He’s YOUNG! He’s TERMINATED! He’s…
So begins one of the more interesting miniseries Marvel has ever done.
Mort Graves is a teenager trying to impress the girl of his dreams, Kimberly, who seemingly doesn’t care that he’s alive. He doesn’t seem to realize that the biker chick, Maureen, actually likes him and his friends, Slick and Weirdo, not the best of friends but they stick around for some reason.
Our story picks up after Mort’s accident. He’s given a chance to relive his folly: taking his dad’s prized, almost fully restored, Studebaker out to try to impress Kimberly. This ends up with him in a drag race and remember the ‘almost’ part of ‘almost fully restored’ was that his dad almost got to the breaks.
The train helps him stop. Living, that is.
Slamming into the afterlife, Mort meets Teen Death, son of the Reaper, who explain the situation: Mort isn’t bad enough for Hell but Heaven is ‘closed for repairs’ so Mort has to return to the land of the living as a ghost and haunt his family.
His family makes the Bundy’s look like the Cosby’s.
His funeral is a mockery: the folks skimped so much on it that his coffin was made of cardboard. His dad is upset that his prized car is destroyed and isn’t upset that Mort is dead, for example. The fact that Mort is back to haunt them is more of an inconvenience than anything.
So, as the story progresses, Mort tries to figure out a way that he and Kimberly can be together, being that he’s dead it won’t be easy, and Teen Death tries to show him how horrible being dead is and, in Mort’s case, how it’s equally as bad as being alive.
In the end we find Mort seeing possible futures that he might have had if he wasn’t stupid and died. Teen Death seems to be trying to get through to him for some reason. After flashing possible futures gone wrong to Mort, Teen Death makes him return to his current state and tells him to get to haunting his family. He soon finds everyone is going the wrong way, people he kind of cared about are changed and it’s becoming something of a nightmare world.
Which is exactly what this whole thing is. Yeah, I know, normally it’s a cop out to make a whole series a dream but this is where this fun little series pays respect to the great horror comics of the 1950’s, the EC’s. The end of the story takes us to the beginning with Mort taking his dad’s car to impress Kimberly. The last page shows Teen Death on a train saying he tried to warn Mort but he wouldn’t listen.
This is like a dark version of Archie, with the art of Gary Hallgren being cartoony yet kind of dark and Larry Hama shows that despite writing G.I. Joe he does have a dark side. One thing to look at are the many references to death and dead celebrities and normal people pepper throughout the series. When in the afterlife, there are so many really great touches added into the background.
The re-read value of this miniseries, which to date has never been collected into a trade paperback, is pretty high. I’ve read it quite a few times, to the point that I have some of it memorized.
Also, rumor has it, this is one of Stan Lee’s favorite books.