This Dynamite incarnation of “Black Terror” is a spin-off of the recent “Project Superpowers” series, and perhaps this issue reads better if you’ve read that series first. But I doubt it, because the first issue of “Black Terror” establishes the setting fairly well, and though the other “Project Superpowers” gang shows up in a number of panels, it’s really the Black Terror himself who matters. This is his story, his quest for revenge and/or answers, and it’s not very good at all.
The Black Terror was originally created in the early 1940s as one of any number of Batman rip-offs that dotted the Golden Age comics landscape. Like Batman, the Black Terror did not fight crime alone. His sidekick was the young and powerful…Tim. The Black Terror and Tim punched their way through gun-wielding gangsters and axis sympathizers, and, like many of his costumed brethren, didn’t last into the 1950s. But his striking skull-and-crossbones costume lodged in readers’ minds long after the character’s demise, and he has been revived in various forms over the past two decades, most notably in a painted series by Dan Brereton in the late 1980s and as a part of Alan Moore’s “Tom Strong” menagerie a decade later.
Dynamite’s “Black Terror” #1 doesn’t live up to any of those previous revivals. It doesn’t even live up to the promise of its handsome John Romita, Sr. variant cover.
The most obvious problem is the art, which is drawn by Mike Lilly, digitally inked (or so it seems to me) and then “painted” by Vinicius Andrade. It’s ugly, muddy, and grim. It’s not so different from the look of the “Project Superpowers” series itself, and I guess that’s the point, but that series didn’t look good either.
Then there’s the dialogue, written by Jim Krueger. I’ve enjoyed other Krueger work in the past, but his recent work has seemed burdened by a ridiculous level of self-seriousness that verges on parody. Everything about “Black Terror” #1 screams parody, actually, except that it keeps reminding us that it’s oh so serious by having such grim artwork and pained facial expressions. But the dialogue! Here’s a sample: “One thing I learned in the war,” says the Black Terror. “There’s even a silver lining to being attacked by an army…it takes a while before you run out of enemies.” What an astute observation! Or how about this back-and-forth:
“The president has Tim, Jet,” says the Black Terror.
Jet replies, “Do you know for sure?”
And imagine that dialogue being spoken by the most straight-faced, tight-lipped superheroes ever, as if they are speaking profound life lessons.
The issue is full of stuff like that, and the “cliffhanger” at the end is laughable in its mock-seriousness and faux-gritty determination.
“Black Terror” #1 is what happens when you take a silly public domain character and try to make him as “cool” as possible. But just because you yell, “this is serious!” over and over, that doesn’t make it so. And it definitely doesn’t make it any good.