In THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1, we get a closer look at the lives of the Terrifics and those around them. There’s a lot of surprisingly emotional storytelling in the issue. With the amount of talent DC put on the three stories, it’s no surprise. Names like Gene Luen Yang, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and James Ausmus contributed three wonderful narratives. There are definite themes that interweave through the trio of tales. The first two detail a lot of heartache and loss for the characters. The second and third stories are directly connected to the main arc of the series, and offer key information to two hugely impactful characters: Tom Strong and Java.

Halloween Party Gone Wrong

The first story, written by Yang, with art by Joe Bennett, Matt Santroelli, Scott Hanna, and Richard Friend, takes place at Stagg Industries. The Terrifics find themselves in the midst of the company Halloween party. Meanwhile, an experiment that Stagg’s conducting with Plastic Man’s DNA goes horribly wrong. The team has to deal with the repercussions in the form of body doubles! These duplicates take on identities of people that the team come to know and care for. Unfortunately, it’s not meant to be, and the melancholy that surrounds the team is brought to the forefront. There’s quite a bit of heartache in the opening story of  THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1
THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Plastic Man has to deal with the specters of his past, giving the comedic character deeper gravitas and pain. Phantom Girl loses a chance to make a connection with someone, after already losing everyone she’s ever cared about. Michael Holt meets someone he shares a romantic spark with, only to find out she was also a duplicate. The spark isn’t there with the real version, unfortunately. Such sad moments illustrate to us the team’s emotional needs.

This story also highlights the cruelty, greed, and even casual racism of Simon Stagg. As an Asian-American with an odd last name, Stagg’s treatment of the character Zhang hit close to home. Yang has written about this kind of behavior in his other work, particularly in award-winning AMERICAN BORN CHINESE.

A Man Lost In Time

The second story in THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1, a tale by Mark Russell, Shaner, and Nathan Fairbairn, focuses on Stagg Industries’ resident fixer, Java. Given the events of the previous issue, this story is especially important. Java retells the tale of his life as a Neanderthal. He’s hunting for food, protecting the tribe, loving his mate. It also tells the story of how homo sapiens were rising and thriving, while his tribe suffered. He recounts the sacrifice he made to save his tribe, and then his revival… and his bitterness over losing everything he knew and loved.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1
THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 page 22. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

So Russell tries to make Java a sympathetic character. Much like Captain America, Java is a man lost in time; a violent time. Unlike Steve Rogers, Java has a different code: a more primal code. The fact that Staggs has bequeathed Java with intelligence only serves to make Java aware that he is alone, and living in hell by serving those who eliminated his tribe. The bitterness and resentment that Java retains is used effectively by Staggs as his fixer, a man who takes care of things. Unfortunately for Staggs and everyone in his orbit, the cleaner is expanding his work. Java becomes a terrible villain and a tragic character in these pages. It’s important reading given the events of recent issues of THE TERRIFICS.

Surviving the Darkness

The final story in THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1, by Ausmus, Jose Luis, and Jordi Tarragona, focuses on Tom Strong and how he ended up in the Dark Multiverse. This Tom Strong tale is the direct prequel of the entire series. As Strong figures out how to defeat a primordial Titan, we finally understand what Mister Terrific, Metamorpho, and Plastic Man came upon in the very first issue when they rescued Phantom Girl. Tom’s journal tells the epic struggle between him and the Multiversal Titan, and it’s true to his character. Tom uses rationality and science to figure his way out of his quandary and, eventually, he succeeds in doing so.

This tale is less emotional than the other two; it’s more of an adventure story of survival for Tom Strange. We’re treated to a glimpse of the Dark Multiverse and get to see Strong at his finest. It’s a rare exhibition of his abilities, given that his last published series was back in 2006. Seeing DC use the character again is nice, and adds more dimension and variety to the books they offer.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 page 37. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment

There isn’t a complete lack of tragedy, however, as the last page shows Tom Strong leaving… just as Phantom Girl’s ship arrives! This story is the touchstone that leads to the events of the entire series. A nice look back at what brought us all here as readers.

Art Styles Blend Well

The artist selection for THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 is very well-thought-out. Bennett in the first story, “Masquerade,” gives us detailed line work, but also excellent cartoon exaggeration for Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and the duplicates. Bennett is a longtime DC veteran, and his work here shows why they rely on him.

Shaner’s Java story is my favorite one artistically. Shaner has a very retro style, which worked well when he was doing the Hanna-Barbera comics. Java’s story is a throwback, a reminder of a time long past, and it fits to have Shaner draw this story. The characters look great and the prehistoric backgrounds are also lush and gorgeous.

Luis rounds out the group, and he brings a vibrant style, reminiscent of original TOM STRONG artist Chris Sprouse. The epic struggle between Strong and the Titan feels realistic, and not overly cartoony. With most of the text in this story being journals, the art needs to pop to really convey the story they’re telling, and Luis delivers.

Final Thoughts on THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 continues the excellent, heartfelt storytelling of the main series. THE TERRIFICS overall has been highly enjoyable. We get a little more character development for these heroes, which is always important. If you’re not reading THE TERRIFICS, this won’t necessarily be the most accessible entry point, but it’ll give you an excellent feel for the series in general.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 by Gene Luen Yang, Joe Bennett, Mark Russell, Evan "Doc" Shaner, James Asmus, Jose Luis, Matt Santorelli, Richard Friend, Scott Hanna, Jordi Tarragona, and Nathan Fairbairn
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Summary
THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 gives us three different tales focusing on the team, Java, and Tom Strong. We get a lot of emotional moments, great action and gorgeous art. A great supplemental book to the main series!
90 %
Three Terrific Tales!
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