, engaging in some fascinating world-building with clear, beautiful art (early 90s Byrne is J.B. at the height of his powers, in my opinion), earning a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall.  At 25, I wondered what madness might await us if a master of Fantastic Four storytelling managed to really cut loose in a world without creative interference or editorial caveat.  At 48, I only lament the excellent comics that we never got to see…

[taq_review]

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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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