Well, He Is Definitely Way Smarter Than I Am
The new Static Shock does some things wrongs but does more things right, making it overall a welcome new title in DC's line of books. By finding a unique voice for the lead character, John Rozum and Scott McDaniel narrowly avoid having Static fall into the trap of coming off as a generic teen superhero. But their reliance on Milestone continuity does more harm than good when it comes to their chances with new readers.
Rather than restarting Static from scratch, this relaunch features his relocation to New York City, where he has a new start and a new status quo to establish. It's an effective way to go about this, allowing Static not to seem like the typical inexperience teen hero and helping to differentiate him from Blue Beetle, who apparently will be restarting from scratch. Another thing that helps set Static apart is the characters voice. Yes, the science talk is heavy, but it really works to establish just who Virgil Hawkins is. He is a science geek in the vein of Peter Parker but without the other hard luck qualities that make him seem like a copy of Parker.
The story begins with Static trying to stop a thief piloting a piece of out of control S.T.A.R. Labs technology. It is actually a really good sequence that introduces readers to a lot of Static's qualities, from his new job at S.T.A.R. Labs to his scientific methodology. We then learn that Static is being mentored and also sponsored by Hardware, another of Milestone's cast of characters.
It is in the second half of the issue where the story starts to struggle, partly because Static's Milestone continuity starts to catch up to him. It isn't especially friendly to new readers. A big part of this is the apparent insistence to keep hold of the old Milestone continuity as much as possible, and that is just not a good idea. Static is part of the DC Universe now, and he needs to feel that way. Instead, vague references to his time in Dakota and being mentored by a fellow Milestone character leave him feeling kind of insulated. Also, Rozum and McDaniel really don't explain much about this continuity they are trying so hard to keep. New readers probably won't know who the hell Hardware is supposed to be or how Virgil came to be Static. This issue did give us enough about Static to know whether or not we would find him interesting, but more explanation of his character and history is seriously necessary in the second or third issue.
The other problem is that the villains Static is up against aren't the most interesting lot. Their behavior and character designs leave them feeling rather generic. I have already started to forget them, but I do remember that their multi-colored suits and hover-bikes comes off as more silly than threatening.
The art style of McDaniel is something you either like or dislike by now. Personally, I like it fine when it fits the story and character, which I think it does in the case of Static Shock. His art does fail when it comes to the villains, but the redesign of Static is actually one of the new redesigns I like. It keeps to the spirit of the character and avoids the trappings that drag down many of the other redesigns.
All things considered, Static Shock is a pretty good relaunch. It's not perfect, but the strong grasp on the lead character makes up for the lackluster villains and being a little too invested in the character's continuity. There is a good chance that future issues will sort both things out, leaving us with a series starring a distinctive teen hero.