ďRed Zone (part 5)Ē
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Olivier Coipel (p), Andy Lanning (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Red Skull is back and apparently heís a Republican Ė now thatís a villain! Posing as Secretary of Defense Dean Rusk the Skull has secretly employed A.I.M soldiers to unleash a lethal flesh-eating, biological weapon across the Midwest. The Avengers, unaware of the Skullís deception, desperately seek a cure for the fast-moving biohazard. Meanwhile the Skull has been picking off Avengers one at a time plus heís positioning evidence to cast blame on Americaís enemies abroad for the supposed terrorist attack with the hopes of starting a broader conflict.
Geoff Johns has written an Avengers story arc as epic as any since Kurt Busiekís ďAvengers ForeverĒ storyline. With all due respect to Mr. Busiek, I find Red Zone a lot more accessible and entertaining. The Avengers are proving themselves to be a team capable of solving real world problems and not just a bunch of muscleheads slugging their way to victory. Admittedly, I was let down last issue when the ultimate villain of this story turned out to be the Red Skull, turning Red Zone into a rather typical super-hero adventure instead of an insiderís political espionage tale. However, Johnís slant on the Skull is novel, heís not just a cackling madman, heís a politician Ė and thatís actually damned interesting. The Skull has figured out that the American system of government is fertile for manipulation Ė though thatís hardly news, unless you watch the FoxNews Channel. Honestly, I didnít think that this would play as a backdrop to an Avengerís story, but Johns is such a talented writer he pulls it off.
However, Johns isnít quite as successful with his takes on the individual Avengers. His interpretation of Captain America is a little too gee-whiz apple pie for me, plus I donít get the ongoing angst between Tony Stark and the Black Panther, nor for that matter do I fully understand what everyone has against The Jack of Hearts Ė aside from his absurd costume. However, I think that Johns has nailed characters like The Vision, Falcon and Warbird. But Johns has everyone moving in so many different directions itís like watching a season of HBOís Sopranos; there must be half a dozen subplots in play. But again, Johnsís skill of the craft is so sound he makes up for it through pure tension. Johns writing has created a ďwhats-gonna-happen-nextĒ dynamic in every chapter, which is rare in modern comic storytelling.
Additionally, the art blew me away. Iíve been digging Olivier Coipelís Euro-style here. Coipel has an amazing grasp of human anatomy and facial expression plus he can really pace the action. The big fight scene this issue is brilliant and very visceral (my one $10 word for this review). If youíre having a hard time grasping all of the different characters based on Geoff Johnsís script, rest assured that Coipelís character designs leave no doubt. Coipel is already going down as one of my all-time favorite Avengers artists Ė and Iím reaching back to the days of Neal Adams with that praise. Coipel is doing a spectacular job and I hope he stays on this title for a long time to come.
Red Zone has another two or three chapters left in it, though most arcs these days donít go beyond six issues, so weíll see. I think that the Red Skull as politician has legs, though Iím sure that the Avengers will end his tenure shortly. Everyone knows that the core Avengers are going to survive, but I really canít say the same for minor members like Jack of Hearts, Falcon and She-Hulk Ė seriously, if She-Hulk checks out, will the Marvel universe be worse for it? Itís tensions like this that make Red Zone a great story. It will be a real tragedy when Johns returns to DC on a permanent basis.
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