Written by: Robert Venditti
Art by: Tony S. Daniel
Published by: DC Comics
Release Date: January 17, 2018
Damage is the first to come out of eight new titles in the New Age of DC Heroes line. This story is about Ethan Avery, a man who only joined the army to become a soldier and ended up becoming Damage, a dangerous monster created by the military. When Damage is let loose, Ethan fights to contain it as the military struggles to control him. Sounds familiar? Let’s dive in.
THIS IS YOUR SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS REVIEW. DON’T SCROLL DOWN IF YOU HAVEN’T READ DAMAGE #1!
In this story, Ethan Avery was used by the military to purposely create a living weapon and to be used against his own will. There’s a clock set on his transformation – Ethan only turns into this monster for exactly one hour in a day. This first issue introduces Damage as we slowly discover more about the story of Ethan, how Damage was created, and how the military has been using him as a weapon. Here, we see a blast of chaos as Damage runs loose on American soil and the military desperately tries to look for and contain him.
It is best to start this review by tackling the big elephant in the room: is this genuinely a fresh story that can really take DC to new heights, or is it just another Hulk rip-off like everyone foretold it was going to be? After all, if you keep up with the excitement for the other titles such as Sideways and The Terrifics, this is not the only New Age of DC Heroes title that shares uncanny resemblances to some notable Marvel heroes, however unintentional that may be.
At the surface, it undeniably looks like something else that we have seen before. A tormented man struggling through inevitable loss of control. A living weapon that the military is clever enough to create but foolish enough to think that they can handle. An enormous destruction just waiting to happen whenever this monster, of course, runs loose. Yes, the similarities are explicitly present. However, despite the fact that they factor to the aspect of character and story freshness, Damage should not be only judged by how it compares to previously existing concepts.
Let’s begin with the art, which is one of the highlights for Damage. It could be that I am just a sucker for this kind of style, but it fits the action-packed issue really well. The solid inks and color palette stands out visually in depicting the bombastic environment and it is one of the more delightful things that makes this issue worth reading. Reading through Damage feels like watching through a cinematic blockbuster movie, which is probably what this issue is aiming for. It drives the storytelling forward and it works great.
Story-wise, one of the most interesting things about Damage is that he is not simply a destructive monster. Damage appears to be an entirely different personality, too. Ethan and Damage are able to communicate with each other, highlighting that despite being one, there are actually two separate voices. This makes their interaction become fascinating, because they also seem to listen and control each other to some extent. As Damage was channeled from inside him, Ethan continues to emphasize to his monstrous counterpart that “we don’t have to be their monster”, so the moral that this story wants to deliver seems to be about becoming your own person and forging your own destiny.
However, in this first issue, we don’t have a lot of backstory, only that Damage has been around for a while and that we are only finding out about him now. Because of that, we don’t know yet what kind of destiny Ethan wants and why we should support him as a protagonist. It could be that this first issue is deliberately avoiding a template origin story and going for action-centric storytelling. Hopefully that gets paired with more progress on character development very soon.
Instead of Ethan’s story, we get to know a little bit more about Colonel Marie Jonas, the person in charge of Damage. Damage is her valuable asset which she believes should be utilized for what she sees as a noble intention: significantly reducing the casualties of war. She cares about who she sends down to the battlefield and she tries her best to not lose lives along the way. In fact, she seems to even care about Ethan. She does her duty and takes her responsibilities such that I can sympathize with her to some extent. It will be interesting to see what will happen when or if she finally finds Damage.
To sum it up, for a first issue, it isn’t a bad start. However, it isn’t a smashing hit either. Damage #1 looks quite promising and has its own story to tell, although most of the time it gets buried in a lot of the kind of boom-boom-pow that we have seen before. For a newly-introduced character, I still don’t know significantly much about Ethan or Damage that would make me want to root for either of them. For a monthly series, I would have liked more background to set as a foundation that can persuade me to stay and wait for any upcoming surprises. Previews of the upcoming issues have promised a lot of fun guest-stars, so here’s to hoping that it will help deliver more excitement for the series. For now, Damage #1 gets a 7.5/10 from me. But if you’re the kind of fan who’s really into action-heavy series, you will love and feel more optimistic about Damage more than I do.
Damage #1 is out now at your local comic book stores and on digital. Damage #2 will be available on February 21st.