Written by Robert J. Baden, Fanboy Comics Contributor
Friday, 17 February 2012 08:11
52 Catch Up is a series devoted to looking at issues from DC's New 52 and seeing how they're faring now that they're underway, why they're worth reading (or not), and places we hope they will go in time.
By Robert J. Baden, Guest Contributor to Fanboy Comics
Virgil Hawkins is a young superhero named Static who has the ability to manipulate electricity, magnetism, and a combination of the two. He juggles his superhero activities with that of his personal life and the need to keep his identity secret from the rest of his family, as they make their mark in a recent move to New York City. Hardware, another self-styled vigilante, acts as a mentor to Static, providing long-distance advice and support. Static himself is intelligent, resourceful, and something of a typical teenager.
And, he puns; he puns a lot, much like Spider-Man does in the Marvel universe. Frightening to be sure.
Previously on Static Shock: Covering Issues #1 - #6
Unlike other New 52 titles, Static Shockis one of six series due to be canceled due to lower readership and sales. Part of me was rather upset by this, as I’ve been a fan of Static since I watched the DC Animated Universe’s cartoon, but having read the series itself, I can see why the decision was made. To be sure, there are some good parts to the title, and they do tend to outweigh the bad, but they can’t compensate for the disappointment I’ve felt.
The story begins with Static right away involved in his superhero antics. Someone has stolen technology from the S.T.A.R. Labs location that he works out, allowing Static to do what superheroes and detectives have done throughout comic history: stumble across a much larger problem. It is here where the Alliance is first introduced, along with their enforcers, the Slate Gang, a group of high-tech teen baddies. And, because of his actions in stopping the technology heist, Static ends up becoming their number one target throughout all six issues thus far released.
After dealing with a “Virule” villain who literally shoots off his arm (even though he’s able to reconnect it), Static investigates the Slate Gang and why they’re so intent on killing him. Eventually, he’s able to interrogate one of the gang members utilizing a classic technique of dangling them high up in the air with a drastic fall evident as a possibility. After this interaction, Static is able to defeat the Slate Gang, and very little of them is seen until much later in the series.
Following his defeat of the gang members, a new type of threat becomes present. New villains—or at least people who act like villains when they have to—appear with a background similar to Static’s, including one in particular with the same power set. Soon, it is revealed that the Alliance was responsible for Static’s family situation, and that they brought them to NYC to continue with their work. However, a duplicate of Static saves the day at the end, allowing for the Hawkins family to finally have some semblance of normalcy in their new lives. The Alliance remains, though not as well organized as before, and Static is ready to protect the innocents with his new sister, reminding him that even bad situations can end up with good solutions.
Backstory: The well-known origins of Static remain essentially the same: he was exposed to a gas explosion that gave him his powers, his family life is quite tame (for a superhero that is), and he has to balance himself between his heroics and his personal life. What’s new, however, is that his family moved to NYC following a personal situation involving his sister being doubled. It’s not until Issue #6 that this doubling aspect is fully explained, but more and more information is given in each issue, drawing the origin out in a progressive fashion. What’s more, Static blames himself for the situation, and as we find out what happened, we see why he thinks so, even if it isn’t entirely true.
Intelligence & Resourcefulness: One of the main things that always appealed to me about Static was his innate intelligence and resourcefulness in the face of unwelcome situations. Instead of relying on brute strength and luck, Static operates with a plan and reasoned instinct—though he doesn’t always end up with the results he wanted. He makes mistakes, but he learns from them and is able to outthink his adversaries who often treat him as a minor inconvenience, because he’s new to NYC and he’s only a teenager.
Stereotypes: One of the more upsetting aspects of the series is the stereotypes accompanying the portrayal of an African-American character. Static’s family moved to New York City and take up residence in Harlem; the family’s not lacking in terms of money, so they could have afforded a place in Queens or even Manhattan, but they’re placed in the stereotypical location for Black people. The idea to use this was rather distasteful for me.
Another stereotype was the explanation of why Virgil works for Hardware’s civilian company. Hardware makes the excuse that Virgil is a reformed juvenile offender, and that he’s there to be rehabilitated. This, coupled with the location of Static’s home in NYC, tends to stink a bit in terms of sensitivity, and shows that the creative team can’t seem to move past Static’s skin color despite all the other redeeming qualities.
Monologue: Explaining what a superhero does in order to defeat a villain or escape certain death is part of the appeal of the storytelling, but this title does it within the realms of self-talking and internal monologues. The need to explain all of the details to the audience is so rampant that it makes me wonder if the writer thinks his readers aren’t intelligent enough to come to the conclusion on their own. Explanations are fine if they’re not done to an excessive fashion, and while self-talking and internal monologues are common, using more than two straight pages without an external source is a bit much.
Looking Ahead (to the End)
Obviously, there isn’t much of a future with the title’s cancellation, but there are a few things that I hope will be addressed before the series ends with I (and some that I wonder about how they’ll tie up).
The Alliance: There was an extensive introduction of the secret cabal known as the Alliance in the first two issues, but their exposition died down a bit since. I was quite intrigued about this group: here we have a well organized criminal syndicate with ties and connections with every level of New York City’s operations, from the police to the politicians, from the S.T.A.R. Labs governance to the common street thugs. There were many facets to this organization, good and bad, but it still hasn’t been fully explored. I’m hoping that the Alliance is seen as the “big bad” and uses its connections to make a last ditch effort to take control publicly.
Personal Life: While the series has thus far explored Static’s home life, there haven’t been many revelations concerning his non-family personal life. He’s a teenager in NYC, and he attends a school devoted to mathematics and science, but he spends no real time or effort trying to fit in with his new classmates or neighbors. The only time he even comes close is when he’s trying to find out some information about the Slate Gang, but since that was for his superhero activities, I don’t consider it relevant. Part of what makes teenaged superheroes—and superheroes in general—appealing is that they have to spend a lot of time trying to balance their personal life with their activities. I hope that the last two issues address this situation now that his home life is a bit more stable.
Staying in NYC: The main reason that Static and his family moved to NYC was because of the double Sharon problem in the hopes that S.T.A.R. Labs could help resolve it. Now that it’s been addressed—as best as it can be—the family has decided to stay in NYC; but, why? What’s the motivation for staying in NYC when their previous lives in Dakota were so appealing? If the series were to continue, I’d believe that there would be more grand adventures, but since the creative team knows about the cancellation, what do they hope to do with this?
Frieda: Static’s best friend and most likely love interest—given past iterations of the characters—continues to live in Dakota, yet, the two obviously miss one another. We’ve only seen her once in a telephone conversation, but Static has referred to her a few times in self-talking and internal monologue. I would like to think that, eventually, the two would get together, despite the long distance, and that Frieda would move out to NYC for college. She’s one of the only people who know Static’s secret identity, so that allows Virgil to talk to her about a multitude of things he can’t with anyone else. I also think that if Static were to find another girl in NYC to the point of dating her, that it would make Frieda jealous, a plot point that could be very interesting concerning Static’s balance of personal life and superhero antics.
Cassandra: Now that one of the double sisters has chosen to go by another name, she has the chance to develop her own separate identity within the family and the world. Chances are she’ll still clash with Sharon, but she’ll be able to forge her own niche in the Static Shock community. Another possible aspect is that in the future, she (or Sharon) may somehow begin to disappear, leaving Static’s family to try and find a way to stabilize her or face losing their newest (and oldest) daughter.