The Complete Concrete

Author: Paul Chadwick
Year: 1988
Genre: Science fiction

Most American comics fall into the superhero genre, and a lot of the most thoughtful ones use that genre to make an interesting statement. Concrete falls into that second category, along with Astro City, It's a Bird, and others of my personal favorites.

The concept is the normal guy who is mysteriously granted super powers, a Silver Age cliche that recalls Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk. This time, though, our hero is not a desperate teenager but a grown man, a politician's speechwriter, and recently divorced. Also, unlike his Marvel predecessors, Concrete does not live in a world of superheroes; he is the only one of his kind. This premise leads to a more realistic consideration of the superhero in society: there are government cover-ups, scientific research, celebrity appeal. Concrete becomes a licensed character, and goes on tour with a musician who resembles Prince. Wherever he goes, he is the center of attention.

In the end, it's a poignant story of a man who is granted new opportunities at the same time that the possibility of simple human existence is taken from him. He can (and does) attempt to swim the Atlantic Ocean and climb Mount Everest, but work, romance, and family are no longer part of his life. Throughout all of his trials, though, Concrete remains a believably human character. This volume's cover image says it all: it's a portrait of Concrete, whose two fragile eyes peer out from behind a face of stone.

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