Plastic Man #1 Lays Path to Doomsday Clock

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Plastic Man #1

I love me some good Plastic Man. And while I have some questions stemming from this first issue from Gail Simone and Adriana Melo, this is still some good Plastic Man.

As any first issue should go, PLASTIC MAN #1 introduces us to the character and gets into his origin story. Simone does this with a flashback sequence while Plastic Man -- Eel O'Brian -- comes to terms with being told that he shot and killed a guard during a robbery during the criminal past he's trying to make up for. Of course, he has limited memory of the robbery, and he's told he was the shooter by one of the other crooks involved -- information which conflicts with the flashback panels Melo provides -- so there's a chance that Eel isn't the killer after all.

It's unclear as to how long Eel has been operating as Plastic Man. It seems to have been a relatively short time, and there are no references in the story to either the events of DARK NIGHTS: METAL or Plastic Man's involvement in THE TERRIFICS to put the events into the timeline. However, there are other references that definitely make it feel as though it's concurrent with all the other DC books at the moment.

For instance, when Eel is found out, it's by an agent of Spyral, who needs Plastic Man for his unique infiltration abilities. The crisis, as she describes it: "There's a conspiracy out there, Mr. O'Brian. Made up of a council of the most heinous minds in this world's history. And not just this world." She wants to place someone in this group, someone nobody knows -- again implying that nobody knows about Plastic Man.

However, before Plas can agree or disagree to participate, he receives a call for help from one of his former criminal buds. Eel rushes to the scene as Plastic Man to find the man dying -- and he fingers the JLA as his killer -- although the neighbor identifies Plastic Man himself as the one who did the deed. Where does this lead? We'll find out next issue, which promises to guest-star Man-Bat.

So what can we take away from all this? Let's look at those last two clues -- someone infiltrating the JLA and the coming of Man-Bat. We know in DOOMSDAY CLOCK that Man-Bat is one of those named as being a government-created metahuman in the metahuman arms race. We also know from that same series that Lex Luthor has identified the person who put out the Supermen Theory as someone who was once a member of the Justice League. Add to this the fact that Doctor Manhattan is involved with everything in DOOMSDAY CLOCK, and he's definitely not of this specific world, and we have three circumstantial clues that say this Plastic Man story is pushing current DC continuity toward the events of DOOMSDAY CLOCK. (I'd abbrievate that "DC" but that would get confusing for obvious reasons).

I'm also left with other questions about Plastic Man. When we first see him, he's being beaten by a group of thugs. This is post-transformation, so he's malleable. Yet he also seems to be bleeding. He recovers quickly, once they leave, but the pain seems like he's really feeling it, so I wonder if Simone has dialed back Plastic Man's abilities.

And then there are things Plastic Man says and things he wears that raise other questions. His day job as O'Brian is night manager for a strip club, where the dancers -- male and female -- cosplay different heroes and villains of the DC Universe. Per Plas, "To make ends meet I took a side gig here. Owner lets me flop upstairs. It's not so bad if you like seeing the Riddler in a thong. Which I do."  Later, when Plas is awakened by the Spyral agent, he puts on a midriff shirt sporting DC SUPERHERO GIRLS and the motto "Brave Strong Girls." Are we seeing a new side of Plastic Man here that shows him leaning toward a non-binary sexuallty? Simone has certainly included such personalities in many of her prior books, so it wouldn't be a "stretch" to find she's doing so here. It'll take a few more issues before we know for sure, and then the series will be over as it's limited to six issues.

Melo does a nice job with the artwork, giving everything a modern look yet still reaching back to the mobster fashion of the Jack Cole days. Plas still has a warped sense of humor, albeit more puerile and penis-centric, which will make it a hard sell to a younger audience. (Ah, kids don't read comics anyway, so why try, right?) Anyway, I'll continue to check this series out through to the end or until it jumps the shark.