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Red Menace #5

Posted: Saturday, March 24, 2007
By: Ray Tate



"A Hard Place"

Writer: Danny Bilson, Paul DeMeo, Adam Brody
Artists: Jerry Ordway(p), Al Vey(i), Johnny Rench and Carrie Strachan(c)
Publisher: Marvel

This issue of Red Menace, Bilson, DeMeo and Brody deepen the very title of the book. In a thorough fusion of periodicity and super-hero alternity, the writers create a surprising super-villain. This opens up numerous possibilities while not tampering the themes already established.

Almost as defiance to the filth of political corruption, ordinary criminals become angels. The Eagle serving time for breaking unjust laws meets up with a real lifer who becomes a fount of information. What the Eagle learns will affect the efficacy of the Grey Falcon's plan to bust out the grand bird of prey.

Bilson, DeMeo and Brody play with all sorts of Hollywood tropes in their comic book. The source of the Eagle's facts turns out not be some bit player shuffling on the outskirts of gangsters portrayed by celebrities. Instead, the informer becomes a well-known historical figure.

The Eagle this issue finds two allies in unexpected places, and one of those feathered friends is actually a newer incarnation of the girlfriend who loves her man but not the things he does. Her moral fiber does in the one she loves. In Red Menace, the girlfriend becomes a gay man, but the transformation in orientation and gender doesn't change the basic theme.

Red Menace challenges comic book clichés. We have seen the super villain become thirsty for political power--Lex Luthor and Iron Man for instance. The authors turn this around. Through the genre of the super-villain, they depict in narrative how a historical figure came to be.

Jerry Ordway, Al Vey and colorists Rench and Strachan compliment the authors' expert directorship with masterful cinematography and the perfect blocking of shots. Their handling of the first kiss between Helen and the Grey Falcon is traditional for movies but original for comics. They time the kiss and show the evolution of the kiss with the flow of panels, and in so doing, they make the kiss a moment. It's not just a kiss between two unimportant figures. The control of time, the nuances of the actors and the angles as well as a blend to the hues combine to make this kiss one of the most powerful seen in comics.

Red Menace may be winding down to the conclusion, but it hasn't lost any of its potency. The rich characters possess depth seldom seen in what on the surface seemed to be essentially variations of the archetypes. The plot's textured with multiple themes and the art's simply gorgeous.



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