When “Red Team” began, I gave it a hard time for not being a very good comic book. It was a potentially good story with interesting characters, but the entire issue was a series of scenes with people sitting across tables talking. Very static.
Three issues later, things haven’t gotten that much better in that department, but Craig Cermak does his best to vary up the facial expressions and move the camera in enough different directions to keep things visually as interesting as they can be. This issue has a couple of action scenes, which certainly helps, but the overall tone is still very subdued. Cermak’s art feels livelier than the previous issues, likely due to the material he has to work with, but it’s still relatively stiff. Characters appear to have a rod down their spine whenever they sit to talk.
The coloring from Ariano Lucas isn’t helping. It’s too dark and too flat. There are a lot of gradients used, but they aren’t helping the storytelling. They only serve to make the art look more complicate than it is, and the colors start to compete with the final ink lines. The murky green/blue backgrounds don’t help, particularly when the characters in front of them often blend in with shadowy faces that aren’t bright enough to make for a contrasting image.
The major storytelling conceit — that of characters giving depositions/debriefings/testimony — means everything is a flashback, robbing the series of some of its immediacy. Ennis makes up for that with striking dialogue, ending in this issue with a note that’s a surprising turn from what the readers may have been expecting since the first issue. One thing I realized with this issue is that the interrogation scenes in the series are bouncing back and forth between Eddie and Trudy. The other two team members — Duke and George — aren’t talking. Do they not survive? Are they not talking? I can see both possibilities happening, but we’ll have to wait for Ennis to play his cards.
This issue focuses on Trudy the female lead of the series. We learn more about the team structure — how it’s really two leaders and two followers — and how their mission changed after the events of last issue and an event at the beginning of this one that had unintended consequences. Ennis expands on some “throwaway” dialogue of a previous issue to better illustrated Trudy’s family life. He’s not giving us her “secret origin” or anything, but her actions do give us enough hints that you know there’s something in her past that still haunts and affects her. That comes out to devastating effect in the second half of the issue and puts the whole team in jeopardy.
“Red Team” has its shortcomings for the format it’s being presented in, but the story at the heart of it is a compelling one. This is the most action-packed issue so far, and Ennis and Cermak rise to that occasion.