Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo, & Adam Brody
Artists: Jerry Ordway (p), Al Vey (i)
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
I have to admit I was experiencing a bit of trepidation when I picked up this title. Regardless of anything else, with Jerry Ordway on the art, I'm buying it. However, it was the story, or rather the writers, that had me most concerned. I won't beat a dead horse here, but Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo are not showing their best on another DC title. Now comes Red Menace and the addition of a third writer, Adam Brody, to the team.
Well, let's just say I'm duly impressed with this effort.
A comic that has its heroes going against HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) will always have me referring back DC's America vs. The Justice Society mini-series from 1985. Perhaps it's unfair to compare the two, but it's the first thing that popped into my head when I first heard about this series. It's also not a bad series to be compared with as well, which, coincidentally, also featured artwork by Jerry Ordway.
Doing a story such as this can be tricky. There's only so much liberty you can take with the story when you're involving real world politics and situations. However, based on this one issue, the writers seem to have a very good grasp of everything, especially the overwhelming paranoia that was prevalent in the early 1950s. In the character of Steve (The Eagle) Tremaine, they show another face of America during that time: One of a true patriot who is being accused of being a commie sympathizer. Unfortunately, Tremaine is na´ve in thinking all he has to do is remove his mask and everything is fine. Such is not the case though, and that's where the story really begins.
In revealing his identity, he's put himself, his family, and his friends in danger. You don't see him weighing the positives and negatives beforehand, but that's not important to this story yet. What's important to this story is how easy it is to believe one thing when it's impossible to believe. How one could be an ally in one war, but is an enemy a few years later. How having a simple drink with that former ally is now cause for suspicion. And how HUAC was able to twist the truth for its own means. Such is the situation Tremaine finds himself in. The story may appear to be a simple one, but Bilson, DeMeo and Brody are showing the effects of what "Red paranoia" can do to a country, to a man, and to a belief. I also like seeing how everything affects the people around Tremaine, as well as those who are his fans.
To me, the biggest appeal of this book was having Jerry Ordway drawing it. I've been a fan of Ordway's since he was drawing character sketches for The Comic Reader. One thing you know you'll get from Ordway is his best. There's not a weak page in this book. While everyone else will focus on the pages that show all the action, I like the quieter scenes: the scenes between Tremaine and his daughter, the scene when Tremaine removes his mask, and the three pages in which Tremaine is confronted with "evidence" that he's a "commie sympathizer." Those are all powerful scenes. Ordway is the master at showing all that emotion that those scenes evoke.
As I stated in the beginning, I was experiencing a bit of trepidation in buying this title. I can say with confidence though, Bilson and DeMeo have proved to me they're capable of writing a great comic book. Granted, they're joined by Adam Brody, but this book was their "redemption." Here's hoping everyone gives Red Menace a chance. It deserves it. It's a damn good book. One of the best I've read this month.
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