Resurrection Man Vol. 1: Dead Again
Mitch Shelley's power to die and come back to life every time with a new power makes him a target for a military secret organization. But now the forces of Heaven and Hell want his soul as well.
Mitch Shelley, The Body Doubles, Transhuman, Arkham Asylum, Metropolis
Writer: Dan Abnett
Illustrators: Andy Lanning, Fernando Dagnino, Ivan Reis
The New 52, DC’s blank slate reboot of all their characters, provided writers the opportunity to use some B-list characters and give them a fresh coat of paint. The Resurrection Man has always been in the shadows of the DC top list of characters, but Dan Abnett saw some potential and decided to run with one of the most fun metahumans in the DC universe.
The Resurrection Man, Mitch Shelley, can never stay dead. If he does die, he resurrects with a brand new power. The beginning of his story, Dead Again, has him waking up on a morgue slate, explaining that he can taste every metal object in the room. That is a side effect of having magnetic powers. With his memory gone and no direction, he follows his gut to board a plane. It’s there he meets a beautiful blonde who reveals herself to be a death angel of Heaven. She battles Shelley, ripping the plane apart. Apparently, Heaven and Hell are not too happy that the Resurrection Man cannot enter into the afterlife. He meets the devil in a later issue who expresses the same desire to own Shelley’s soul.
Shelley returns home in the second issue to piece together the parts of his life. He meets an elderly man at a senior living center who swears he used to be a super villain named Transhuman. All seems like a peaceful fact finding mission until The Body Doubles assassinate him in cold blood. They are buxom lady assassins that can regenerate and are part of a shady government military group that is interested in bringing Shelley to their compound. A huge brawl rips the senior living center in half. Shelley dies a few times and gets a little help from Transhuman before he discovers that the Body Doubles know about his past. He makes a truce with them and agrees to return with them willingly.
Issue three has the Angel of Death return for a second fight with Shelley. This time the Angel hits him so hard with fire and lightning that he disintegrates. She then notices that Shelley did not go to Heaven or Hell; he just evaporated into thin air. We then cut to a flash back, where a younger Mitch Shelley is on the grounds of a war torn Middle East. He is an arrogant and heartless experimental weapons contractor for the military. His job was to inject dying soldiers–fresh from a fire fight– with a mysterious drug to find out if they would regenerate. A counter attack explosion hits Shelley and he is forced to inject himself.
The next two issues are one-offs about the whereabouts of Shelley. He wakes up in Arkham Prison where he has to incite a riot to escape. Then he shows up in Metropolis where he finds a mob boss using his old military technology forcefields to burn a meth lab to the ground. Shelley rushes into the inferno to save citizens and stop the mob boss.
The series ends with Mitch continuing to search for his purpose explaining that he wants to be a good guy.
You can really tell when a writer is having fun with a character and I believe that is what Dan Abnett set out to do. He uses Mitch’s life and death powers in creative ways. Shelley gets magnetism, water shape-shifting, super strength, electricity, telekinesis and a slew of cool super powers with each new rebirth. The deep struggle of dying and coming back to life shows how much Shelley thinks his powers are a gift and a curse.
But the main hero is only partially the reason to read this story. Dan Abnett had tons of fun creating the female villains too. The Body Doubles are reckless and ditzy, not afraid to solve their problems with constant bullets. They add to the humor of the story. The angel of death is a psychotic mess, who is obsessed with getting her quota of kills. When she accidentally wipes Shelley off the map, she acts as if she failed an assignment. Even Dan’s portrayal of the wise cracking elderly super villain and the snarky Devil was fun to read.
The sketches were decent, having some throwback pictures to the early 1990’s. Nothing in this book had spectacular spacing and artistic symmetry, but it didn’t distract from the enjoyment either.
One thing did distract me. Every female in the story had to be buxom, ditzy and either promiscuous or overly violent. The Body Doubles represented two adult film stars and the artist did not miss a chance to show them in provocative poses. I get it, these women are supposed to have a “special” relationship. But even the Angel of Death wanted to let readers know she could wear low cut dresses.
But even if you could care less how females are portrayed, the character of Mitch Shelley seemed plain. Dan Abnett did not want to unravel what made Shelley passionate or what drove him to his mission. They wanted him to have blanket good guy statements like, “I want to do good,” “I want to help people,” and “I want to do what is right.” Those lines might work in 1960’s Spider-Man, but they do not work in today’s comics.
The focus of this comic was more about showing off Mitch’s powers and less about him as a character. I only really enjoyed Shelley in the flashback when he was a complete jerk to everyone.
Violence: In this 5 issue saga you will see various deaths. Bullets spurt out blood on a variety of occasions. Shelley is killed by crushing, slashing, breaking and electrocution. Even though everyone has the ability to regenerate, you do see some broken bones.
Swearing: No major swear words outside of the D, A and H word, which is rarely spoken.
Sex: The Body Doubles have a very seductive adult relationship. The writer tiptoes around them being lovers. While they don’t show them doing any sexual acts, the artists constantly puts them in tight cleavage showing outfits and skirts. The Angel of Death shows a good amount of cleavage as well.
Spiritual: The forces of Heaven and Hell play a good sized part in the story. While Shelley can come back to life, he is unable to enter into the Afterlife.That makes him desirable to both parties.
I cannot recommend Resurrection Man to readers looking for a good hero saga to get behind. After volume 2, the story was canceled. Even if it was still alive and kicking, I would have no passion to read this. The Resurrection Man has no purpose or believable drive to continue his quest for truth. No amount of buxom babes or cool rebirth scenes can replace the need for good character development.
+ Fun use of resurrection powers
+ Enjoyable support characters
- Mitch Shelley needs more depth to his character