Coming back to life would be a good thing each time you died, if not for the pain of it.
Writers: Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett
Artist: Fernando Dagnino
What They Say:
Mitch Shelby cannot die—constantly returning to life after every death with a brand new power. But what is the secret behind this gift/curse? As Mitch follows clues, he begins to discover how much of a pawn he is in a cosmic game of life and death!
With the variety of titles that DC Comics ran with in their relaunc, Resurrection Man is one of the few that I had no real familiarity with as the character came from a series that was published when I had fallen out of books for several years. Thankfully for fans of that run from 1997 to 1999, this one is written by the same team so it likely has a good deal of consistency to it with what they did before. With the character being lesser know, it has the option of changing things as well but largely it means that it’s new to everyone, even if you saw him show up in Brightest Day for a bit prior to the relaunch. The idea behind the character is definitely interesting though, especially as it feels like another Vertigo character being shifted into the mainstream DC Universe that can add a bit more darkness to it.
The series revolves around a man named Mitch Shelley whose ability is to come back to life after he’s been killed. Each time he comes back, he has a different kind of power that he terms as a gift that seems related to how he died. What’s interesting is that we get a good idea of how he views things when he comes back to life, such as the opening of the book here where everything has a taste of metal and everything he touches has that as well as he goes about sneaking out of the morgue and getting moving again. He’s typically drawn somewhere in a way that he can’t understand in order to perform a task which isn’t always clear. This time it has him getting on a plane to Portland, but it’s his internal monologue that’s fascinating to read. He’s able to get a feel for people and who they are through the metal on them and it’s pretty slick in how it plays out.
While you could say dying and being drawn somewhere after coming back is “going wrong somewhere,” things do go wrong for Mitch quickly here as he meets a woman named Sue on the plane and it’s not long before she reveals that she’s not quite the normal person as she knows about everyone on the plane and the fact that it’s about to go through hell. And that she’s very, very interested in his soul that has become polished over the years through the way he keeps reviving. It introduces us to the idea of two sides looking for him for different reasons, both of which are pretty bloody and violent, and keeps it unclear as to which of them, if either, may actually be helpful or useful to his long term survival. But the idea that they’re both searching for him because of his soul that has a high bounty on it is definitely appealing, especially as we see how each of them operates. It’s a decent launching point for the series, teasing enough to make you want to know more but not quite so much that you’d jumping up and down for it.
Having survived what happened on the plane and reviving with some new abilities, Mitch has found himself drawn to Portland to try and find some answers about himself. When he ends up at a care home, he’s surprised to learn that it’s where it’s father is, or rather was, as he passed away a year prior. But it’s an opening he can use as one of the residents, Darryl, seems to know a good bit about his father since they were neighbors there. Mitch is able to use the memory loss angle via some head trauma to ask questions and find out a bit more and Darryl is more than willing to share what he knows since he’s helping the son of a friend. Of course, Darryl isn’t all he seems to be, though it could just be a bit of mental illness himself, as he claims to have once been a supervillain named the Transhuman which is definitely cute but has potential to add a new twist to things.
If there’s an awkward area to the book, it’s with the pair of women that are hunting him down for their mysterious controllers. The Body Doubles, Carmen and Bonnie, are definitely appealing in how they play two sides of sexy as they wait to figure out where he is so they can get him. It’s standard fanservice appeal to be sure, but I dislike scenes where you have them laying around in bed in various states of undress just playing with a gun. It just doesn’t click as good layout design or something that even works for them personality wise. You just don’t roll around on guns, even if you’re as sorta-crazy as they are. They do have some good material here when it comes down to the story itself though as they get a clue as to where Mitch is and joke about their attire as they wait for transport, and that aspect definitely helps to show that there are some intriguing people behind them and the search for Mitch.
In a lot of ways I’m still surprised I like this series but the third chapter cemented it all the more as some of the big picture elements are shaping up a bit more clearly, yet still filled with a lot of mystery. The first two chapters brought out a good bit of the mystery while explaining through Mitch’s abilities in a way that wasn’t detailed by made a certain amount of sense. With it relaunching his previous series, the history doesn’t feel out of place but we’re not weighed down by it either. And true to form, we got a couple of new characters that arrived in the form of Body Double, the deliciously attractive and quirky Carmen and Bonnie who have been sent to bring him in. They definitely have an advantage in that if he has a power that’s a problem, they just have to kill him and hope it’s better the next time around.
