Review by Ian Keogh
A 1960s DC feature involved Robby Reed transforming himself into a new superhero every time he used an alien dial. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning took the concept of regularly changing super powers and gave it an altogether darker twist in the very entertaining Resurrection Man. Every time Mitch dies, rarely of natural causes, he’s revived with a new ability. When we first meet him his memory is shot, but he pieces together that in the relatively recent past he’d been a lawyer named Mitch Shelley whose demise was in mysterious circumstances. Whatever he’s done there are some very dangerous people looking for him. If only he could recall why.
This early plot ticks over nicely with an interesting appearance for the Justice League defining Mitch as solidly within the DC pantheon, and a funny fourth chapter where his inability to die is repeatedly put to the test. By the conclusion of that Mitch is aware of who he was, but few others are aware of what he now is. One of them is Hooker, a crazed loon with super powers, and Abnett and Lanning’s other heavily used characters are the Body Doubles, an eccentric pair of best buddy amoral female assassins, and investigator Kim Rebecki. Once the question of Mitch’s identity is resolved he becomes a wanderer, and this enables some interesting interludes before the second big plot emerges. Mitch as a child at Halloween is very good, Hitman’s guest appearance serves a solid purpose, and a Batman story that seems to have no connection develops a neat twist.
Butch Guice’s art is variable, the look dependent on who’s inking him, and he’s not the most effective inker of his own pencils. However, his methods and quality evolve as the pages turn, but he hasn’t yet developed the tighter style he’d later use on Captain America, eventually opting for a Joe Kubert looseness. By today’s standards the designs he came up with for the Body Doubles are exploitative, and also display an anatomical weakness. This is as nothing compared to the crimes against anatomy and perspective perpetrated by Joe Phillips and Dexter Vines during a fill in concentrating on the Body Doubles. The best art is from Mike McKone, inked by Lanning, on a sentimental story of loss involving a small town Sheriff.
A writing convenience is that Abnett and Lanning can tailor the new powers Mitch acquires with every death to service the needs of the plot, but, for the most part, they resist that temptation, only at the conclusion to his origin succumbing.
Not everything about Resurrection Man is gold, but there are a lot of fine moments, and that clever hook means it’s always intriguing. Presumably poor sales determined the remainder of this 1990s series weren’t collected as a graphic novel, but for those interested there are enough good stories to make them worth looking for. As befits his name, Resurrection Man was revived for a second series in 2011, also by Abnett and Lanning, and that’s available as Back From the Dead.
Just in case you’re wondering, the original comics reprinted here pre-dated the 1998 film of the same title, which isn’t related beyond sharing a name.