At this point, I think a safe hope is that the “Red Circle” characters are able to rise past their pedestrian origins. It’s certainly not an impossible hope. I remember (pre-“Civil War”) when people would point to Fabian Nicieza’s handling of Speedball over in “New Warriors” as an example of how a bad origin meant nothing in terms of a character’s potential. So, while I can certainly see there being some potential with the Web, this comic certainly didn’t fill me with any sort of anticipation.
Like the introduction of the Hangman two weeks ago, “The Red Circle: The Web” covers overly familiar ground with its introduction of John Raymond, the spoiled rich boy who grew up to buy himself a superhero identity. All the classic pieces are there; the leech of an uncle, the brother who was the better person but the worse businessman, the father who never gave our main character real validation. And then, of course, after using his superhero guise for fame, he learns what it is to be a true hero and help someone truly in need.
The problem is, there’s nothing in this origin story to set it apart from anything else we’ve seen over the past fifty years. There’s no special twist in the story, no out of the ordinary narrative voice, no sudden surprise at the eleventh hour that makes you sit up and take notice. It’s actually a worrisome trend for “The Red Circle” books because when “The Shield” and “The Web” debut next month, it means that writers Eric Trautmann and Angela Robinson (plus co-feature writers Brandon Jerwa and John Rozum) have an uphill battle to capture readers who might have been turned off by the pedestrian nature of these one-shots.
Happily, Roger Robinson’s pencils look strong here. They remind me a bit of Scott McDaniel’s work (and whom ironically pencils the last page as a lead-in to “The Red Circle: The Shield”), with a slightly blocky, iconic look to the visuals. Robinson’s best when it comes to perspective and architecture; the look into the Web’s lair comes across as a more interesting first glance than it other might have been, and even something as simple as a kitchen looks attractive and inviting. He’s good with characters and action too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the attention to details that other artists that might have forgotten that make Robinson’s art stand out. If anything, Robinson’s art is the high point of the issue (although I do love the beautiful Jesus Saiz cover), and the fact that he’s also illustrating the monthly series gives me some hope as well. Here’s to “The Red Circle” characters breaking out of the standard molds they’ve been cast in.