The Terrifics Part 2
Reviewing The Terrifics #15-30
Written by Gene Luen Yang (with Mark Russell & James Asmus)
Art by Stephen Segovia, Joe Bennett, Doc Shaner, Jose Luis, Dexter Vines, Ray McCarthy, Matt Santorelli, Scott Hanna, Richard Friend, Jordi Tarragona, Sergio Davila, Max Raynor, Dan Mora, Vincente Cifuentes, and Brent Peeple
The Terrifics’ second half builds on its first without a hitch, despite onboarding a new writer. Gene Luen Yang is a comics writer I don’t know too much about. He penned a run on Superman that was part of the curtain call for the New 52 reboot. I have enjoyed what I’ve read of his run on the follow-up The New Superman, a series where a Chinese citizen is imbued with the power of the Man of Steel. I wasn’t sure what Yang’s interpretation of The Terrifics would be, whether he would lean into the Fantastic Four pastiche or try to carve out something unique. But, it’s clear, that once word came that the series would be canceled, Yang decided to pull out all the stops and have fun with the whole thing.
What I was most struck by with the first volume of Yang’s run, The God Game, was how plain and boring it was. He definitely misses no beats in capturing the voices of each character and, in that way, keeps alive what Jeff Lemire started. He does completely pivot away from the “explorers of the Dark Multiverse” concept of the book. Instead, we get a fairly standard science fiction adventure that feels pretty derivative with a few interesting ideas sprinkled in here and there. I didn’t see how this story was something that could only be told in the pages of The Terrifics, and it easily could have slid into a run of the Justice League or even Fantastic Four itself.
Simon Stagg’s scientists have created an entity called the Noosphere. It exists purely to replace the material analog world with digital perfection. This becomes a race against time as the Noosphere recreates the Biblical plagues of Exodus and Terrific leads his team in trying to stop the entity. The result is a bit nuanced, with our protagonists finding a way for this new life form to still exist while not wiping out reality as we know it. Unfortunately, the three other team members get almost no character development, just fighting the creatures manifested by their enemies. Mr. Terrific gets a little side plot as his relationship with Ms. Terrific of Earth-11 develops, but it’s certainly not anything that will surprise or captivate readers.
The God Game story could have easily been one or two issues, but the fact the story drags on for four is annoying. I’ve recently become annoyed with the hyper-decompressed storytelling that seems to have taken over in comics that I’m contemplating just reading trades instead of trying to keep up with monthlies. If something captures my interest in an intense way, I might read it month to month, otherwise not worth my time. The Terrifics, even under Lemire, consisted of some interesting concepts but stories that felt completely mundane when the opposite should have been true.
The second and final collection of Yang’s run, titled The Tomorrow War, quickly gets bogged down in the Year of the Villain crossover event. This storyline saw Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom imbue hordes of DC baddies with heightened powers, a sort of decompressed version of Underworld Unleashed. For The Terrifics, the villain they get saddled with is Bizarro, the reverse Superman. Bizarro is given a power that allows him to disrupt time as he falls backward through it. This allows for some fun visual moments as The Terrifics, in pursuit, are turned into alternative versions of themselves. There are the Image-inspired extreme Terrifics and a Scooby-styled version in the 1970s.
One of the constant problems when you bring Bizarro into a story for more than one issue, is his way of speaking can give you a headache. Everything is the opposite, so the reader constantly has to translate the reverse of what is said with every speech bubble. I think Bizarro works as an adversary for The Terrifics on paper, his world and way of thinking are so strange, but the way it plays out in these pages is a bit disappointing. This is not helped by some really subpar artwork. It appears that with the writing on the wall, it was hard to keep an artist on board until the end, and so this volume lists eight different artists in its twelve collected issues. This means the visual consistency of the main story arc ends up disjointed visually when its very bland narrative needed art to help sustain the reader’s attention.
There is a bright ray of hope with issue 25, a pretty brilliantly constructed Choose Your Own Adventure story that plays with reality. If The Terrifics was meant to ape the frontier science fiction of Fantastic Four, then this is the kind of story we needed more of. Readers are asked to make decisions causing them to jump to numbered panels. You do actually get a variety of outcomes, and it was an enjoyable comic that made re-reading it right away a must. Another excellent idea is the T-Council, a collection of the DCU’s top scientific minds with members like both Blue Beetles, Man-Bat, The Atom (Ryan Choi), Dr. Veritas, and even Silas Stone, Cyborg’s dad. This reminded me of the Future Foundation that came out of Ryan Hickman’s Fantastic Four run, and I always love seeing disparate characters with something in common thrown together like this.
On the flip side, the villain of the final arc is the absolutely uninspiring Sebastian Stagg, a long-lost son of Simon we never heard about until now. He’s essentially a mean guy with a giant robot, and that’s about it. When it comes to villains, the book always seemed to be scrambling for something. Their attempts to create original villains never really clicked, and it didn’t appear as if the stable of character Yang was allowed to choose from had much worthwhile. The Terrifics was a fantastic concept; in my opinion, they just never found the writer who could bring this book out of obscurity. I really hope this isn’t the last we see of this team, but with DC’s current focus on well-known brands, it may be a long time until The Terrifics are seen again.