So, let me get this straight: when Inferno powers up, and becomes a dude with flaming power, he grows a handlebar moustache and his hair disappears?
When that is the most interesting aspect of a first issue team book, you know you’re in trouble.
I’ve never read the “Inferno” series (in which that fashion-and-power connection is presumably explained), but I have sampled a few other comics from this most recent DC revamp of the Archie Red Circle line. Other than some strong artwork from Marco Rudy on “The Shield” and Mike Oeming on “The Fox,” there isn’t a whole lot that has grabbed my attention. The stories that I have read have been bland, generic, devoid of life. As an informal line within the DCU, the Red Circle comics haven’t even lived up to the quality of the kid-friendly “Impact!” comics from twenty years ago.
And yet here we are with “The Mighty Crusaders” #1, the first issue of a six-issue series in which the heavy-hitters from the formerly-of-Archie gang team up under the auspices of the U.S. government. Unlike the Impact! take on these characters, this group is part of the DCU proper, so the in-story genesis of the team is explained as a response to the “recent extraterrestrial threat of New Krypton and General Zod.” And the main threat for this series — the looming threat, it seems — is a Durlan invasion.
The problem is that I don’t really believe this story is part of the DC Universe. I don’t buy it. The story makes its attempts at integrating the characters and team into the world of Superman and Batman (even though those characters don’t appear), but it doesn’t feel genuine. It feels like an attempt to make this series more appealing to readers, but there’s no real sense that the Mighty Crusaders exist in a world filled with costumed characters other than the ones who appear here. Sure, the characters might allude to General Zod, but, really, this is a series that won’t make a dent on DC continuity and we all know it.
But none of that would matter if this first issue was good. But it’s not. It’s fine. It’s generic. It has the old standard plot in which a team formed on behalf of the government is given a straw army battle to fight for public relations purposes. And it has characters posing sternly.
The art by Lopez and Lucas is serviceable and completely inoffensive, but it doesn’t make the series worth reading on its own.
The only thing that gives this first issue a glimmer of hope is the arrival of the Hangman, who swings in almost as a parody of a grim, tortured superhero. He doesn’t realize his own ridiculousness, and the story plays it as a moment of high drama and mysterious portent, but it works best as high camp fun. “This man may yet have a prayer upon his lips,” intones the so-serious Hangman, “but your interference will surely damn him.”
Imagine Patrick Warburton saying those lines, and you can imagine the potential charm. It’s the only thing that’s vaguely interesting about this comic.