"Skin Trade" (Part One: Spare Parts)
Writer: Scott Beatty
Artists: Rags Morales (p), Michael Bair (i)
Publisher: DC Comics
As I picked up this issue (both to read and to review), a question rose within my mind, one that had made appearances in the past, but one that I did not quite think much about: Why do I like the character of Dr. Mid-Nite (Pieter Cross)? The easy answer to that would be that in a way he reminds me of Batman. Right from the costume styling, the utility belt, the overall demeanor, and both in and out of costume, there are quite a few things that the good doctor has in common with THE Urban Myth of the DCU. However, at the same time, it does not mean that this third incarnation of the Dr. Mid-Nite character is a medical rip-off of the Dark Knight of Gotham. In many ways (and I do not say this lightly), Dr. Mid-Nite (and his JSA counterpart, Mr. Terrific, another hero sharing many a characteristic with Batsy), is the better of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego. To elaborate in one sentence: Dr. Mid-Nite (DM) is what Bruce Wayne could have become if instead of both, at least one (or both) of his parents has survived the shooting. After all, Dr. Thomas Wayne was a doctor too, and a philanthropic one at that, something that DM is as well.
Anyways, with that (obligatory?) opener out of the way, let me get down to the issue at hand. The nineteenth issue of JSA:C (the only JSA title existing currently) is dedicated to JSA’s in house Medicine Man. Coming out the OYL crossover, JSA: Classified not only lost much of the momentum that it had built up over the first nine issues, it even started to teeter and fall into the abyss of mediocrity. It took seven issues (and two arcs) before the TPTB at DC got their act together and with the Hourman (men?) storyline, issues #17-18, the fall stopped and the Classifieds started and took off quality wise. If this issue is anything to comment on, the climb back is in no danger of stopping.
Initially seeming a medical mystery, one involving the seedy underworld of organ theft, the real story here might turn out to be something even more sinister, especially when many of the organ thefts involve metahuman victims. Starting at S.T.A.R. labs, the issue ends at yet another medical facility, only unlike the svelte Dr. Kylburn (yet another redhead in the legion of redheaded comic characters), the last page ends with the Doctor chancing upon on a muscle-bound behemoth, or rather one tracking him down. In between that, we have a rather interesting scene with yet another old JSA villain, Roulette (and oh lookie, she is a flamin’ redhead too). Though nothing out of the ordinary, either about her demeanor or her "operation," what is interesting her is the audience she had here. To name a few, Dr. Sivana, Mr. Mind, Black Manta, Amazo, Giganta, Bane, and Metallo (either the real ones or "fan" knockoffs) are all here. However, seeing as they were all in their "off time" and that this fracas wasn’t theirs, all of them made tracks and skedaddled.
There is also a bit involving a fashion show of meta-enhanced models. Although it seems a bit odd and out of place, this sequence isn’t so far fetched in today’s increasingly "knife happy" world of botox injections, tummy tucks, face lifts, stomach snips (or whatever it is called), breast, butt and other muscle implants, etc. I am sure that there will be many takers for wings and other "enhancements" if the opportunity is presented to them.
Last handling the JSA characters in the last arc of the main title, Rag Morales is still one of my favorite JSA artists, and this issue reinforces my opinion. Right from the character physiques and expressions, to the backgrounds to the action scenes, it all comes together easily and with such fluidity that it might as well be happening right before the reader’s eyes (and not just on paper). That said, the inking did seem a bit too dark.
Conclusion: Taking up from the opening passage, this story could be told with Batman instead of Dr. Mid-Nite and told just as well. However, where as Batman would bring in an atmosphere of analytical logic (par excellence), Dr. Mid-Nite makes the ambience just that bit…human.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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