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The heroes of the Red Circle march on as DC Comics’ second series based on the recently re-introduced Archie heroes debuts with The Web!

The web originally debuted in issue #27 of Zip Comics back in 1942 as a college criminologist professor/mystery writer. His last appearance was in 1943’s Zip Comics #38. Twenty-plus years later, he re-appeared in Fly-Man #36. The character made several appearances during the Red Circle/Archie Adventures comics of the late 70’s/early 80’s and was completely transformed for the first DC revival as a hi-tech organization called The Web. Now, DC is trying again, this time bringing the Web into the DC Universe proper.

The_WEB_Cv1COVER.jpgIn my first Web related review, I was pretty impressed. But now that we have the new writer for the ongoing series, how did it go? Am I still trapped in the web, or did the bug zapper get this one? Find out more after the jump!

The Web #1 picks up about a week after the burial of John Raymond’s brother, David. John, in his new persona as The Web, has tracked down one of the men responsible for the murder of his brother, an armored thug who goes by the name Deadly Force.  In that one week, John has discovered that his brother was not the saint that everyone thought he was. At the reading of his will, David left John a box which contained three things: a handwritten note, a gun, and a pair of dice. The note was from David, and said, “John – Protect April – D.” April was David’s girlfriend, who originally had been dating John until he grew tired of her and brother David was there to pick up the pieces. Still friends, she tells John that she does not know why David left him the note, gun and dice, but that she knows he is a good man, even if nobody else will see it. Later that night, in his lair, John is trying to decide what his next course of action is. Almost absent mindedly, he rolls David’s dice. They come up snake-eyes. He rolls them again, and again gets snake-eyes. Smashing the dice, he discovers that they are filled with a white powder. Even in death, his brother seems to be giving him clues as to what his life was like, and why he was killed. Determined to avenge his brother’s death, he begins using his real world contacts to see where he can get a hook up. Finally coming down to a friend of a friend of a friend, he ends up talking to a guy at a night club who tells him that he needs to text a number and he would receive instructions.

Later in a back alley, John has a young thug shove a gun in his face and demand one-thousand dollars, twice the amount he was told. Handing over the money, he is given a small baggie which contains a pair of dice.  Speeding off in the van, the young thugs kids celebrate their windfall, not realizing that the money contains a tracker with which John Raymond plans on following them back to their hide-out. With a BAM and KROOM the Web busts up the drug factory”Who are you working for!” he screams at the thugs. He quickly receives his answer, as Deadly Force comes up behind him. We have now come full circle with the beginning of the issue.

John has gotten the upper hand on Deadly Force and is beating him into the ground, literally. He wants to know where Dr. Archer is, the man who set David’s death into motion, and he is willing to go through Deadly Force to find him. Finally, a beaten Deadly Force tells the Web that Dr. Archer works at Bellevue, as in Bellevue Hospital. Using his high-tech gadgets, The Web ties Deadly Force to a flag pole on the side of a skyscraper and uploads a video to the Internet of his location, telling the NYPD who he is and where to find him.  This is a nice little touch, as it continues the hi-tech/Internet theme that was established in the one-shot. Arriving at Bellevue, it becomes clear that Dr. Archer works there, but has essentially been forgotten and left to his own devices. Finding his office, the Web sees that not only does Archer have a pair of the snake-eyes dice, but he has files detailing the experiments he has been performing on the patients. Entering his office, Dr. Archer confronts the Web and tells him that the experiments are allowing him to make strides in the study of the human mind. His brother was killed because he got in the way of Archer and his associates. Then, using an unidentified electrical device, he painfully subdues the Web. When the Web asks him why he is doing this, he tells him that maybe he should ask the girl, her name is April. With that, the story of the Web and his search for vengeance gets a little more intricate.

Writer/filmmaker Angela Robinson succeeds in continuing the caliber of story that J.M. Straczynski started with the Web One-Shot, in my opinion, the best of the Red Circle One-Shots.  The story is moving along at a brisk pace, and is action packed. Ms. Robinson has succeeded in mixing the action scenes but still delivering vital story information in a way that keeps you entertained and ready to turn the next page to see what new twist will strike. There where a few moments that the dialogue seemed a little stilted, but not enough to really throw the rhythm. The art by Roger Robinson and Hilary Barta is good, and big. I say big because at times it seems to pop off the page. Over all the story is well delivered and cinematic, a good combination that keeps the title on my pull list. It’s twenty solid pages that are sure to please.

But, before I give this title it’s grade, I still have to review the second feature, The Hangman. John Rozum starts our tale in Fort Hall Idaho, 1842. A young Robert Dickering is with his father, surveying the remains of a hanged man.  Robert’s father tells him that sometimes a bad man must be punished for his sins. “If they cannot find their way to redemption, it becomes the job of the law to see that they find their way to hell instead. If the law won;t send them there…then the task must fall to someone else.” A rather dark explanation to a young boy, but the title itself is setting itself up as being rather dark.

Flash forward to modern day San Francisco. We find the Hangman dispensing out justice to a pair of evil-doers. His mystical ropes have to criminals hanging for their lives, and a dark and terse releases them, giving them their chance at redemption. He tells them that even though they cannot see the rope around their necks, they are there. If they do not change their ways, he will return and the ropes will finish their jobs. He then leaves them and continues on through the night, dealing justice and a chance at redemption to evil doers all over San Francisco.  When dawn approaches, he teleports back to his home, where he turns back into the mortal form of Dr. Robert Dickering. We get some vital information about the nature of the Hangman’s existence at this point: the transformation happens automatically at sunset and dawn; Dr. Dickering has not slept since 1964; and any wounds or illnesses that he may have had when he was Dickering, disappear when he transforms to the Hangman and back. Preparing for work, he arrives at the hospital to find one of the men he had confronted the night before  has tried to overdose.  The stress of the judgement handed down by the Hangman proved to be to much for this man, and now a mortal Dickering is fighting to save his life.

After he finally gets the man stabilized, Nurse Sarah comes to check on him. After he waxes poetically about how it does not matter who the person is, he does his best to save them, we get a little more hint that Nurse Sarah us attracted to the good Doctor. Looking across the waiting room, Dr. Dickering sees an old lady sitting. “Ma’am, has anyone sen you yet?” he asks. The woman answers, “Not until just now.” Cryptic! She then tells Dickering that the Lifesavers will come to see him, and they will tell him about his station, where he must go, and what he must guard. Nurse Sarah comes over and asks the good doctor is he is okay, and Dickering realizes, with a start, that the old woman has disappeared.

I enjoyed the Straczynski installment of the Hangman. I gave it a mediocre review, but I still enjoyed it. With this story, John Rozum actually begins to weave a tale that is very subtle, but interesting. The art is simply amazing, as Tom Derenick and Bill Sienkiewicz seem to have really hit the target here, and the small issues I had with the coloring in the one-shot have been cleared up for this new story. This “second feature” feels like it could be strong enough to carry it’s own as a headliner, and I look forward to seeing more of it. The Hangman is 10 solid pages of compelling story that promises even more in the future.

Over all, I was not disappointed in the least. This title was even stronger than the new ongoing Shield title I reviewed a few weeks back, and I really enjoyed that. Both features are very strong, and the creative teams did something that are vital in the comic game, they made me want to know what was going to happen next. From the shocking revelations of Robinson’s The Web, to the cryptic foreshadowing of Rozum’s The Hangman, this is a title that I canlt wait to read the next installment of. Add it to your pull list and you won’t be disappointed. I give it 4.5 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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