I like Resurrection Man as a character. His powers make him a great deus ex Machina: whenever he dies, he gains a new power based on how he last died. If he is crushed by a boulder, he gains invulnerability. If he swallows poison, he gains immunity to poisons. If he’s tortured to death, he transforms into a woman (as women have higher pain tolerance than men). And so on. When he dies, he can counteract that death the next time around. This can go on literally forever, as long as someone does not find a way to get around the regeneration.
His original run in the late 90s was fun, but bizarre. It started out as a simple, “who is Mitchell Shelley” storyline, but it became so much more. In his twenty-seven issue run, he met a lot of the heavy hitters of the DC universe. He was invited to join the Justice League, but declined. He also had some bizarre adventure with the Phantom Stranger and Vandal Savage. After it was over, he disappeared into the background and was not heard from for almost a decade. His impact to the DC universe is next to nil.
When I found out he was a launch title, I thought, why? Unless his story is important to the new 52 in some meaningful way, I do not see a reason to have him in it. Reading through the 12 issues of the relaunch and I have to admit the writing is solid. It is well paced and a lot of care went into keeping it moving forward. It was good enough to survive the first round of cuts, but not the second.
The problem with him being a launch title is that it feels like a ‘throw it against the wall’ decision. If it sticks we’ll keep it. Otherwise, replace him and try it with something else. That is the nature of the new 52 concept. After you get your A, B, and C list characters chosen, you still need to pull from the D list to get to 52 titles. While I do give some credit for trying to make him work, R-Man is strictly a D list character that can only work with a lot of thought put into the character.
Some of the decisions made sense to me. Hawk and Dove were an important part of the last major storyline before the change, so give them a new series. Mr Terrific was building towards the introduction of Huntress and Power Girl to the new 52. Static was an attempt to get young readers. Jason Todd will play a role in the story. And so on. With every character, both cancelled and continuing, I can see a reason why they are there. Resurrection Man seemed out-of-place no matter what they tried. He was just a random element that was unnecessary and unneeded.
A way to solve it is to make the character a part of the story in some meaningful way. There are two paths to do this.
1. New 52’s past. Who was Mitchell Shelley? What do characters active before the relaunch think about him? He had to have done something back then that gave him his powers and abilities. The Team 7 might have something to say about him. Maybe he represents some dark secret that most of them want reburied.
2. New 52’s future. Because he is an immortal, he will be active in the future. What does the Legion of Superheroes have to say about him? Is he a member of the team? Is he a villain of some kind? Did he turn his back on the universe and exists on some asteroid?
The point being, unless there is some importance to the character, it does not make sense to use him.