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Continuing the series of one-shots introducing the MLJ/Archie Comics characters into the DCU, this week we have INFERNO.

RC_Inferno_1.jpgPicking up directly where the first one-shot, The Hangman, left off (you did  read that review, didn’t you?), we find that the mysterious explosion survivor has been stabilized and admitted into the hospital.  Doctor Robert Dickering and police Lt. Barker are discussing possibilities on who the man might be. All we know about him is that he is the sole survivor of a cruise ship explosion, and that he said the name Frank Verrano in the brief moment he regained consciousness. No one is sure what it all means, but Lt. Barker is the lady determined to find out.

Meanwhile, the Red-Haired Stranger is having dreams, dreams of a beautiful woman and a mysterious conversation. They decided to do something, something that required them to try and get rid of evidence.  The blonde woman asks the man, someone we cannot see, to tell her that he loves her, even if it is a lie. He does, and as she leans in to kiss him, her lips disappear in a blaze of light. At that moment, the man wakes up with a start. Doctor Dickering is in the room with him, and begins to ask him questions. The man tells Dickering about the dream, and Dickering asks if the name he spoke, Frank Verrano sounds familiar.  The man says no, he does not remember anything, including his own name.

At the police station, Lt. Lynn Barker is running into a dead end with the name Frank Verrano, no hits on the internet or anyone. A colleague tells her that he also was doing some checking, and the man’s fingerprints turn up nothing in every database from the FBI to the Boy Scouts.  No credit information, no birth certificate, driver’s license, it is as if the stranger simply appeared out of thin air.  Barker is not happy.

Back at the hospital, the Red-Haired Stranger is trying to remember who he is when he notices a janitor outside his hospital room. The janitor notices him as well and suddenly pulls out a pair of Uzi’s and fires on the stranger. As he scrambles for cover, he begins to smoke, not a cigarette, but physically!  His hair starts to disappear and his facial features change as his body is covered in fire. With a scream he bursts completely into flames and where the slender red-haired man with no facial hair once stood, there is a bald, muscular man with a handlebar mustache, tight red-short, jeans, wearing a small torch medallion around his neck. And he is NOT a happy camper! The man with the Uzi fires on him and he intensifies his flame, melting the bullets before they strike him, he then blows out the side of the room with a huge burst of flame.

In the hospital, employees are desperately trying to evacuate the area.  The flaming man, Inferno, has made his way outside, where he is confronted by the police.  He ignores their commands to surrender, and instead, attacks them.  On the roof, Dr. Dickering looks down on them and looks to the setting sun. As the sun sits, a mist surrounds him, and he begins his transformation into, The Hangman!  See, I said you needed to read last week’s review! In the meantime, Inferno has driven a police car to the docks, when he is suddenly surrounded by smoke and fog, causing him to wreck. As he pulls himself out of the wreck, he is confronted by the Hangman, who seems determined to make him pay for his crimes, namely, endangering the innocent. The first meeting between Inferno and the Hangman goes about like you would figure, a fight ensues. I thought that hero meetings turning into fights-before-friendships was a thing of the previous century? Hangman begins to show some powers that where not seen in The Hangman One-Shot; such as using his smoke and fog to block the oxygen form Inferno’s flame. The fight actually gets a little tedious, so let’s jump a few panels ahead to where Inferno has Hangman’s mystic noose around his neck.

I guess the noose jogs his memory some, because when the Hangman mentions innocents, Inferno remembers why he was driving to the dock. People where going to die unless he could stop it; queue the attack helicopter. Again, as he is riddled with bullets, we see Hangman get up unharmed and use his noose to grab the helicopter and swing it into a building.  “Judgment is rendered.”  While Hangman was occupied, Inferno has been running for the ocean liner tied up to the docks, screaming for everyone to get off the boat. Think about this. You are on an ocean liner and just the previous night you heard on the news that a different ocean liner exploded killing practically everyone aboard. Now you are seeing a man, ON FIRE, running onto the boat you are on screaming for everyone to get off. Me? I would hope that someone would stop them, but our “hero” manages to get all the way onto the boat, down into the hold, and to the location of a bomb. Amnesia, huh?

Since they already tried to fight each other, now they try to work together. Inferno melts open a door, and Hangman uses his noose to raise the bomb out of the ship and into the air.  Inferno tells Hangman “—they didn’t even care about the ship, they just set the bomb so the cops would thin they’re both random, so the first one had a specific target.”  I’m telling you, Inferno has the worst case of amnesia I have ever seen. As Hangman hoists the bomb high above the docks, it explodes, and we see a battered Dr. Dickering wash up on shore.

Later, Lt. Baker and her colleague are at the scene of all the carnage. After she hears that the “fire guy” was on the scene, she asks if he was there to detonate the bomb, or stop it. This time is different than the first, as they have witnesses and a sketch artist has made a composite of the fire man. Armed with the sketch, Barker calls for an APB of Inferno.

