With its first issue, the Garth Ennis and Craig Cermak series “Red Team” proved that it could be many things. The book is a crime comic for sure, first in a promised line of the genre from Dynamite Entertainment, but it’s also a mystery as well as a human drama focusing on the lives of four fallible police officers.
In the opening of the series, readers were introduced to Eddie Mellinger by way of a police holding room where the disgraced detective opened up on a plan for he and his team to take the law into their own hands. Of course, even when the Red Team knows they’re in the moral right taking out killers and gangsters the law can’t pin down, the series is set to examine the slippery slope such actions take.
Ennis spoke with CBR News about the series, saying that the similar grey areas explored by TV’s new golden age of crime dramas served as his inspiration for the story. “The most obvious influence would be ‘The Wire,’ which I’m pretty sure is going to stand as the greatest TV show of all time,” he said. “There’s a dash of ‘The Shield’ in there too. And, to a lesser extent, ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’ ‘Brotherhood,’ even a little ‘Justified.’ All that amped-up crime drama we’ve been getting over the past 15 years.
“The starting point for ‘Red Team’ was, essentially, what if someone tried to be the Punisher for real?” Ennis continued. “I wrote my ‘Punisher Max’ run in as believable a way as possible, I hope — but we’re still talking about a vigilante who’s somehow survived a downright lethal existence for years, often taking down fairly larger than life characters. So I thought, ‘What if someone really, genuinely had a go at it?’ And cops seemed to me to be the logical starting point: They’d have the motivation, because their job would provide all manner of unimaginable frustrations, and they’d have the expertise and the resources to do the job. Or at least, a highly professional surveillance and strike unit like Red Team would.”
That realism permeates the series from Ennis’ research on police procedure and mindset to the age old dictum that no story is quite the same when told from different points of view. And as “Red Team” moves forward, the writer promised that it won’t just be Eddie whose take on the events impacts the reader. “The interview format gives you a chance to explore the story from different viewpoints, as the characters take it turns to give their version of a particular part of the story. Next up in #2 is Trudy,” he said of the lone female on the team and the character with the most to prove in a man’s world. “In a way this is really Trudy and Eddie’s story, as they wobble their way through various moral quandaries in their own individual ways.”
But while the other two members of the team — George and Duke — may fit more in the alpha male role than the focal character of issue #1 does, it’s important to not count Mellinger out just yet. In a way, the character is as close to a moral center of the team as the book gets. “Eddie’s no less capable than the others, but he’s definitely the least certain about what they’re doing,” Ennis explained. “His objections are immediate and instinctive, whereas the rest have thought it through and made their peace with it. Eddie shows up at the meeting [that starts their missions] knowing as well as any of them what’s about to be discussed, but kids himself he’ll be the voice of reason, when really he just needs to be talked into it. Although to be fair, his objections to what comes next are a little more concrete. Trudy, on the other hand, has certain insecurities of her own that may have made her rush to judgement.”
As the story moves forward, expect complications to arise not just from the team’s attempt to take down mob boss Jimmy Jay but also from elsewhere in their own department as they run afoul of a rival unit run by the bristly O’Dwyer and a second generation police screw up called Williams. “Williams is going to be a big problem for O’Dwyer, who as we’ll see runs a very tight ship. Trudy has some interesting insights into Williams, which she’ll relate in a future episode,” Ennis said.
“Red Team” #1 is on sale now from Dynamite Entertainment.