A soldier of the United States Army, Private First Class Elvis Ethan Avery served with distinction in Afghanistan and in line for a promotion, but wanted to do more. That more came in the form of serving his country as a subject for the Damage Program. How did he find the program, and what lead him up to becoming a fugitive from the military? Damage Annual #1 from DC Comics answers some of those questions.
Storytellers: Robert Venditti & Aaron Lopresti
Inker: Matt Ryan
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Cover: Aaron Lopresti and Brad Anderson
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: August 22, 2018
Cover Price: $4.99
Previously in Damage: Ethan Avery, the human alter-ego of the weapon of mass destruction known as Damage, was unconscious at the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital, but he won’t be for long. His ex-handler, Colonel Jonas, came in with a team intent on bringing him in and back under their control. But on the inside, Ethan awakens to find that he has a mysterious ally in the form of the Unknown Soldier, who has been monitoring him since before he boarded his ill-fated flight which crashed (see Damage #1). But the pair are cornered by Colonel Jonas’ team and preparing to fight their way through them. That is a tale for the next issue of Damage, this is what came before that first faithful issue.
AN ARMY OF ONE
Sometime in the near past, the force of nature known as Damage was let loose against a Bialyan stronghold. Once activated, Private Avery becomes a back seat passenger to his own body as it morphs and mutates into the nigh-unstoppable killing machine dubbed Damage. As Damage closes in on his target, a scientist who stole information from the very program which made young Avery the weapon he is, he is down to under ten minutes of time in that form. More than enough to take out dozens of armed guards and the target. But Dr. Willig has not had the same success Dr. Vess achieved. He sold his knowledge for the chance to perfect the serum, and his Bialyan allies are about to pay the price for their ill-advised purchase.
Just over an hour before we find Damage tearing his way through his enemies, he was on a submarine on the way to the small, Middle Eastern country. It seems that when his handler, Colonel Jonas, sends him on his mission he has no member of it. She tells Avery that Dr. Vess is working on solving why he can’t remember those glorious, successful missions, but right now he has a mission to perform. But it seems that Colonel Jonas is less than truthful. They are not as interested in his memories being restored than they are in having a weapon they can control.
Back in Bialya, Damage is facing his own dark brothers in science; failed and mutated test subjects who have been unleashed by the doomed enemy combatants in a feeble attempt to stop him. No quarter is given and none required as Damage fights for the completion of his mission. But what happens when the consciousness of Private Avery wakens within the body of Damage, an unwilling viewer of the horror he is sowing?
BEING ALL YOU CAN BE
Created by Robert Venditti (The Flash, X-O Manowar) and Tony S. Daniel (The Tenth, Batman), Damage is the tale of a man who holds a monster at bay within himself, an unwanted byproduct of his desire to be a hero. It is a classic tale of the split personality ala’ Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but with mass destruction thrown in a good dose of mayhem thrown into the mix. Co-creator Robert Venditti pens this issue which delves into the origin of Damage and his status shortly before the first issue. He weaves a good tale, writing Private First Class Ethan Avery as a sympathetic hero who only wanted to do as much as he could for his country and realizes that he has been used. On the flip side, Colonel Jonas is written as that mercurial personality that can be your best friend and ally one minute and slip a dagger in your ribs the next. The creation or drafting of superheroes as weapons, soldiers or pawns in the arms race is not new, but here it is shown from a sympathetic bend. While later in the series, Avery has some control over his transformations, and therefore takes a more culpable hand in Damages actions, here he is still in the dark. He wants to do good, to fight for his country, but the amount of destruction he causes in that effort shocks him. He’s trapped in the body of Damage and only toward the end is able to finally make himself known. But as the issue closes, Ethan has to deal with the fact that the door swings both ways, Damage is in his head as well. By using this storytelling tool, Venditti opens up questions which have yet to be answered, including is Damage really a separate entity, or is he an aspect Avery created because he cannot deal with his actions?
From what I can glean, this issue marks Aaron Lopresti (Metamorpho, Detective Comics) taking over the art duties for Damage. In his blog, he details how he arrived at the cover image, and how the higher-ups at DC offered him the regular series after they saw how he handled the character in this issue. While the previous artist, Diogenes Neves, did yeoman’s work on the series up until now, I really enjoy Lopresti’s work on the whole and have ever since his stint at Malibu Comics where he and Steve Gerber and Gary Martin created Sludge. The fight scenes here have that exaggerated sense of motion that you need when behemoths clash, and it makes the title worth the price of admission. Coupled with Hi-Fi (Action Comics, Blue Beetle), it makes for a great experience will of color and motion.
BOTTOM LINE: A SOLID BOOK THAT TURNS UP THE VOLUME
While this annual is not quite as standalone as some of the others which DC is releasing, it nevertheless is a vital part of the story of Damage. You not only get the story of what exactly led up to the events of the first issue, you get background on Avery and on his antagonist, the cold Colonel Jonas.
DAMAGE ANNUAL #1 connects the dots on some unknown aspects of the career of Damage, and adds to the overall mythology of the story. It is a must-have for fans of the title, and a great jumping on point for new readers.