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Red Menace #1

Posted: Friday, December 8, 2006
By: Michael Bailey



"Unmasked"

Writers: Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo and Adam Brody
Artists: Jerry Ordway (p), Al Very (i), Jonny Rench (colors)

Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm


Plot: Steve Tremane thought he was doing the right thing by revealing the fact that he is the hero known as The Eagle to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That decision comes back to haunt him when he's accused of consorting with a known communist behind the Iron Curtain. With his life unraveling, Tremane finds that old enemies are working with the F.B.I. leading to a confrontation on the streets of Los Angeles.

Commentary: Steve Tremane. Now that is one strong sounding name, isn't it? It sounds like the name of a television series hero.

Wait, who wrote this book?

Oh, well I suppose that makes sense then, doesn't it?

All kidding aside, there was a lot to like about this book. I enjoy period pieces, especially those that feature actual historical figures instead of composites or thinly veiled caricatures. "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy was there on the first page. It wasn't a character made to resemble McCarthy. It was McCarthy sitting on high, passing judgment on people all in the furtherance of his own political career. I appreciate this type of realism because it grounds the series in the time period it is set in.

The story itself has a lot of potential. An almost Captain America hero reveals his identity to HUAC, an act that is meant to be patriotic, and instead of having everything go back to "normal," his life begins to fall apart. It brings to mind the Justice Society refusing to unmask before a similar committee, which isn't surprising considering originally the writers wanted to have the Blur be Jay Garrick, but for reasons having to do with licensing and film rights, they chose to change Blur's name. Bilson, DeMeo and Brody gave us several different reactions to Steve's decision from the aggravation of an old colleague to the sadness and confusion of Steve's daughter to the delight of his old enemies who are now part of the F.B.I. to the fan with strange powers who tries to emulate his hero. All of this combined to set up the overall story while also giving the reader a glimpse of the consequences of a man doing what he thought was the right thing.

While the writing was good, it was the art that sold the story. Despite certain misgivings I have in the way he draws women, Jerry Ordway is one of my favorite artists, and he nailed the likenesses of the real life figures who are part of this series. He was really the best choice for this project because of this. His work on the adaptation of the 1989 Batman film made the book look better than just about any movie adaptation I have ever seen because the characters looked liked the actors. Jerry (along with Al Vey) gave the art a rich detail and this, combined with Jonny Rench's sometime moody coloring were the highlight of this issue.

In The End: While the pacing was a bit brisk in this first issue, I was rather happy with it. The creative team has set up an interesting story, and I like the feeling that there is more going on than meets the eye. Sure, Walter Winchell and Joe McCarthy could be considered villains in their own right. I have the feeling though that there is a larger villain lurking in the background. As long as the art stays as good as it was here, and the story stays on track, then everything else should work out just fine.



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