Review: Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life trade paperback (DC Comics)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's New 52 Resurrection Man initiative has been a remake that improved upon the original, but Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life is a weaker follow-up to the first superlative volume. A crossover that gives Resurrection Man Mitch Shelley short shrift and a couple of instances where the book zigs when it might have zagged slows the book down, even as this final volume builds to an interesting conclusion.

[Review contains spoilers]

The dividing line between the first and second volumes of Resurrection Man is this book's introduction of Mitch's girl Friday Kim Rebecki. Rebecki is a private investigator with the power of psychometry, which means she can "read" things that she touches; employed to find Mitch, she discovers his innate goodness when they touch, almost immediately falls in love with him, and joins Shelley for the rest of his adventures. But I felt the writers were more enamored of Rebecki than I as the reader was; the "instant connection" between Shelley and Rebecki saves time, but it supersedes the building of any genuine chemistry that might make us care about Shelley and Rebecki's relationship.

Rebecki is at times a highly-skilled fighter, at times a damsel in distress depending on what the story calls for; it's also distinctly annoying that Shelley keeps referring to her as "Kim Rebecki" instead of just "Kim." Femme fatale assassins the Body Doubles do not alone a supporting cast make, but I didn't find Rebecki that strong of an addition to the team.

Also, I felt at times Abnett and Lanning substituted generic action scenes for actual story or plot. The first chapter has both Rebecki and supernatural serial killer The Butcher stalking Shelley; Rebecki and Shelley meet, the Butcher and Shelley fight, and then the Butcher is magicked away and never heard from again. To be fair, possibly the series's cancellation pre-empted some major plotline regarding the Butcher, but as it stands it feels like action for action's sake. One up side is that Fernando Dagnino's art, which varies from very detailed to very sketched as the story requires, takes on a Tom Mandrake-like quality in the supernatural fight sequences.

Next comes the two-part Suicide Squad crossover also collected in Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising. Having read the crossover in the context of both books, I can say it matters much more in the context of the other title than this one -- Deadshot recovering from injuries, a death on the team, and so on, including how severing Shelley's hand factors into Amanda Waller's plans later on. In the face of all of that, Shelley basically just chases the Squad and throws energy bolts at them; on its own this might be fine, but following the Butcher story, it seems like the writers are treading water for three issues.

What follows is much the same. Rebecki's powers give her "flashes" that tell her where to go -- which means, for instance, the writers can move Shelley and Rebecki to the hidden base of Shelley's ally the Transhuman without any in-story reason for how they discovered it except that Rebecki "just knows." There, they fight robot guards for four pages -- no reason other than to take up pages -- rest a couple pages, then fight the horde of angels that want to claim Shelley's soul. The angels and demons were one of the best parts of the first volume, imbuing Resurrection Man with a supernatural quality that's a nice counterpart to the original Resurrection Man series's purely sci-fi bent, but I thought the angels just "popping up" here lacked the first volume's mystical majesty.

Surely the best part of this chapter is the end and the inspired deal Shelley makes with the angels and demons. This foreshadows the book's conclusion, also quite good, where Shelley completes the bargain; one shame of Resurrection Man ending is that we don't get to see what exactly the Devil might have planned for Shelley later on.

The final two chapters plus the Zero Month issue may again have a bit too much shoot-'em-up, but Abnett and Lanning's big reveal -- that the man hunting Shelley is in fact the original Mitch Shelley, and the Resurrection Man is a clone -- was a good and unexpected change from the original series. Though "clones" as a concept may be overdone, I thought thematically this worked to bring Shelley full circle, from being concerned that he might revert to being "bad" again to now possessing his own "life" where he's always been "good." I also appreciated that the writers gave a nod to the mysterious figure that injected the original Shelley with the tektite serum, even if they didn't reveal his identity; I had thought this looked like a member of Darkseid's Deep Six team, personally, and I was eager for this book to have an Apokalips connection, but that's something else the cancellation pre-empts.

A final upside to the latter half of Death and Life is pages and pages of art by Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina, whose clear art I enjoy. (I also note that the artists put the Body Doubles in far more sensible outfits than Dagnino did.)

The first new volume of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's Resurrection Man offered some good Fugitive-esque done-in-one issues, a heavy dose of the supernatural, and some philosophical meandering, all ingredients for a successful second run of the series. Unfortunately, Resurrection Man Vol. 2: A Matter of Death and Life trades much of that for an action scene per issue whether the book needs it or not, and maybe that's a signal that the book had run its course. I'd be happy to see DC continue Mitch Shelley's adventures in a couple of specials, and I still hold out (probably foolish) hope we might see another collection of the original Resurrection Man series some time.

[Includes original covers]

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  1. I wonder how much of this run was affected by the writer's professional falling out.

  2. I believe this series was cancelled well before DnA's falling out. After it ended, Abnett and Lanning still co-wrote other things like Hypernaturals and the first arc of Dynamite's Battlestar Galactica ongoing series.