Created by Dwayne McDuffie and John Paul Leon in 1993, the character Static first appeared in Static, published by Milestone Comics, an imprint of DC Comics whose aim was to create more minority characters outside of their regular universe. Though Static enjoyed a healthy run for some time (lasting until Milestone ceased publication in 1997), the character lived in semi-obscurity for a few years until the 2000 cartoon series Static Shock aired on the WB. This brought the character more into the mainstream, which may have contributed to DC’s decision to make Static Shock an introductory title in the New 52 launch. But can Static Shock stand up to DC’s heavy-hitters like Batman and Superman?
Written by Scott McDaniel and John Rozum, with art by Scott McDaniel, the story begins en media res with a battle between Static and a villain he refers to as “Sunspot” over New York City. The witty banter and analytical, scientific thinking on behalf of Static in the middle of their battle instantly bring to mind thoughts of Spider-Man. The way Static works out his problems by evaluating the situation and actively searching for a counter-measure to his enemies’ attacks is a great addition to the book. It shows us that Static is as intelligent as his character is meant to be and is not just out on the street looking for bad guys to fight just because he has powers.
The first half of the issue allows McDaniel and Rozum to explore many of Static’s abilities, showing the audience different ways he controls electricity, which is just a drop in the bucket of the powers he possesses. At first it comes off as showboating, just a way to cram in a few pages of cool visuals, but once you realize that they don’t go into too much history about Static’s origins, it makes some sense. I like the fact that they aren’t starting with a simple origin story, and instead give us a character who knows and understands how to use his powers, but still has to learn and evolve as he goes. I’m certain, given the whole “rebooted universe,” that the writers will eventually reveal how teenager Virgil Hawkins gains his powers, but, for now, I’m just happy to enjoy the story as it unfolds.
The inaugural issue also sets up quite a bit for the future, introducing the reader to what appears to be a clandestine group of villainous businessmen. (Well, at least I think their villainous as they have no aversion to things like theft and the murder of a super hero.) Also making an appearance is a new super villain named Virule. A large, imposing creature, Virule is hired by the clandestine group to stop Static. It’s great to see that DC is already introducing new characters and making strides to not just reboot the universe but also make some needed improvements.
Luckily, Static has his own assistance in the form of Hardware, another rollover character from the Milestone Comics line. Also created by Dwayne McDuffie, Hardware seems to be a computerized, sentient being. The writers don’t delve too deeply into the character just yet, so at this point, all we know about him is that he acts as Static’s mentor and provides him with crime-fighting tech. Since this is the first time Hardware and Static intersect across any aspect of the DC Comics, I am pleased at Hardware’s inclusion in Static Shock. It means that either DC is really going the lengths to rekindle excitement in their characters, even the more obscure ones like Hardware, or they are paying homage to both characters’ creator, Dwayne McDuffie, who recently passed away in February of 2011. I’m OK with either reason.
In the end, I honestly have to wonder at the longevity of a title like Static Shock. It has what it takes to contend with the big-name titles, like Justice League and Green Arrow, but it may not appeal to the same audience. While I enjoyed the first issue, and I’m sure many other people will as well, the scientific talk may turn people off. I liked that aspect of the character, but it started to get to a point where even I was saying “Enough already.” If the writers can find an even balance between the witty repartee and the situation analyses, it may work. But for now, I’m happy with the title and I can’t wait to see what McDaniel and Rozum have planned for the future.