Written by Gary Carlson and Erik Larsen
Drawn and colored by Mark Englert
Published by Image Comics
This is a comic that I didn’t even know existed until it popped up in my “recommended for you” list on Amazon. This is character created by Erik Larsen that originally appeared in the early issues of his Savage Dragon series. Like me, Larsen is a big fan of the original Captain Marvel, and Mighty Man is his analog of that character, although with a pretty interesting twist. Instead of the alter ego being a young boy, Mighty Man’s alter-ego is an adult woman. When Ann Stevens, a registered nurse, taps her wrists together, she transforms into the superhero, Mighty Man.
Ann/Mighty Man remained a recurring character in the Savage Dragon series, and eventually became part of a superhero team called Freak Force, which had it’s own spin-off series which lasted 18 issues. As I said when I posted my review of Savage Dragon #193, I had originally stopped reading Savage Dragon around #75, so I had been out of the loop and hadn’t been aware of this issue. It turns out that it is actually a collection of a series of short back-up stories featuring Mighty Man that had appeared in several later issues of Savage Dragon.
This issue takes place after Savage Dragon had been transferred to a parallel Earth (long story). So on this world, although it’s been 10 years since Ann had acquired the ability to change into Mighty Man, she had been unaware of it until Dragon told her and showed her how to change, so she’s still relatively new in the superhero business. She’s still a novice in regards to using her powers and feels conflicted about how it interferes with her civilian life, particularly her duties as a nurse. Plus there is some romantic conflict, as Ann has recently been reunited with her High School sweetheart, Larry, who is now a doctor, and they’ve begun dating but she’s worried about how he’ll feel if she tells him that she’s Mighty Man.
There is a flashback to Ann’s origin, which was revealed in the Freak Force series. Bobby Berman was the original Mighty Man, he got the powers when he was a 12 year old boy during WWII and had been fighting crime for decades. But as an 80 year old man he was injured and in the hospital and, thinking that she was his teenage grandson Billy, he transferred the powers to Ann just before he died. Billy showed up a minute too late and we learn that he’s been angry and bitter ever since. But one day Billy discovers something in his grandfather’s former possessions, a ray gun invented by Mighty Man’s former nemesis Dr. Nirvana (an obvious analog of Captain Marvel’s enemy Dr. Sivana) which he can use to steal Mighty Man’s powers from Ann, whom he’s figured out is the new Mighty Man.
Billy carried out his plan and it works. Taking the power away from Ann, he becomes Mighty Man and begins waging a war on crime. Ann is conflicted at first, but over the next few days Billy proves to be an effective superhero, defeating and locking up a string of supervillains. And when Larry proposes to her, she accepts, and is prepared to go on living the rest of her normal life. But the power starts going to Billy’s head. He becomes increasingly violent, not only towards super criminals, but normal criminals. He becomes a self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner, daring the ire of the police and other superheroes, including Savage Dragon. When attempts to restrain Mighty Man prove inefficient, Ann feels personally responsible for what happened, and prepares to find a way to stop Billy herself, even if that means taking back the powers of Mighty Man and disrupting her now happy personal life…
I won’t spoil how it turns out, but it comes to a very satisfying conclusion. Gary Carlson scripts the book over a plot he developed with Erik Larsen, and he gets the tone of the characters, including Dragon, just right. Ann is, of course, the star of the book and Carlson writes her as a fully-developed person whom we can easily relate to and understand her motivations. Billy’s switch from eager hero to psychopath also seems to be a natural progression. Overall the story has a nix of drama and action. I’m also very impressed with the artwork of Mark Englert here, it’s stylistically similar to Larsen’s art, without being an imitation. Overall this is a very good book.
Unfortunately, this issue isn’t available digitally, if you want it in print there’s currently some used copies available on Amazon or you can get the issues of Savage Dragon that this story is originally serialized in, beginning with Savage Dragon #109 to Savage Dragon #118