Damage… is done. Your Major Spoilers review of Damage #16 awaits!
Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciler: Aaron Lopresti
Inker: Matt Ryan
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: April 17, 2019
Previously in Damage: Captured by Echidna, the goddess of monsters, Ethan and Congo Bill must rely on their wits as humans rather than strength as giant powerhouses in order to survive. But do these men stand a chance against the mother of all colossal beasts?
AGAINST THE MOTHER OF ALL MONSTERS
As this issue opens, it’s looking grim for Ethan Avery and Congo Bill. Hanging by their heels above a pit of lava, with Echidna the Mother of Monsters reveling in her victory, gleefully laughin as Bill’s magic ring falls into the molten rock. Ethan realizes that they have only one card in their hand, in the form of his uncontrollable other self. The transformation breaks the chains, and Damage falls into the pool below, only to climb out unscathed WITH Bill’s ring in-hand! Ethan even manages to keep enough control of his monstrous self long enough to return it before leaping into smash-style action. Most of the book is devoted to Damage battling mutated Kirby-style monsters (several of whom have familiar body parts and/or heads, if you’re familiar with pre-hero Marvel monsters), all merged by Echidna’s powers. Damage is quickly joined by Congorilla, and the duo make short work of the monster army and confront Echidna herself, demanding that she leave Monster Rock forever. As the issue closes, Congo Bill realizes that his own advice to fight the beast within is what nearly destroyed Damage, and offers a new paradigm: A balance between man and monster, embracing both.
AND THEN, THERE WAS ONE (BOOK)
I have to admit, I haven’t been following Damage as closely as the other books in the ‘New Age of DC Heroes’ line, as I felt that Ethan was the most transparent pastiche of a Marvel character in his Hulk-like rages. This issue makes me think that I might have missed some good stuff, especially the use of Congo Bill (one of DC’s oldest and most-ignored characters) as elder statesman/mentor figure. The story also leans hard into the underlying New Age paradigm of “Marvel, Only Our Way” with the not-Monster-Island enclave and the Fing Fang Fooms and Googams seen there. As the issue ends, Ethan is sailing home to whatever comes next, which feels satisfying, even though recent history implies that what comes next for a cancelled DC book is “Nothing.” Lopresti’s art is very good this issue, resembling the work of Jerry Ordway (whom I absolutely love) in some of the facial expressions and close-ups, while giving us kinetic and exciting giant monster fights. His Congorilla is the best-looking giant gorilla in years, and even Damage’s odd, lumpy form looks great under his pen.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT A BAD ENDING, AS ENDINGS GO
With only ‘The Terrifics’ left standing, it looks like the New Age of DC Heroes is a closed chapter now, but at least this book feels like it had the time and space to do a meaningful final issue for Ethan, closing out his adventures. Damage #16 looks good, reads well and closes things off in a way that leaves space for additional adventures but also doesn’t leave the fans who have come along for the ride hanging, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. It’s a shame to see a promising comic cancelled, but if Ethan and Damage had to go out, there are far worse ways than this.
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A nice use of a classic character and some closure for the hero makes for a satisfactory close.