Written by Robert L. Washington III, Pencilled by Brian O'Connell, Inked by Shawn Martinbrough
I probably shouldn't have to explain who Static is, as he's the rare 90's character that's probably more familiar to 2000's general audiences than he was to comic book readers in the 90's. Created by Dwayne McDuffie, Robert Washington III and artist John Paul Leon, Static was the star of one of the four titles created by Milestone Comics in 1993. A somewhat independent imprint from DC (DC published Milestone's books and had some veto power, but weren't directly involved), Milestone featured almost exclusively African-American heroes (some were just aliens disguised as black guys), and to my knowledge, none of them rode skateboards. None of the Milestone comics were big mainstream hits, and so Static might have quietly faded away, if not for a 2000 animated series that ran for four seasons, introducing millions to Virgil Hawkins, a geeky teenager who gains phenomenal superpowers and learns to use those powers to become a hero. The success of the show led to the character appearing as a member of the Teen Titans, a mere 15 years after that stopped being impressive, and received his own title in the wake of the New 52, which was promptly canceled after 8 issues.
Back to 1994, we begin our story with Frieda Goren (voiced by Danica McKellar in the television show) riding on Static's back as he flies around the city. We get a flashback to what prompted this ride-along, as Frieda beats Virgil at some sort of nerdy board game. She then checks out the comic Virgil and his friends's comic book, a 2 page WildC.A.T.S. style Image comic. Frieda says it's nice, but it's hard to judge until the whole comic is done. Ouch for 1994 Image.
In the present, Static and Frieda see a bizarre grand theft auto/gang beating situation. Static tells the gang to freeze, and while most of them do, the one in the car tries to drive away. Static "tags" the car, even as the rest of the gang tries to jump him. Unfortunately, they don't realize that just holding his arms won't keep them from getting electrocuted, as Static kicks the third goon, then shocks all three at once. Static is then able to track the electrical discharge coming off the car. Static stops the car, but after knocking out the driver, realizes that the car's steering is electric, and is able to surf the car back to where the police are booking the other punks.
|Fish heads, fish heads, Roly-poly fish heads!|
Back at his house, Frieda encourages Virgil not to give up with Daisy, who apparently saw him alone with some super-villain a few issues earlier and got the wrong idea. At school, Virgil tries to explain that the girl was just looking for Static, and Daisy seems to buy it, causing Virgil to think "whoomp there it is" in perhaps the most 1994 scene of this comic. After a brief scene where he apologizes to the guy dating his sister for being a jerk to him, Virgil learns that someone has been tagging love notes to Static all over the city. Virgil visits his sister Sharon at her job at "The Fish Shack," and orders a bunch of shrimp, then starts talking about how back when he worked at this job he'd play pranks on her. While his back's turned, she dumps some fish heads into a bag. Of course, he reveals that the food wasn't for him, but for some local kids outside the restaurant. Virgil hands off the food and whistles the Mission: Impossible theme, presumably hoping that those young punks threaten his sister with serious bodily harm.
After a humorous moment where Static talks to his reflection about whether he should follow up on his mystery admirer (made better by the window he was talking to opening to reveal a confused guy), Static follows up on one of the messages and meets "Puff," a young woman in a hideous green outfit. Unfortunately, Static quickly realizes he's dealing with a trap, when Puff turns into mist and shouts "Let's bang, baby!" Static avoids her initial attack, but a moment later he gets roped‒ literally‒ to the ground by Coil, Puff's apparent partner in crime(?). To be continued!
Maybe it's just last week's awful issue of Darkhawk still being fresh in my mind, but this is a far better early 90's Spider-Man type superhero book than that was. It's even structured in a similar way, with an obvious two part set-up that means we don't meet the villains until very near the end. But unlike Darkhawk, we see Static in costume on page 1, bending the narrative unnecessarily just so we start with an action scene that puts the title character in costume. We also see Static use his brain, and his short fight scene is full of him using his powers in fun, visually interesting ways. Like Darkhawk, there's plenty of supporting characters, but Static names Frieda almost immediately, Daisy is introduced by name before we see her, etc., so there's not the same sense that we've come into a story that would be impossible to follow if we hadn't been reading from the beginning. It's painfully obvious that Frieda is Static's future love interest, because guys can't have platonic friends in comics in any decade, so it's okay that Sally gets less characterization than Sharon or Frieda. I guess Sally is the Gwen Stacy to Frieda's Mary Jane?
|Static, lookin' cool.|
I also prefer Static because he behaves like a smart kid, not an adult with dumber hair. Maybe I just came onto Darkhawk at a bad time, but Virgil's love and relationship problems feel more like things a teenager should deal with than mob family vendettas and presumed dead fathers calling for help. Virgil is also far better defined in a character over the course of this issue. I also like accessorizing his costume. It's not a full break from super hero outfits, but it does feel very teenage rebel to wear a Malcolm X hat while fighting crime. I guess it was that or a Bob Marley t-shirt. Milestone in general is in a bit of a weird place where they attempt to realistically depict teen gangs and drug use, but then also feature space aliens with super powers.
On the art side of things, this is a fill-in by Brian O'Connell, as one of the knocks against Milestone was their struggle for consistent art, the price they paid for actually putting out a book every month. O'Connell has a very loose, cartoon-y style which actually fits the tone of the comic pretty well. O'Connell doesn't do a lot of detail work, and some of his faces look pretty terrifying, but I think there's potential here. Unfortunately, his career did not take off as this definitely wasn't the house-style, and he mostly did a handful of Predator comics and some *shudder* Furry comics for Antarctic Press. It really is a shame because I think he'd be a good fit for a few issues on a book like Static that's pretty light-hearted, but it was the 90's, so we had to have gritty realism and Jim Lee clones as far as the eye could see.