Fighting crime isn’t superhero Charles Baxter’s main problem-it’s fighting time! Trapped for decades in a superpowered body that never ages but is now driving him insane, Chuck’s only hope for a “permanent cure” is to team up with his archnemesis Archibald Crane. He just needs the evil scientist to stop hitting him first!
How do you kill an unkillable man?
This 3-issue miniseries from Dark Horse Comics is written by Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, with art by Robert Love. I just got this book because I was browsing Dark Horse Digital and it was only .99 cents. In this first issue we learn the story of Chuck Baxter, a simple & decent man who, in 1950, was struck by a meteor which gave him powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. His girlfriend Ellie convinces him to use his powers as a superhero, and designs a costume for him. Chuck never adopts a proper superhero name, because he says “all the good ones were taken by comic-books”, although the public briefly tries to name his “Swell Fella”, so he just calls himself Chuck. When he gets married to Ellie and she becomes pregnant, Chuck volunteers to work for the U.S. Government, in exchange for them protecting his family. He’s introduced to Archibald, a scientist working for the government, who is put in charge of studying Chuck’s powers, in the hopes of figuring out how they work and possibly replicating them, but he becomes increasingly frustrated over his lack of success in that area.
The story is mostly told in flashbacks, zipping through time, from the 50’s, the 60’s, the 90’s, and then jumping ahead to 2036, which is “the present”, when this story takes place. At some point, which we haven’t seen yet, Archibald becomes a supervillain, Chuck’s arch-enemy. And we see them fighting during different decades, with Archibald in increasingly advanced suits of robotic armor. Chuck likewise goes through different costume changes. By the 90’s he’s changed from his early clean-cut look to shoulder-length hair and a full beard and mustache. He’s also developed a bit of a paunch, although that’s gone and he’s muscular again by 2036. We learn that he let himself go a bit after his wife and son died, presumably of old age. And that’s when Chuck’s superpowers start to take a toll on him, as the loneliness of not-aging starts to depress him. During the current battle between Chuck and Archibald, Chuck makes it clear that the whole just feels like going through the motions now, and he’s tired of it. Which is why, when Archibald, who is now extremely old and decrepit, says he’ll never stop trying to kill Chuck, Chuck says he wants to help him do that.
Okay, on the face of it, this story isn’t exactly ground-breaking. Despite the grim premise of a superhero wanting to die, it’s pretty much an all-ages tale, based on the classic superhero archetype (Chuck’s original costume is a blue suit with red boots and a big red cape – you figure it out), complete with the “mad scientist” villain. Chuck’s characterization, at least in the early years, is of an earnest young man who wants to use his newfound power to help his country, ala Steve Rogers. The most out of the ordinary thing about the character is that his wife Ellie is Black, and they met in 1950. Chuck comments that people back then didn’t approve, but he didn’t care, which helps establish Chuck’s decent nature.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork of Robert Love, whose clean style perfectly fits the tone of this story, as he brings the characters to live. I really enjoy his work here.
This story just had HEART, you could tell the creators were doing their best to tell a good story, and that hooked me, and made me want to see what happened next. In fact, as soon as I finished reading it I immediately bought the 2nd issue. Which I shall review next.
Chacebook rating: 5 STARS
Available via Dark Horse Digital