Shiny Shelf

Plastic Man #1

By Eddie Robson on 08 December 2003

Clearly something of a coup for DC here, as it relaunches one of its best-loved characters with a writer/artist of Kyle Baker’s credentials. Baker is better known in the US than in the UK, but his cartoons have appeared in numerous American periodicals (The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice), he has worked on animations for Warner Bros and he has an Eisner sitting on the shelf. It’s no surprise that this first issue has been keenly anticipated.

Whilst it would be ridiculous to place this on a level with John Byrne’s ‘Superman: Man of Steel’ or Frank Miller’s ‘Batman: Year One’ – it isn’t as significant as that – ‘Plastic Man’ is one of the most confident relaunches I’ve seen under the DC banner. This is simply because Baker makes the character his own: his style matches Plastic Man’s personality completely, so much so that you could believe the character had never been drawn by anybody else.

What Baker brings to this title is visual imagination: with a character who can reform himself at will, much of the appeal lies in the varied and surprising ways in which he manipulates his own body. Sensibly, Baker kicks off his first issue with a great example of this, as Plas turns himself into a bowling-ball catapult. After its initial crime-fighting sequence the issue mostly concerns itself with recounting the character’s origin, which slows things down a little but it’s got to be done – and Baker has used the origin as a neat springboard for his first story arc.

The world in which ‘Plastic Man’ takes place is resolutely incompatible with the rest of the DC universe: it operates on heightened cartoon logic, with no regard whatsoever for the ‘real’ world. If that bothers you, don’t buy it – but if you’re willing to be more relaxed (and, frankly, sensible) about such things, this title sees DC offering something different to the fare in most of its mainstream books and it works very successfully. With Baker’s name attached to pull in the doubters, I can see this doing well.

What remains to be seen is whether Baker can combine his inventiveness as an artist with consistency of jokes and engaging crime narratives for Plas to tackle. What I’m looking for here is a sort of superhero version of ‘Police Squad!’ – which, with a bit more pace in the dialogue and a strong supporting cast, ‘Plastic Man’ could become. Since I mainly bought this first issue because there wasn’t much else out that I wanted this week, this has been at least one successful sale for DC.

Purchase Kyle Baker’s ‘You Are Here’ and ‘The Cowboy Wally Show’ from

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By Eddie Robson

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