Amusingly enough though, Mitch’s abilities are exactly what’s not working right at the moment. After getting killed, we saw him in some other land at the end of the last issue that was endlessly fascinating with potential. Showing a barren and rocky landscape, it was covered with chalk outlines of bodies. Bodies that Mitch uses when he resurrects? The idea has a lot of potential to expand on his abilities and his character, but before they can deal with that, Mitch has to contend with what’s actually there. Dagnino creates a really neat representation of the nameless “villain” here that’s made up of a wispy blue energy or threads of energy. Claiming to be from the team down below, he wants to help Mitch stay alive and keep resurrecting because it screws up the accounting of those from upstairs so much. And he wants to assist Mitch in getting out of there, which of course makes him nervous. There’s much to be hinted at here with the scale of the problem that Mitch represents and it’s a decent moment for him to define himself.
What also may be true is that Mitch’s abilities are starting to evolve, as we see when he returns to life and it’s a brutal reconstruction unlike any he’s gone through before. So much so that even Carmen and Bonnie really aren’t sure what to make of it. Dagnino does do it justice within the confines of the artform by not going overboard with the grisly factor while still making it plainly clear that it’s a painful experience. While it does devolve into a fight sequence as the ladies try to bring him under their control, it works well since it involves these issues Mitch is having and it throws in an amusing variable as well along the way that you know the ladies did not expect in the slightest. The series has shifted slightly further to the side here, showing us a new angle from which to view the story, and it’s definitely an intriguing one.
Unfortunately, as interesting as that pivot was and what it could reveal, the series goes in a whole other direction for a bit, a useful one at least. With the way the fight goes between Mitch and Body Double as well as the Transhuman, we get a name at least as to who is pulling the strings in the form of Director Hooker for whatever organization/company that is doing things. That sets us up for a decent flashback to the past where we see when Mitch ran the company and used Deathstroke as a contractor to set them up some suitable lab rats in downed US servicemembers to try their drugs on. It’s here that we see Mitch, Hooker and the two Body Double women when they were serving in the military as part of all of this. The reveals about how the drug worked, how Carmen got into things and how she and Bonnie became friends is certainly interesting, but it’s very illustrative of how Mitch was at this point, showing a very different person from who we know now. It also clues us in to how he ended up in the situation that he’s in, but honestly that just asks more questions than it provides answers.
Amusingly, once Mitch is knocked onto this new path in the present, his time-delayed resurrection has him waking up with some decent medical care, though that care is taking him to Arkham Asylum for some further investigation. That sets him up for a good deal of fun, though it places him on a different level so we don’t get much in the way of the well known inmates. What it does is to push him through a few more situations that gets him further from the two sides that want him, at least in regards to those that want his soul, and the company that’s trying to get him back to figure out what the deal is with his power. The Arkham and post-Arkham stuff is fun, but it feels more unfocused as it goes on while he is trying to get his bearings and grapple with everything that happened. The flashback before he goes in is useful, but after that it’s like it’s not sure of where it wants to go, though it does start to reconnect a bit towards the end.
Resurrection Man was a lot of fun when I read the singles and revisiting it now in full form it still holds up well. It tapers off after he gets away from everyone, but there are useful things that happen during that arc of the book that will help to set up future events. Unfortunately, once we got characters like Darryl, Bonnie and Carmen, I wanted more of them. And that half of the book deals with other characters that are a bit more temporary overall. The Arkham segment is fun, but it doesn’t have the same kind of energy as the first half of it did. As a whole, there’s definitely a lot to like here and I very much enjoy a book like this where it’s part of the larger DC universe but it’s also running on its own without a lot of heavy influence from well known characters. The fact that there’s no real cameos here for a lot of it and the inclusion of Deathstroke feels natural makes it one of those well blended books. Though it ends a bit weaker, it does leaver me wanting more to see where Mitch goes from here. And if Body Double returns.