SECRET STASH: DYNAMO 5
What if Superman were a womanizing, deadbeat dad? ‘Dynamo 5’ explores that answer while modernizing today’s family team book
By Jim Gibbons
Posted August 5, 2007 1:50 PM
REVIEWER OF THE MONTH
JIM GIBBONS (Editorial Intern)
WHAT I READ: A mash-up of character-driven genre books and gritty crime stories (Invincible, Daredevil, Criminal) with a happy helping of sci-fi extravaganzas (Annihilation, Casanova).
WHY I DIG ‘DYNAMO 5’: Faerber and Asrar toss out the traditional team-book mold and grab the Play-Doh to sculpt a new take on a family of superheroes, with enough punching to please action fans and mysterious cliffhangers to keep you wanting more.
WRITER: JAY FAERBER
ARTIST: MAHMUD A. ASRAR
For me, family-based teams of superheroes smell as cheesy as Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” playing at a wedding. Thankfully, writer Jay Faerber and artist Mahmud A. Asrar’s Dynamo 5 rocks out by beating conventions and sounding more like hiring a kick-ass band for your nuptials than winding up with the portly, 40-year-old DJ clichés of books like Fantastic Four.
The new team book from Image isn’t just about a super-family, but five half-brothers and -sisters birthed straight from the loins of the world’s greatest superhero—the womanizing Captain Dynamo. Cap dropped metahuman babies off around the country like a deadbeat Johnny Appleseed, and now it’s up to his aging wife to gather the kids and teach them the ways of the hero world.
Basically, imagine Superman sleeping around and dying before leaving Lois Lane to round up all of his illegitimate children, activate in each of them one of his powers and form them into a team to take his place. You wind up with five superpowered siblings who hardly know each other forced to find their place in the world and deal with the revelation that who they thought they were was a lie. And it’s that hodgepodge of dysfunctional identity and high-octane action that grabbed me.
“I can’t really recall a moment where I came up with the idea,” Faerber says of the inception of his newest book. “But I think the seed was planted by Andy Helfer, my editor [when I wrote DC’s] Titans. I was telling him how the Titans were a family, and said that every superteam considers themselves a family. It’s a cliché, when you think about it. So with Dynamo 5, I was able to create a team that really is a family—biologically speaking—but they don’t consider themselves a family, because they’re all strangers.”
The beginning of issue #1 puts origins on the backburner and kicks off with a slam-bang fight sequence that features the newbie Dynamo 5 stumbling over villains as much as themselves. The super-strong Scrap almost slams a car onto her eye-blasting, half-bro Visionary while the mind-reading Scatterbrain and team shape-shifter Myriad bicker after their flying half-sister Slingshot chides them for talking during the fight. Faerber shoved me right into the middle of the team’s brawl and hit me with enough action and character development that I felt like I’d gone through initiation with the rest of the team.
The unusual Dynamo 5 roster also drew me in. The linebacker-sized Scatterbrain tackles better than he reads minds. Myriad shape-shifts for combat and not just comic relief. Along with the nerdy Visionary, film-schooled Scrap and butt-kissing Slingshot, the team’s dynamic provides a sincerely interesting take on cookie-cutter comics by making the characters deeper than just their abilities.
“I wanted to mix up some genre conventions, which is why our big guy—who’s traditionally the strong guy of the team—has mind-reading powers,” relates Faerber. “That’s just one example. I wanted to take some teenage archetypes and put new spins on them, wherever possible.”
With the first issue’s end comes the beginning of the last-page cliffhangers that help make this book addictive. Maddie, Captain Dynamo’s “Lois Lane” widow and the Dynamo 5’s mentor/drill sergeant, unexpectedly eliminates the villains behind the opening fight with two quick bullets to the brain, revealing herself to be a former government agent for a group called F.L.A.G. and spitting the following shocking knowledge on the corpses: “Kind of makes you wonder what else I haven’t told [the teens], doesn’t it?” The final-page mind-blowers have also included Maddie stealing a serum that creates reptilian monsters and a possibly resurrected Captain Dynamo, taking this book to the holy-crap-I-just peed-and-I-need-the-next-issue-right-hella-now level.
“The high concept gets people’s attention, but I think it’s the traditional superhero adventures, free from crossovers that derail the book’s momentum, that keeps their interest,” says Faerber. “I just want to tell fast, engaging superhero adventure stories, and Dynamo 5 has given me a great platform to do that.”
The series is also easy on the eyes as newcomer Asrar’s panel layouts and character designs contribute to the book’s fresh appeal. Faerber says it best when describing the artist, who came highly recommended by Invincible penciler Ryan Ottley. “It’s just classic superhero artwork,” gushes the writer. “The men look big and heroic, the women look strong and beautiful and Mahmud handles action and quiet scenes with equal skill.”
Great character moments lining each issue round out the book’s rad package. Whether it’s Scatterbrain pledging he’ll help Visionary lose his virginity or the curious motives of Maddie, Dynamo 5 showcases the fun of a superteam book while giving the reader substance and real emotion. Issue #4’s Father’s Day focus further developed the characters and raised questions of how the team should deal with the history of their real father.
“A lot of the teases and last-page reveals of the first few issues will come into play in a big way in issues #5-#7, a three-part story called ‘The Chrysalis Affair,’” reveals Faerber. “In this story, we’ll get to the truth behind the person claiming to be Captain Dynamo and his connection to the villain Chrysalis. We’ll also get deeper into the inner workings of F.L.A.G. and what their connection was, and is, to Captain Dynamo. And that Whiptail serum that Maddie pocketed at the end of issue #2? We haven’t seen the last of that.”
THE LAST WORD An innovative look at the superteam concept, Dynamo 5 packs characters you genuinely care about and eyebrow-raising cliffhangers that keep your curiosity so piqued after every issue that it doesn’t waver till you get your hands on the next.