Evidently, you get to lay claim to being the third smartest man in the world by boring people to death with lukewarm writing and reminding people of it at least three times in the span of twenty pages. Or maybe it’s all psychosomatic, and if Eric Wallace writes it enough he’ll figure out a way to make Michael Holt — or Mr. Terrific — truly become the third most intelligent man in the DC Universe.
There is no questioning Wallace’s abundance of ideas. From the first page, Wallace stretches the geographic boundaries of the DC Universe, placing the opening scene in London and having Terrific rely on his T-Spheres as his means of transportation. Wallace then spins out an origin story, a peek into the future, a visit to the ninth dimension (but we didn’t pass Mxyzptlk on the way), an attack by what is presumably to become one of the villains of the piece, an appearance by one of Terrific’s former JSA teammates who is now without team and apparently has no qualms about teaming up with Terrific between the sheets, a handful of characters that have names and seem to be the foundation of a supporting cast though they aren’t formally introduced and a few pieces of new technology. You now basically have the entirety of this issue, minus the cliffhanger. That’s right, Wallace jammed twenty-five pages of ideas into a twenty-page story. The end result is a wave of ideas and concepts that waver between boring and information overload.
In a book this overstuffed, there is no shortage of two-dimensional characters who take every moment to pick out their own diversity. We have Mr. Terrific informing us he’d have preferred someone had just referred to him as a “black guy” to what should be a room-chilling awkward exchange wherein a presidential candidate refers to Michael Holt — in person — as “a liberal, pinko-loving atheist” before informing Holt and the reader that he is, by the way, Republican, in case the hideously inserted, ham-handed stereotype wasn’t clue enough. Dialog like this simply comes off as clunky and jarring.
Unfortunately, Wallace’s cause is not helped out too much by Gianluca Gugliotta. Throughout most of the issue, Gugliotta exhibits a tendency towards unfinished-looking art featuring uncomfortably posed people, inconsistently drawn, with shifting features and worse. Every time the characters begin to look good and some level of consistency creeps in, it’s as though somewhere off panel someone beats the tar out of them with an ugly stick in anticipation of their next appearance in the story. There are flashes of artistic brilliance, but there are just as many flashes of dreadfulness. It’s a shame — Gugliotta has the ability, as seen in the opening sequence of this book.
DC chose not to include the JSA in its initial fifty-two titles of the grand New 52 relaunch, and the publisher may have been well served to have held this title back as well. An extra bit of work both on the story and the art would have done nothing but help this book be more readable and enjoyable. As it stands right now, I certainly haven’t seen enough in “Mister Terrific” to care to come back for more.