A band of misfit heroes up against God. A classic premise and a fitting choice for a book built on pastiche. And thus we have ourselves ‘God Game,’ which pits our fantastic heroes up against a big obstacle they barely understand.
Gene Yang, Stephen Segovia, Protobunker and Tom Napolitano have really taken the sci-fi superhero explorer team to new heights with in the two issues they’ve been afforded. Reading almost like a whirlwind of ideas, the book is able to pack in a great deal of content. There’s a wonderful pace to the story so far, where in each issue is a good, meaningful and satisfying read that builds to the macro narrative. The team is clearly juggling a lot of plates here, with the Mister Terrific and Miss Terrific relationship and dynamic, the big high concept idea of God and being trapped in a game that or may not be real and having to navigate that.
Yang, Segovia and Protobunker have a blast with Plastic Man in this issue, always keeping in mind that is he is capable of virtually anything. Plastic Man’s possibilities are limited only by the minds of those handling him and so the crew lets him loose, making him transform into everything from an insect-wacker to giant truck straight out Cars. Segovia, inked by Vines for 4 pages here, is really able to sell all of these transformations in a way that feels believable, suiting the tone of the book and proportions of his specific art style. It never feels off or pulls the reader out, which is key. And it definitely helps when you have someone like Napolitano on letters, making every image pop with flair. From the credits falling apart by the crashing image of the Plastic-Truck, you know you’re in for something fun and especially, especially as the loud KRAAASH acts as a pause after the credits arrangement, letting the reader know to pause. It’s all really fun visual presentation that works nicely.
Now the narrative of the issue itself sees the heroes trying to beat a game, setup very much like an RPG. They’re essentially stuck in a Dungeon and it all feels very D&D-esque, with the party having to find The Dungeon Master, who is ostensibly god. Throw in some health-bars and ‘life’ which designates Game Over and you have yourselves a real tricky situation for a superhero team and a fun read for the audience. Revealing the ‘God’, the Galactus-esque creature called ‘Noosphere’, read as ‘New-sphere’, which bears a striking resemblance to Terrific’s T-Spheres, Yang and crew throw things for a loop. And that’s what’s been so fun about this, taking existing conventions and riffing on them, twisting them up and seeing what fun new spins can be put on them. And in general the careful mystery-building approach rather than the outright card-revealing pastiche spin, is a solid way to drum up intrigue. Noosphere wants to get outside the Stagg Campus and access the internet, i.e. the world beyond, but we know nothing as to why. Clearly, the implication here is it’s a Stagg attempt at replicating Terrifictech gone wrong, as shown by Stagg’s obsessive orders that the thread had to be contained inside the premises.
And from there on out, the issue ends with the reveal of Stagg The Conquerer, another likely virtual creation and spin on Simon Stagg. The obvious riff there in with that name and implication is Kang The Conquerer, which is fun and should play out interestingly. There’s a lot we don’t know about Noosphere, what it’s capable of, how real that which creates and crafts is and what it all really means and is born out of, thus making it hard to say or believe anything concrete. Nevertheless, that’s merely a symbol of potential, for out of the pond of unpredictability comes the chance to be surprised, truly.
The character that really walks away strongest from this issue is very much Plastic Man. Apart from the visually imaginative usage, Yang adds in a healthy dose of insecurity and almost a sense of cosmic guilt that weighs on the gentle and goofy hero, humanizing him beyond the humor and shedding light on a facet of him that we don’t get to see: faith. Eel’s worldview is often forgotten about and this is a touching, worthwhile reminder that the hero who thinks little of himself, despite acting bashful and cocky, struggles with the same things most of us, just on a greater scale, with truck-transformations and all.
The Terrifics #16 is another solid installment in what is one of DC’s most enjoyable offerings. Gene Yang is a massive talent and any time he does a book, it’s worth taking a look, because he always brings something really special to the table. With Protobunker’s colors setting the tone and making Segovia’s art pop and Napolitano’s state-of-the-art lettering, this is a really joyous superhero book.