Or – “Can You Have An Unreliable Omniscient Narrator?”
I can’t remember if it was Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said, “Evil will always triumph. Because good… is DUMB.”
I wonder what happens if we see that philosophical truism through to it’s logical conclusion, eh?
Previously, in The Red Ten: From the splash page: “Red, the world’s greatest detective, was violently murdered, presumably by her longtime nemesis, The Oxymoron. Her former sidekick Daniel Lawrence joined forces with members of The Alliance, the ultimate corporate funded super team, to bring the killer to justice. The ten heroes tracked the Oxymoron to a remote island fortress, only to find the psychopath already dead and a cryptic nursery rhyme written in blood foretelling each of their demise. Before they’re able to make heads or tails of the situation, super-android Androika suddenly explodes, takin a good chunk of the fortress with her.” Right off the bat, the creators get bonus points for including a “Previously” section that explains to someone who didn’t pick up #1 (such as myself) literally anything you’d need to know to pick up this story from the very first panels WITHOUT killing any of the suspense. I like that…
WHAT’S PAST IS PROLOGUE…
Our story begins with a flashback to the childhood of the lost hero known as Red, one which I found well-written, explaining how she was a gifted child, and her father was either a detective or a lawyer of some sort, one who was working a big case to put away “some very bad men.” It’s a nice, approachable open, marred only by hyper-saturated computer coloring. When the inevitable tragedy occurs, I’m happy to say that the “child in danger” trope is used in a subtle enough way that my knee-jerk reaction against that plot poin doesn’t kick in. Cut to the now, and a massive explosion, as Red’s sidekick, Crimson (not THAT Crimson) and the remaining members of the Alliance get blowed up real good. The issue throws me for a loop, though, when we meet the Alliance’s leader, Justice. A clear Superman analogue, I’m a bit astonished by his resemblance to one of the costumes worn by Vance Astro of the New Warriors… also known, as Justice. Blue and white suit, similar headgear, even the use of triangle motifs on the shoulders… Whether it’s coincidence or intentional shout-out, it dragged focus away from the heroes.
ANOTHER HERO FALLS.
There’s a moment during this issue in which the hero Master Mage searches for his lost staff, and, upon finding it, remarks to himself that is feels heavier than usual. It is at this moment that I say my farewells to Master Mage, believing him not long for this mortal coil. The rest of the issue is interesting, giving us the background of Throttle (our team speedster, though more in the vein of Lightning or The Whizzer than Jay Garrick and his various antecedents), emphasizing the tension between Crimson and the other heroes, as well as the next indication that someone is manipulating them. The issue ends with a grisly motif worthy of old-school EC Comics, and I can’t help but read a little dark humor into the events that end the book. The dialogue is very naturalistic, which adds to the drama but does bring these heroes down off their cape-and-cowl pedastals. (I can’t imagine many heroes who could pull off calling their teammate a dick without sounding like one themselves. Green Arrow, perhaps. Maybe Hawkeye. Maybe that sort of snark requires a ranged weapon?) There’s some lovely Watchmen-esque background material rounding out the issue, giving some much appreciated depth to one of our heroes, and making the ending more meaninful on a character level.
THE VERDICT: AMBITIOUS BUT NOT QUITE OVER-REACHING.
There are a few moments in this issue that give me pause, like Justice’s familiarity and Throttle’s uncomfortable confrontation with his teammates, but overall the central story holds the issue together. These are heroes with feet of clay, clearly, and their responses to being backed into a corner are believable enough. I like the use of superhero shorthand (high-talking magician ala Dr. Strange, fast guy from the Midwest ala the Flash, strong-guy leader ala Superman, grown-up sidekick getting no respect ala early portrayals of Nightwing) and even find parallels between the lost Red and Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. Overall, the upside of this sort of storytelling tool (especially in a miniseries) outweighs the downside, aswhen the warrior woman and the Atlantean have a quick human moment that might not have carried the weight it did in any other random #2 issue. The Red Ten #2 has me convinced that I know who the killer is, but makes for a fun ride, and aside from a slightly over-agressive coloring job, reads smoothly, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. I’m very interested to see where the story goes from here.(Also: The Colossal Boy/Giant-Man analogue is named Magnitude, which makes me laugh. Pop-POP!)