Friday, August 30, 2013

It came from the Dollar Bin! DNAgents #1!

I admit to knowing not so much about Eclipse comics other than the fact that it was awesome; I wasn't really around for its heyday, though I've read several Eclipse comics including Miracleman and Airboy. All I really know about it is that it was the first real challenger to Marvel and DC in the post-Big Two era, where they were otherwise completely unchallenged in terms of popularity. If that's not true, please don't tell me, I want to believe. 

Also, if Valiant is back, how much longer until Eclipse follows suit? We're already into 90s nostalgia what with Image's reboots of Supreme, Glory, Youngblood, and Bloodstrike, and Eclipse was mostly popular in the late 80s -- how did they get skipped over? 

Anyway, DNAgents was a really huge title for Eclipse. Never read this before, but I saw a tight Dave Stevens cover for it once. And as I understand it, they were a lot like the New Teen Titans and the X-Men of the 80s.

Gotta love the little Salacious Crumb guy with that huge SMG. Left to right, that's Surge, Amber, Sham (little guy), Tank (guess, dummy), and Rainbow -- and their whole deal is a really familiar premise to me, because they're refugees from a secret government project. This is a premise I have seen tons of times in the comic medium, and it's also a concept I'll never get sick of. 

As for their powers, Surge shoots electricity, Amber projects these electromagnetic discs and can fly on one like Static, Tank is strong, tough, and has guns on his wrists, Sham has shapeshifting powers and commando training, and Rainbow is a telepath who can project illusions.

The story begins in earnest when the kids are shown in their suspension tubes industrialist Lucius Krell, who funded the project in the first place. Lucky for him he has access to them, as his daughter was kidnapped and these guys could totally bring her back. At this point, they're just over five years old, but look like teenagers, and have only been out of the tubes five or six times (including the time they got fitted for their costumes). 

Oh, and they're both awake and naked in those tubes, duh. Amber is self-conscious and tries to cover herself up a la The Birth of Venus, but the thought clearly never entered Sham or Rainbow's minds. Fortunately (or not, if you're a weirdo), there's no real nudity. Wait, is this a non-Code approved comic that tackles vaguely mature story elements but doesn't have gratuitous sex, violence, and cursing? Holy crap Eclipse still has the Big Two beat on that one. 

Later, Krell's company, Matrix, tries to wrest control of the DNAgents from him, saying he's overstepping his boundaries by using them for his personal dirty work. Later still, the group lands in Acapulco and gets their mission started. It's not long before they run into trouble.

Sham tries to jump to Surge's aid, but is stopped by Amber. He's obviously insecure about his lack of direct combat capabilities, and as such fills the role of the mopey kid every teen team seems to have. Also, Surge is having way too much fun blasting these soldiers out of the sky.

Tank eventually notices that these are obviously experienced mercenaries who can't hit anything, even the 7-foot giant. It turns out these soldiers (who withdraw after a certain amount of time has passed) are working for the Matrix corporation. Though the DNAgents don't learn this, Rainbow does note that those hoverbikes are prototypes developed by Matrix, and telepathically communicates as much back to base. There's some fretting about corporate espionage or a leak, but blah blah -- the DNAgents caught a prisoner, who is interrogated by Rainbow.

He gives up the location of Krell's daughter Angela, but is soon recovered by an ally. There's more stuff about the conspiracy within Matrix, including an inside man working directly with mission control.

I haven't known Surge for too long, but I feel like I understand him very well already. Not that it's hard, he seems like a pretty simple guy to get. Anyway, when he wanted to bum rush the guys holding Angela in a building, I wasn't surprised. I also wasn't that surprised when he blasted his way through a wall to get in. Surge is kind of awesome like that. I think the naive hotheaded leader is another one of those "ahead of its time" facets of this comic, as it happens.

The DNAgents mop up the kidnappers quick, but Sham isn't too happy about his contribution to the effort (or lack thereof). Angela doesn't appreciate how they endangered her back there, a sentiment Surge responds to with the grace and maturity I've come to expect from him.

When the group returns, they get rejected by their father figure Dr. Harden, who doesn't think of them as real human beings. There's good news, though; they're to be enrolled in a local college for some crazy sitcom reason! Oh and unbeknownst to them Krell staged this whole thing to test them; his daughter wasn't in on it but she was never in any danger.

The DNAgents arrive at Beechgrove University. There's a pretty funny scene where a student mistakes the gaggle of weirdos for transfers from Berkeley. Tank already has a girlfriend in a bimbo who mistook him for a football player. Oh, and Surge has a bodyguard job to get to later, which causes him to be targeted by an assassin. Everyone else gets settled into their dorms, and Sham shows his powers, finally. It only makes sense that he hardly gets to do anything, since that's part of his characterization and all.

Sham and Tank are called to help Surge, who survived an assassination attempt (method: cut brake lines on huge truck), but needs help stabilizing a building that was damaged by the attack. Incidentally, Sham and Tank are obviously best pals, and if anything I get a kind of Reed Richard/Ben Grimm vibe from them, though admittedly I don't think Sham's much of a "big brain".

They have to support the building and replace a busted pillar; Tank's not strong enough without his costume to hold it for longer than, like, a minute, so it's handy that Amber and Rainbow show up to lend a hand, with Amber using her discs to keep two girders in place and Surge welding them together with his hands. that's when the team's handler shows up to introduce Surge to his charge: Angela.

That probably seems comical enough, but the issue closes with the assassin thinking to himself about how he'll get Surge and Angela sooner or later.

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