Written by Erik Larsen
Drawn and colored by Nikos Koutsis
Published by Image Comics
PREVIOUSLY: MIGHTY MAN #1
This was a nice surprise to see in this week’s list of new releases on Comixology this morning. Mighty Man has long been my 2nd favorite Erik Larsen creation, after Savage Dragon himself (in which I basically count the original and Malcolm Dragon as a tie) as, like Larsen, I share a lifelong fondness for the original Captain Marvel, upon which this character is based on. Now, I have not been reading the regular Savage Dragon title for the past couple of years, so I don’t know if, like the first Mighty Man one-shot, this is a collection of short-stories that original appeared in that title, or if it is brand new. The main story is 21 pages long, and it’s divided into 3 chapters which could indicate the former.
In any case, a lot has changed for this character since the previous issue. Ann Stevens is no longer Mighty Man. We learn that she has a daughter named Betty Bradford, who is now 7 years old. And that somehow, apparently during the pregnancy, Ann’s powers transferred from her to her daughter. And now Ann has, somewhat reluctantly, allowed some of the other superheroes in Chicago train Betty how to use her powers as Mighty Man.
The first chapter has SUPER-PATRIOT training Betty to fight, as they duke it out in a mostly-deserted section of Chicago. Malcolm Dragon makes a brief appearance in this story to check up on both of them. Then the second chapter has Betty, as Mighty Man, training with former FREAK FORCE members, Barbaric and Ricochet out in the woods. And then the final chapter has Mighty Man on an official mission with those three heroes, and some others, apparently as members of the U.S. government-sponsored super-team, which the original Dragon briefly lead, the Special Operations Strikeforce, to track down and rescue a hostage who has been captured by a terrorist group called the Battlin’ Bulldogs (a bunch of humanoid bulldogs, naturally). I will not spoil the ending, but there is a bit of a twist regarding whom the hostage is.
Nikos Koutsis does an excellent job on the artwork. His style is unique enough to be his own, but it’s also not a huge departure from Larsen’s style. And that’s good, as it gives the characters a certain bit of visual stability (if that makes any sense). And this issue is mostly a set of action scenes, so he really gets a chance to show off how good he is at drawing characters in motion. There’s lots of dynamic shots of punching, jumping, and things crashing. And he does a darn good job coloring it all too. So I have no complaints art-wise at all.
Story-wise, it’s also mostly good. A passing familiarity with the characters in this book helps, but is not absolutely necessary. Much like the traditional single-issue comics of my youth, everything that you really need to know about the characters is revealed here in the story, making this accessible to old and new readers alike (plus there are several pages of pin-ups and bios of the main characters in the back of the issue, to help catch you up to speed). Comixology labels this issue with an “age rating” of 17+. But it seems pretty all-ages to me. Sure, there’s lots of fighting, but it’s old school cartoon-violence. We’re not seeing any blood and guts here. Nobody gets killed or seriously injured. And other than one line of dialog, in which a woman is referred to as a “hot piece of ass,” there’s no salty language.
The only problems I’d note with the story is that, as enjoyable as it is, unlike the last Mighty Man special, there isn’t a progressing story arc. While we see Betty training as Mighty Man before going into battle on an official mission, there’s no indication of her being any better at the end of the issue than she appears to be at the beginning. At one point a potential subplot is raised, where some bystanders mistake a training session as real and it gets reported on the TV news that Mighty Man has turned evil and gone on a rampage. But that’s not followed up on. Ann expresses her fears for Betty to Super-Patriot, being worried about what could happen if someone found out Betty’s true identity. And twice after that other heroes refer to Mighty Man as “Betty” in public and Betty has to remind them to not to call her that while she’s in Mighty Man’s form. That seems like something experienced superheroes would already know not to do. And that feels like it could be foreshadowing someone finding out Betty’s identity.
So if this issue were not a stand-alone, but rather the first issue of an ongoing series, or even a miniseries, where I could assume that we would see some fallout of the public distrust of Mighty Man and risks to her secret identity in upcoming issues, I could overlook those things. But since I don’t know when or if we will get another Mighty Man comic-book, they feel more like plot holes.
But, make no mistake, overall I enjoyed it! I’d grade this a solid B+, and I do recommend it to readers. If anything, the more of you folks buy this, the greater the odds are that we will see some future Mighty Man issues. So, please, do yourself (and me) a favor, and pick this up, and tell a friend!