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Red Menace #1

Posted: Saturday, November 25, 2006
By: Ray Tate



"Unmasked"

Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo, Adam Brody
Artist: Jerry Ordway, Al Vey(i), Johnny Rench(c)
Publisher: DC

Senator Joseph McCarthy was an vile, corrupt pig of a man who headed the House of Unamerican Activities Committee. He fomented distrust in the American people for their fellow Americans. He ruined the lives of men and women from all walks of life by labeling them communists. He and his monstrous regime of cowardly sycophants serve as symbols for the dangers of handing over too much power to the government, something the founding fathers feared so much that they created a checks and balance system meant to slow down if not completely stop the progress of government. Government works at a trickle for a reason.

The American people never seem to learn anything until its too late. Hit by terrorists, most Americans reacted irrationally. They listened to falsehoods instead of the voices of reasons. The Dubya Administration labeled the dissenters to the chorus of followers as traitors and even abetters of terrorism. Around the time when they duped Colin Powell to do a puppet show in front of the United Nations, I was, when asked my opinion on Iraq, called a traitor by two less than impressive gentlemen. Fortunately, I live in a Blue State and in a Blue City. The individuals that supported the Administration were, where I live, few and far between, but I have no doubt that these two were just two beers short of enacting violence against me for having an opinion that differed from theirs. This isn't an isolated case. Ask the Dixie Chicks.

The America I know and love returned on November seventh to stop the political machine created by George "Lame Duck" Bush, Dick "Cyberman" Cheney, Donald "Getting Out Before the Guillotines are Sharpened" Rumsfeld, Condaleeza "What warning?" Rice, Karl "Architect of Doom" Rove, Alberto "Torture's Okay By Me" Gonzales and John "Constitution? We have a Constitution?" Ashcroft. The former weak-willed Republican controlled Congress, fearful of losing an election, finally stood up to the Administration and enacted a measure circumventing the Patriot Act that would prevent Bush and his poison coffee klatch from classifying an American a terrorist and sending them off to Guantanomo or some other forsaken hole to be tortured. Too little too late.

America fired the spineless weasels and has now returned the Democrats to power. Ideally, I would like to see Bush and his cronies impeached, imprisoned and have all their assets redeployed into the rebuilding of the country they broke and given to the families of the soldiers they without conscience killed. Do I expect miracles such as this from the Democrats? No. I expect their presence to slow down and/or stop the government. A Democratic Congress will act as a check against an evil, corrupt Administration that lied to the American people and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and an even greater number of innocent Iraqis. The Democrats will act as a balance against an Administration that once polarized the people and transformed the country into something very similar to the historical snapshot seen in the story. The McCarthy era is relevant. This relevance gives weight to the drama being played out in Red Menace.

The Eagle, a beautifully designed patriotic super-hero archetype, stands before McCarthy and the HUAC. We have seen something similar before in Adventure Comics where the Huntress of earth-two reveals to Power Girl why the JSA disbanded. Rather than reveal their identities to the venomous HUAC, the members of the JSA chose to retire and disappear. This classic earth-two story, a mere ten pages at the most, has been revisited again and again--most recently in Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier. It acts as an important metaphor and always will.

In Red Menace, the opposite occurs. The Eagle unmasks, and because of the patriotic resonance behind his identity, he momentarily throws a spanner in the works of McCarthy. From the Previews, this is what I expected from the comic book. Red Menace's main draw for me was the fact I had little this week to buy and Jerry Ordway contributed his fantastic linework, inked with loving care by Al Vey. What I didn't expect was Bilson & DeMeo providing extra umph to move the story past a simple "we know his identity, let's kill him" motif.

Remember, when confronted with facts, the Bush Administration distorted them. They made up information. They created smoke screens to cover their tracks and attacked the fact checkers. When presented with the facts of the Eagle, McCarthy attacks him and his record. He distorts the facts and creates a massive smoke screen to cover his tracks. Red Menace in short is the sort of writing I expected to find in their comic series The Flash. I expected relevance and social commentary as well as an intriguing tale from Bilson & DeMeo. I didn't see that in The Flash. I see it instead in Red Menace. Credit also must be given to their writing partner Adam Brody. It's all too easy to overlook a man when he stands in a shadow.

Apart from the political setting and reminder of things that could have come, Bilson, DeMeo and Brody do not skimp on characterization. The Eagle could have been just a cipher. Instead, the writers and the artists make him a unique character, and an interesting one at that. He does not and will not name names, and that makes him a hero. The Eagle reveals himself to stop the McCarthy hearings from interfering with his ability to protect the innocent. He does not anticipate the level of sleaze he faces. Though in three beautifully staged expressive panels, we see his revelation. The media portray him as a traitor--read communist, and his decisions impact harshly on his daughter Helen. DeMeo, Bilson, Brody, Ordway and Vey distinguish the briefly seen Blur from Jay Garrick and Barry Allen. Again, they could have just given him the depth of a small puddle. Instead, they make him interesting through his political savvy, his relationship with the Eagle and a visual trick that differs from the way the Flashes are portrayed.

DeMeo, Bilson and Brody touch upon Operation Paperclip, the much conspiracized, but real life tactic in which the government acquired Nazi Scientists. For Red Menace, the FBI recruits Nazi agents and criminals, all fought by the Eagle. This story point is as well relevant not just in terms of the drama. The Dubya Administration made deals with dictators far more corrupt and evil than Sadaam Hussein ever was to oust the Iraqi strongman.

Artists and writers sometimes depend on a period setting to act as an artificial buffer between their characters and the better-known models. In this case, while Ordway's, Vey's craft and the pale color washes of Johnny Rench create atmosphere and accuracy, it's really the characters and richness of the story that makes the Eagle soar in Red Menace.



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