Mon
Aug 22 2011 4:17pm

Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Resurrection Man

Reader’s Guide to the New DC Universe: Resurrection ManEach weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: RESURRECTION MAN!

The Concept and Characters: The genesis for this series began in 1965, when a character by the name of Immortal Man first appeared in the pages of DC’s Strange Adventures #177. Immortal Man, true to his name, could not die. Okay, he could die, but he would always come back to life, from the caveman days of 48,000 BC to today.

The problem with Immortal Man, as a character, was that although he had some limited powers (beyond immortality), he was mostly just a regular guy who kept coming back to life. That might be a fascinating concept to explore, if given the space, but Silver Age DC comics were notoriously short on space and long on packing lots of crazy pseudo-science and rapid-fire plot points at the reader. As an action hero, Immortal Man was lacking, and he mostly gained notoriety, at least to the DC readership, as a member of the Forgotten Heroes. Ironic, I know.

But in the late 1990s, the writing duo of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took a germ of the concept of Immortal Man (filtered through some ideas they’d been brewing for the yes-it-really-happened Great Lakes Avengers over at Marvel) and thought about a character who kept coming back to life, but with a new superpower each time. Now that would be a comic book character worth reading about. That would be a comic character who stuck in the minds of the readers, without falling into Forgotten Hero semi-obscurity.

So that’s what Abnett and Lanning did. They created a hero called Resurrection Man, gave him an origin story involving nanites and inspired-by-Silver-Age-comics pseudo-science, and put him to work in a DC series where he faced off against assorted supervillains and tried to help the common man. The comic didn’t have a lot of readers. It lasted for just over two years before DC put it out of its misery.

But from 1997-1999, if you wanted to get your dose of resurrected-with-new-powers superheroics, the Resurrection Man series was your place to go. People who read the book seemed enthusiastic about it, but with a strange name and a borderline-Vertigo tone, it wasn’t something that the mainstream DC audience gave much of a chance.

Now it’s back. Resurrected for the DC relaunch in September. There’s that irony again.

This isn’t a reboot, say Abnett and Lanning. It’s still the story of Mitch Shelley, immortal hero with the new-power-every-resurrection. Old readers will appreciate the new take on the character, with more longer-form storytelling planned, but new readers should be able to jump right in without feeling like they’ve missed anything. It’s what the DC relaunch is supposed to be about.

Resurrection Man is also part of the “Dark” line of DCU titles. That’s basically just code for “it’s kind of like what Vertigo was when it started, before it stopped being about superhero comics.” Mitch Shelley should fit right in with that milieu, and Abnett and Lanning won’t have to wedge in the costumed superheroics as much as they did the first time they wrote a series with the same name as this one.

The Creative Team: Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning return to relaunch the series they created a decade-and-a-half ago, and during that time they’ve established themselves as even more accomplished comic book writers. They were well-known, and well-credentialed, even back in 1997, but most of their work at that point had been on British comics or lesser Marvel comics like Force Works or War Machine. Their post-Resurrection Man career has seen them writing dozens of different series, including a high-profile relaunch of The Legion of Super-Heroes franchise and near total control of Marvel’s space superheroes like Nova and the Inhumans. They’ve also recently kicked off a new Heroes for Hire series that has met with acclaim.

They are certainly capable of complementing structurally sound plotting with strong characterization, and in everything they do, they seem like consummate professionals. All you ever see is their prolific output and solidly readable comics, month after month. They are consistently above average writers with occasional dabbles with excellence.

Artist Fernando Dagnino hasn’t been around the industry quite as long as Abnett and Lanning, but he has produced a sizeable amount of work in American comics in just a few years. A veteran artist from Spain, Dagnino is the kind of artist with a name most readers wouldn’t recognize. He’ll do a fill in here and there, or a short run on a Superman Family book, and because his art isn’t flashy or distracting, few will bother to flip back to the credits to see who did the job. He’s the only member of the creative team who wasn’t part of the original series (Butch Guice was the artist the first time around), but he will be a fine contributor to the new adventures of old Resurrection Man.

Recommendation: Wait for the collected edition. Abnett and Lanning have said that they are looking to do less episodic stories and more long-form plotting, which should serve this kind of book nicely, but it also means that the collected edition will get you a more complete and satisfying story. This series has a built-in mechanism for keeping things from getting stale, and a creative team that has established itself as a group of consummate professionals. This series will probably be overlooked amidst all the new releases in September, but it’s certainly worth checking out. In trade paperback form, if not sooner.


Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.

7 comments
Dave Thompson
1. DKT
Huh. That actually sounds strangely cool. I might have to check that TPB out. Thanks!
Mark Andrew Edwards
2. Mark Andrew Edwards
I buy just about anything with Dan Abnett's name on it. The guy writes genre and media titles better than just about anyone who's name doesn't end '-ackpole'

He really understands character, even his misses are interesting.
Mark Andrew Edwards
3. wizard clip
It's been a long time since I read them, but I recall that one of the early Wildcards books had a similar sort of character, only he went into some sort of hibernation, rather than dying, and awoke with a new superpower each time.
Mark Andrew Edwards
4. Bruce A.
I remember the Resurrection Man series. The highlight of that run was when Garth Ennis' Hitman guest-starred, resulting in laugh-out-loud a scene where, surrounded by enemies, Tommy Monaghan (Hitman) repeatedly kills Mitch Shelley until Mitch manifests a superpower that will let the two of them escape.

(I still miss Hitman. I don't think I'll ever forgive Ennis for killing off Tommy and his friend Nat in the final issue.)
Mark Andrew Edwards
10. John R. Ellis
Ah, DnA, bringing back one of the first things that made them a "must read". I'm totally in.

"it’s kind of like what Vertigo was when it started, before it stopped being about superhero comics"

I dunno. By the time Vertigo was officially given to their monthly "suggested for mature readers" monthlies as an actual imprint, even the ones that started out with strong super-hero ties had begun to drift far away from the genre. And it wasn't long at all before completely non-super-hero projects started trickling in.
Mark Andrew Edwards
11. ryamano
@3 wizardclip

That was the Sleeper in Wildcards. I enjoyed his part in the second Wild Cards book, Aces High. The ending is one of the best endings I read in a book.

"Hello, Croyd? I've got a job for you".
Chuk Goodin
12. Chuk
The Sleeper is still in the Wild Cards books, he is in the newest one quite a bit.
(Resurrection Man sounds interesting although I wonder if he's actually "dying" if he just gets better right away. Haven't read any of them.)

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