It’s always interesting when a comics creator leaves an established publishing company to create a universe of their own. Most famous of these creations are Todd McFarlane’s Spawn and Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon, primarily because they’ve survived to the present day. Others like Frank Miller’s Sin City and John Byrne’s Next Men were more limited series but had very intriguing and memorable concepts (with Miller’s becoming a film series). These limited series are notable because of the pure creativity behind them. They are also the precursors of Geoff John’s new series, Geiger.
Before breaking down the Geiger saga (which began as a 6-issue limited series in 2021), it’s important to look at its creator. Geoff Johns has been a mainstay writer at DC Comics since the late 1990s. He has had some very memorable runs on Green Lantern, Justice Society, Teen Titans, Flash, Hawkman, and Aquaman, as well as numerous miniseries (some of which changed the structure of the DC Universe). He also has worked in DC’s media division, helping with films like Batman V. Superman and Justice League, as well as TV series like The Flash and Stargirl. One of the reasons why his work is so loved is because he takes characters which have fallen out of favor and gives them new life. Over the past few years, Johns has abandoned his “voice” in favor of mimicking other writers (specifically Alan Moore with his DC series, Doomsday Clock and Batman: Three Jokers). This is mentioned because Johns has made an effort to grow his craft, changing the very nature of his writing. This is very rare in comics. To that end, Geiger is a natural evolution of this. It is the first time he’s ever created something which does not have some kind of legacy behind it.
Geiger takes place in 2050, twenty years after the explosion of nuclear bombs. This post-apocalyptic world has a strange being known as “the Glowing Man,” a skeletal hero who glows with radiation. The character is very reminiscent of the Batman villain, Dr. Phosphorous.
This new 2-issue series, Geiger: Ground Zero, gives an in-depth examination of the character’s origin. A man suffering from cancer, Tariq Geiger sacrifices himself to protect his family, and a nuclear explosion transforms him into a creature and local myth. This story was touched on briefly in the limited series, but this is a far more detailed examination of the character and his motivations.
Johns has always been a master of characterization, and Geiger: Ground Zero is no exception. The story has heart and shows that in the midst of tragedy and selfishness, love is the most important trait of a hero. The art by Gary Frank is wonderful. Frank, like Johns, has been a comics mainstay since the ‘90s. In recent years, he has leaned into the likenesses of his characters (literally making Superman look like Christopher Reeve). No such likenesses are carried over here, but his work is, and always has been, extremely well done.
Anything written by Geoff Johns is bound to be good, but is this series (and its soon-to-be-shared universe with the upcoming talents of Peter Tomasi, Brad Meltzer, Bryan Hitch, Gary Frank, and others) worth picking up? Creator-owned series and universes – like Byrne’s Next Men or Mike Mignola’s Hellboy – have ended up being the best work they have done because they are not bound by editorial dictates or the unwillingness to take an established character into a dangerous direction. Geiger has the potential to follow that path, depending on where this story goes. For that reason alone, it is definitely worth checking out.
Recommended – 3 out of 4 stars
Creative Team: Geoff Johns (writer), Gary Frank (artist)
Publisher: Image / Ghost Machine
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