Review: Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control trade paperback (DC Comics)

September 19, 2018

 ·  5 comments

Damage, not coincidentally, reminds of the New 52's short-lived OMAC series and also your boilerplate Incredible Hulk story. There's a heavy dose of The Fugitive, too. It is far from ground-breaking (aside from the protagonist's destructive tendencies), and without some major shot in the arm, I'm doubtful the book will last much longer. For what is a standard "monster within" book, however, Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control was better than I expected, and the suggested ties to larger DC Comics continuity offered a faint ray of hope; I think Damage has a path to success, though I'm not counting on it getting there.

[Review contains spoilers]

Offering the post-Metal "New Age of Heroes" as an artist-forward initiative sounded good; insofar as there are artists I enjoy, that these comics might give their talents a spotlight seems a win. This volume lists Damage as created by Tony Daniel and Robert Venditti, and Daniel takes billing over Venditti as co-"storytellers" for the first three of these six issues.

Daniel, to his credit, is a very consistent artist, and his muscled, vein-y Damage monster is appropriately Hulk-like, his scenes of destruction especially in the first issue appropriately widescreen. Daniel must share blame though, too, that the debut issue contains six double-page spreads and two splash pages, so 14 of the first 20 pages, and overall the first arc is high on action and low on plot movement. Daniel and Venditti have one issue where Damage fights his makers, then another where Damage fights the Suicide Squad and another where Damage fights Wonder Woman, and that's the arc. These have to an extent become Daniel's go-to characters lately, and in similar fashion to Daniel's Deathstroke Vol. 3: Suicide Run, there's not much reason to the presence of these characters (especially Wonder Woman) aside from Daniel and Venditti wanting them in the story. The team sets the first arc in Atlanta, but do nothing in words or art to distinguish it from New York or Gotham.

For nuance, one might expect Damage to be a "monster within" book that then subverts those tropes in some way, but that doesn't happen by the end of the first arc. The second arc deviates from the first a bit; it is more "talky," mildly political with slight references to the immigration debate, and with a stronger Fugitive (or Hulk TV series) undertone -- Damage Ethan Avery, on the run, discovers a problem and tries to solve it. Though Cary Nord and Diogenes Neves still get billing over Venditti, in the tonal shift one perhaps imagines Venditti coming through more strongly now.

The "Unnatural Disaster" storyline is still something of a fright. I'm no purist but this story comes at a point where no one seems to be paying attention to what anyone else is doing with Poison Ivy, and so her presence seems random and nonsensical, more so when it turns out Ivy is a beachhead for an attack by Gorilla Grodd. I do give credit to editorial for having supplied some "this happened before this" notes. Despite some improvement, the plot still seems to turn on "Damage fights this person, then Damage fights that person," and I'm just not convinced we can get to issue #100 with the comic book equivalent of a fighter game.

There was plenty here I found interesting. As a basically nice guy, and a soldier, trying to do right, Ethan Avery is a compelling protagonist, if again fairly boilerplate. In their various forms, the human Ethan and hulking Damage talk to one another, which is especially notable since Damage is feral as Damage but articulate in Ethan's head. What Damage is, if not just a hulked-out Ethan, is something I'm curious about and that I hope Venditti intends to address.

Also, I'm a fan from way back of Tom Joyner's Grant Emerson Damage series; at the outset it seemed these books were unrelated and I'm probably grasping at straws, but a couple things stuck out to me that piqued my curiosity. Again, Daniel and Venditti set the first arc in Atlanta, where some of Joyner's series took place; given how little this team does with Atlanta proper, it made me wonder if this was a clue instead. Also, part of the serum that creates the Avery Damage is Miraclo, a nod to the Justice Society's Hourman (who may or may not exist these days, but irrespective), and the Emerson Damage also had his origins in the Justice Society's powers. It seems Ethan is going next to find the Unknown Soldier; that's auspicious in general, tying Damage perhaps to the fabric of DC's war books, but also part of me can't help but hope a former Titan and JSAer who used to wear a full face mask might be hiding underneath the Unknown Soldier's bandages.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control

So again, while Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control is rough, the first of the "New Age of Heroes" titles I've read, there's enough here to bring me back for a second volume, and more swiftly and readily than I did for the Young Animal books. "New Age" is part of DC proper and not an imprint like Young Animal, but I almost wish it was; at the least, I'd be very enthused to see a "New Age of Heroes" crossover among the titles, kind of like what Impact or Milestone used to do. For the next volume I'm eager to see Robert Venditti delve into what makes Damage different from his antecedents and get into some of the nuances of the character.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Damage Vol. 1: Out of Control
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 5 )

  1. I didn't read the series, but the basis of the character sounds a whole lot Daniel's creator owned The Tenth from the 90s, which I was a huge fan of.
    I was also a huge fan of the original Damage series featuring the teen hero Grant Emerson. DC destroyed the character, and I guess with this series there won't be a new Damage/Grant Emerson series coming any time soon.

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    Replies
    1. I'm not familiar with The Tenth, though I see it has a hulking monster. Other similarities?

      I wish DC would collect the Grant Emerson Damage series to give me an excuse for a re-read. I know I liked it a lot, but the details fade after so many years.

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    2. The Tenth is a man-turned-Monster as a 'soldier' for a private corporation. It was enjoyable, and you can definitely see how Daniels art has evolved over the years.
      a collected edition of the Grant Emerson series would be fantastic.

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  2. I find it amusing that they insist on putting the writer at the end of the credits in all the New Age series, when the writers are the ONLY ONES who haven't jumped ship after a couple of issues.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. Artists are people, they contribute ineffably to this medium, they more than deserve a series of books where they get their due. But it does become tougher when the artists leave and the writers remain, as you said; at that point I think whomever the remaining creator was, whether writer or artist, ought get top billing.

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