Among the vast ocean of crappy 90s comics, there are few titles I could call “underrated.” But without a doubt, one of these underrated 90s comics is the short-lived DC Comics series named Chase.
“Baptized in Fire”
Story: D. Curtis Johnson
Penciller: J.H. Williams III
Inker: Mick Gray
Colors/Separations: Lee Loughridge
Associate Editor: Dana Kurtin
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Price: $2.50
Publisher: DC Comics
The issue opens in Daily, Ohio at a local junior high school where we meet your typical nerdy kid named Jerry Harris. The story doesn’t tell us much about Jerry other than has a massive crush on a classmate named Amy. Unfortunately, Amy’s jock of a boyfriend, Chad, catches Jerry sneakin’ a peek at his girl. Chad decides to make poor Jerry his new punching bag, but just before the punches started to fly, young Jerry’s Meta-Gene activates.
The scene shifts to New York City, where DEO Agent Cameron Chase is running late for her first day on the job. Once she’s at the office, Chase runs into DEO Field Personnel Manager, Sandy Barrett who informs her about the odd happenings in Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Chase is flying to Ohio to investigate.
While in the air, Chase looks over some information Sandy brought with her and is shocked to learn that the DEO is working with schools, altering tests to find out which kids might have a Meta-Gene.
When the two arrive at the Junior High, they check the student list and ask a Sheriff if anyone on it is missing. And wouldn’t you know it, Jerry Harris is the only one not in attendance.
Based on the scene, Chase concludes that Jerry is very likely pyrokinetic and is probably confused by what’s going on. Chase and Barrett conduct some interviews with Jerry’s classmates. During one interview we learn that Chad survived the blast, but is now in critical condition. He’es blind and much of his body has third-degree burns. Later that night, Jerry Harris is found in town. But when Chase, Barrett, and the police show up, Jerry lights up again.
Before Chase can get a shot in, Jerry flees and ends up falling into a pond for some reason. Jerry is taken into custody and on the ride back Chase makes him an offer he can’t refuse: She will send him somewhere where he can learn to control his powers. Jerry agrees to the deal because if he becomes a superhero, Amy might finally talk to him.
Later Chase says she doesn’t feel it’s a good idea to “reward” a kid after he nearly killed a classmate. Barrett asks her if she’d rather have the super-powered teen grow up to be one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. But what happens when the town’s folks show up with their torches and pitchforks to kill Jerry? Ah, you have to read Chase #1 to find out!
From what I remember, Chase was a book that had a lot of buzzes before it launched. The character of Cameron Chase debuted in the Batman books, which quickly made her stand out. But for whatever reason, the buzz surrounding her didn’t follow her to her solo book. And after re-reading Chase #1 for the first time in over 20 years, I can’t figure out why, because this book is fantastic!
Even if you didn’t read her Batman appearance, Chase #1 tells you everything you need to know about the main character. Writer D. Curtis Johnson makes it clear who Cameron Chase i, where she lives, and what she does for a living. Johnson also smartly made her thew reader’s point of view character. Doing this allowed us to experience her first day at work with her. When Chase learns something, we learn something which makes for fun reading.
There are some great moments in this issue too. I liked how on her way to work Chase sees Kyle Rayner (Green Lantern) flying through the city. It’s a small cameo, but it was cool seeing a DC hero simply going about his business while life goes on normally down below. But maybe my favorite part of Chase #1 is the school interviews. This is probably the most entertaining sequence in the book thanks to D.Curtis Johnson’s dialogue. I won’t say the interviews are as perfect as the Oberon interviews in Justice League International #24, but they’re still quite entertaining.
One of the highlights of Chase #1 is the art by J.H. Williams III. Chase may have been his first regular gig in comics, I’m not sure. But his style was certainly different from anything on the stands at the time. His art here is stunning, and it’s no wonder Williams would go on to superstardom on books like Promethea and Batwoman, but his work on Chase will always be a personal favorite.
As I said earlier Chase didn’t do well and was canceled far too soon. I think part of the problem is DC didn’t go as far with the concept as they should have. Chase should have been a Vertigo book that examined the ugly side of the DC universe. In hindsight, Chase could have been what Alias was for Marvel a few years later, but sadly the book never got a chance to spread its wings.
Overall though, Chase #1 is a wonderful book, well worth tracking down. The entire series is worth reading and I’m sure its cheap to find. I seem to remember DC publishing a collection, but I’m not sure if it’s still in print or not. Regardless the single issues should be easy to find online, so go find them and enjoy this hidden gem of the 90s!