From Cover To Cover

From the Archives- Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1 (2004)

From the Archives- Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1 (2004)

This piece was originally published at Mediasharx, the first or second site that I ever wrote for.  If I remember correctly, Mediasharx was a spinoff of Zentertainment, one of the first popular entertainment news websites.  I think I may have started at the last month of Zentertainment before that site was shut down (the main guy left the internet to become a chef (?)) and when a lot of the staff started Mediasharx, I jumped over there.

It's so weird to be trying to remember what was happening on the internet via 2003/2004.  Trying to Google both Mediasharx and Zentertainment, both names are now being used for completely different things.

Paul Chadwick's Concrete has been a favorite of mine since discovering it back in the mid/late 1980s.  The Human Dilemma #1 hit stands on December 29, 2004 and began the last cycle of Concrete stories to date.  With the way that we worked at Mediasharx back then, this must have been published on New Years Eve that year.

CONCRETE: THE HUMAN DILEMMA #1 is one of the smartest and most enjoyable issues of the year.

Concrete: The Human Dilemma #1
Published By: Dark Horse Comics
Written and Drawn by: Paul Chadwick
Lettered by: Bill Spicer

What you should know:

As part of military testing, Ron Lithgow's brain was put into a gigantic, rock encrusted body.  At least that's what they told the public about Lithgow, now called Concrete.  They left out the parts about the aliens.  Now Lithgow, a minor celebrity, spends his days collecting art and trying to figure out how best to use the alien body he's been given.

What happened:

After not being on the comic racks for a few years, most comic creators would probably throughout an introductory issue reminding you of the cast and characters in his books.  Not Paul Chadwick.  He just dives in, with the most brief "for the new readers" blurb, and picks up the story of Concrete, his assistant Larry and Maureen, the biologist who studies him.  I hate to say that even though I've read CONCRETE for years, I'm still kind of lost on where these characters are at this point in their lives.  The last couple of miniseries hasn't really stuck in my memory.

When you have comics filled with brightly costumed characters fighting other and even brighter costumed characters, CONCRETE has always been an interesting diversion from those books.  Physically, it's almost impossible to find a character more fantastic and powerful than Concrete.  With his alien body, he should be up there with The Hulk and The Thing in terms of adventures and excitement.  Concrete should be out there every day fighting his own versions of The Leader and Doctor Doom.  Instead, Chadwick grounds Concrete in a more real-world where he's spent years trying to figure out what to do.  Instead of rushing out to have adventures (and he does have a few now and then,) Concrete spends most of his time contemplating the best way to have an impact on society.  Whenever he actually gets around to doing something, he wants it to have meaning.

That's why when a corporate head comes to Concrete in HUMAN DILEMMA with a proposition for him, Concrete has to take the time to consider it.  Concrete has always thought that in his body he should be able to be a spokesperson for an environmental cause.  He's looked to the rain forests, green peace, even Mount Everest for a cause he could get behind and support.  Now, Walter Sageman, CEO for Punchinello Pizza, calls him with an offer-- be a spokesman advocating limited population growth through sterilization.  "I want childlessness to become acceptable, even chic," Sageman says.  "The foundation will pay young couples to choose education, careers, and good works over childbearing."  When was the last time you read something like that in a comic book?  The incredible part is that Concrete seriously considers Sageman's offer.

While this is going on, we catch up a bit with Larry, Concrete's assistant.    In a previous miniseries, Larry met Astra during an adventure of his own when he was kidnapped.  Since then, they've fallen in love and we see Larry's attempts to propose to Astra.  Larry has always been around to help ground Concrete.  Larry is a regular guy and offers a mix of humor and stability to the book.  Larry stands in for the readers in Concrete's world, invited in and learning to be part of the big rocky guy's life.  But we've rarely seen Larry strike out on his own so it's good to see the character get a little life to him.

CONCRETE started out as short stories in DARK HORSE PRESENTS before graduating to its own series.  Even in his regular series, each issue was fairly self-contained.  Chadwick has always worked better when he's had the limits of 8 or 32 pages.  His miniseries have never had the focus and strength that a majority of the short stories had.  HUMAN DILEMMA finally seems to break through and deliver a strong issue that's part of a larger series.  It's great to see an older character getting a new lease on life.  CONCRETE: THE HUMAN DILEMMA is one of the smartest and most enjoyable issues of the year.