By Jonathan Edwards
As much as I've heard about Erik Larsen (which is admittedly not a ton, but enough to be generally familiar with his work), I don't think I've ever actually sat down and actually read something from him. So, I figured a one-shot focusing on one (with several others being present) of his characters seemed as good a place as any to start. And to its credit, I nothing about the characters and world lost or confused me. It was all pretty straightforward or easy enough to infer.
Although Mighty Man #1 is billed as a one-shot, it's actually three smaller stories, all of which revolve around the training of Betty Bradford, who, at age seven, is the newest person to take up the mantle of Mighty Man. The first of which involves a one-on-one fight between her and SuperPatriot in the "Danger Zone." It's some pretty basic situational awareness training, and we get a cameo from Larsen's probably best-known character, Savage Dragon. Afterwards, SuperPatriot returns Betty home to her mother, Ann, who was Mighty Man prior to Betty. Ann and SuperPatriot end up having a short but interesting conversation about the necessity of training Betty, as well as dropping some exposition on the history of the character. Honestly, it was really cool to see Ann both be concerned for her daughter but also know they can't just ignore that she has powers and hope she has a normal life.
The second follows Barbaric and Ricochet training Betty in multiple opponent combat. There's not really much else to it other than a lighthearted misunderstand that leads to a punchline ending. Finally, in the last story, Betty joins her tutors in a hostage rescue operation. She's able to apply some of the lessons she's learned, as well as show off some of her own capabilities. And, with the completion of that mission, the book abruptly comes to an end. Seriously. It would've been nice to have some resolution having to do with, y'know, the title character. But then again, maybe them not acknowledging how well Betty is doing is proof in and of itself that she really is turning into a proper hero.
The art stays consistent between all three stories, and it's pretty solidly done. It definitely feels like it's going for a slightly cartoony and fairly '90s style, and it succeeds without stumbling into any of the Liefeldian pitfalls that made a lot of '90s comics just abysmal to look at. Furthermore, it does a great job of matching the overall upbeat and optimistic tone of the book and its attitude towards superheroes.
This was by no means nothing special. But, I did very much enjoy reading it. I don't know if someone actively following Larsen's books would. Then again, if this matches what he usually does with his work, they'd probably love it. If you've never read any of Larsen's work, maybe check this out. Even if it's not spectacular or life changing, something still might click. I for one know I'm more open to checking out more of his work in the future.
Mighty Man #1 (One-Shot)
Writer: Erik Larsen
Artist: Nikos Koutsis
Letterer: Ferran Delgado
Publisher: Image Comics