(Queue Bill Bixby/Incredible Hulk theme)
We switch art styles, which tells me we are on the last page. The Red-Haired Stranger is walking along the boardwalk asking people if they know who he is.  He approaches a pair of “beautiful people” sitting at an outdoor café. John Raymond, adventurer, brushes him away with a twenty and tells him to run along.  Raymond then continues his interview, telling the reporter that his next adventure is going to blow away his mountain climbing and parasailing achievement.  We see the Web costume, and get the tagline: “Continued next week in The Red Circle: The Web #1”

Let cover the basics of this issue. Again, we have a script by J. Michael Straczynski and the art chores this issue are handled by Greg Scott. As with the last one-shot, we are introduced to one of the classic MLJ/Archie heroes. Unfortunately, this one also suffers from the flaws of the last one.  First off, I am not a fan of this style with superhero comics. The dark, heavy lines muddy up a lot of the artwork, and some of the panels seems separated from the script.  Speaking of the script, it seems rushed. I know that this is supposed to be set up as sort of Jason Bourne idea, with the hero discovering his true past throughout the story and you never being sure if he is a hero or villain or both, but it is hindered here by Inferno managing to remember key elements just in the nick of time.

The concept of Inferno is not as unique as it seems at first glance either.  A hero with two separate identities has been done with Captain Marvel (the DC and Marvel versions) Marvelman, and even Thor, the Hulk and MLJ’s Red Rube. We have the added twist of amnesia here, but it is not really enough to make everything fresh. As I said, the art takes me away from the story, and the script just seems too simple. While Starczynski is famous for complicated scripts with multiple layers, the introduction of the characters and time between the regular series may be too long to keep up interest.  I’m going with 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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The Author

Stacy Baugher

Stacy Baugher

Back in February of 2008, Stacy Baugher wrote his first article for Major Spoilers and started a solid run of work that would last for over two years. He wrote the first series of Comic Casting Couch articles as well as multiple Golden Age Hero Histories, reviews and commentaries. After taking a hiatus from all things fandom he has returned to the Major Spoilers fold.

He can currently be found on his blog, www.stacybaugher.com , were he post progress on his fiction work as well as his photography and life in general, and on Twitter under the handle @stacybaugher . If you're of a mind, he also takes on all comers with the under the Xbox Live Gamertag, Lost Hours.

He currently lives in Clinton, Mississippi with his understanding wife, and two kids.

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5 Comments

  1. Sam Dunham
    August 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm — Reply

    Hmmm… not sure if I like the direction DC’s taking Inferno. As you said, it’s been done many times in the past, and the amnesia gimmick is a pretty thin plot point. I would have rather liked to see him as a no-nonsense man with a past than fiery Capt. Mar-vell. So far, not too impressed with the Red Circle guys.

    I am, however, really looking forward to The Web. Really gives off an old-school Booster Gold vibe. Could be a lot of fun if handled properly.

    So I’m also haviong a hard time deciding if the Red Circle books are in DC continuity. Could you shed some light on this?

  2. August 18, 2009 at 1:45 pm — Reply

    firstly, regarding the Amnesia, it’s easily acceptable that memories will be triggered by certain elements surrounding him. And in general, I believe, some amnesia affects memories of personality and it is perfectly in the realms of possibility that locations and schematics are remembered.

    “Think about this. You are on an ocean liner and just the previous night you heard on the news that a different ocean liner exploded killing practically everyone aboard. Now you are seeing a man, ON FIRE, running onto the boat you are on screaming for everyone to get off. Me? I would hope that someone would stop them, but our “hero” manages to get all the way onto the boat, down into the hold, and to the location of a bomb. Amnesia, huh?”

    firstly, regarding the Amnesia, it’s easily acceptable that memories will be triggered by certain elements surrounding him. And in general, I believe, some amnesia (Dissociative Fugue) affects ONLY memories of personality. It is perfectly in the realms of possibility that locations and schematics are remembered.

    regarding a man on fire running into the boat…. this is a world where men and women on fire like (firestorm & fire) are known as heroes, where people can create green effigies out of thin air, where people can run faster than the speed of sound. Yes it would be worrying on our world, but would people really be that worried in the DC Universe?

  3. August 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm — Reply

    @Sam – These are, to my knowledge, supposed to be in continuity. The several other DC titles (I know Green Arrow/Black Canary) have had really quick cameos with these characters. Dido has also said they are in the DC proper, I just can’t find a quote.

    @Paul – In my opinion, when amnesia is declared as a MAJOR part of the character and then dropped everytime a major plot point needs to revealed it destroys the credibility and becomes a dues ex machina device. We are still learning who this Inferno is, and it just (to me) comes off as hurried to just start having him remember stuff at exactly the right times.
    As far as a man running on fire onto the boat, I would think that peiople in the DC Universe would be hyper sensative to such a sight. With all the damage that has been done over the years due to super human brawls, I would think that most would want to get out of the path of perceived danger. But these are my views

    Personally, I REALLY want these titles to work. So much so that I have admited I may be putting undo pressure on them. I’m going to continue to read them on into the first few issues of the regular series. If they don;t pick up after that, I may drop them. I hope that these initial introductions do not taint the upcoming series.

    I really wonder what the original stories introducing them in The Brave and The Bold series where like? Could they characters have profited from having one of DC’s big guns helping with like training wheels?

  4. August 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm — Reply

    I think we’ll agree to disagree on this one. I think I would have more difficulty with the story if memories we’re regained “off the cuff”.

    The flashback insinuates that the amnesia is self induced, so that could explain it away.

    and the series look like they will have proper guest stars aplenty. Green Arrow, Black Canary, Magog and others have already been confirmed.

  5. Kingme
    August 19, 2009 at 6:59 am — Reply

    I’ll I’m saying is if DC is gonna remake/revamp classic characters for a new age of comics then why not add some… diversity? That’s 4 new characters introduced to a universe and they all happen to be caucasian. Time to add some color, that’s all I’m sayin’.

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