I will start with the good. As usual, Luca Pizzari is fantastic in this issue. His dark rugged art style pairs perfectly with Williamson’s edgy writing. Most of this issue is a battle between Magneto and a defense group of Sentinels, which Pizzari so grandly brings to life. The battle pages are busy and powerful. The art on this book has been great and here in the final issue, Pizzari out does himself again.
Now for the bad. I did not care for this finale at all. In the first two issues this comic threw around some very cool ideas, however here in the third, I found it to be a lazy, unsatisfying conclusion. To catch you up, Magneto was sent to kill Red Skull, but Red Skull convinced Magneto to fight with him and take down the Shield and Doom forever! The Red Skull needs Magneto to make this happen because the Shield is metal and with Magneto he can rip right through it. Well, they storm the wall and in a very anticlimactic way get owned by a group of Sentinels. Turns out that Red Skull was lying. The Shield isn’t metal and neither were the Shield’s Sentinel defense system. A dying Magneto and a retreating Red Skull have one last duke out and shortly after the comic ends.
Williamson is still solid in his character work of Magneto and Red Skull, I just find it all kind of pointless. The entire last issue was building up to this battle and it turns out Red Skull was lying. Feels a little like “it was all a dream”. It makes me think, as all these Battleworld tie ins come to a close, are they all going to end in such an unsatisfying way? Red Skull is still one of the best Battleworld tie ins but issue #3 might leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Most people don’t know the real 50 Cent. They know the rapper/troll whose meteoric rise from funny underground NYC rap goon to biggest selling debut album of all time as the perfect symbol of the shallowness, excess and lack of substance that marked America in the early stages of the Bush presidency. But the real 50 Cent, the one whose name the rapper borrowed, was an entirely different individual. From the 1980’s New York city when Time Square was more Sodom & Gamora then Disneyland, 50 Cent was 5’2 120 lb kid named Kevin Martin from the Bronx that was infamous for sticking up the feudal drug dealers of pre-gentrification Brooklyn, NY. As far as I know, he’s the only stick up kid whose 24 years of life necessitated a Wikipedia page, two documentaries or his own thread on a deep house forum. In other words, the lesser known 50 Cent is probably far more interesting yet for reasons of simplicity, the name probably belongs to the rapper at this point in the collective consciousness of the world.
The contrast between the two often reminds me of Suicide Squad. Created in comics silver age, they were rebooted by John Ostrander, Kim Yale & Luke McDonell to be a series of underused villians sent on possible “suicide” missions. It was a genius concept on multiple levels, but at it’s core, it was never not exciting in the fact that, because the majority of the villains didn’t “matter”, anything could happen at any moment. Whatever hang up you may have with the lack of real consequences in Superhero comics continuity could be thrown out the window where anything can and would happen. Deadshot & Amanda Waller on Apokolips, fighting terrorists in the Middle East, assassinating United States senators, fighting zombie voodoo drug dealers in New Orleans ect it was no holds barred and any member could go out at any moment. That WAS the Suicide Squad that fans fell in love over twenty five years and it’s that Suicide Squad that the current incarnation is cashing in on, but the New 52/film version aint on that level. It’s a shell of the original concept that cashes in on the iconography while replacing the real stakes and originality with a shallow Harley Quinn led clone made to appeal to Papa Roach fans and #gamergate clowns. If that’s your thing then I’m happy for you, but for all the Ostrander SS heads, we might have found our book, that being Joshua Williamson & Luca Pizzari’s Secret Wars crossover Red Skull, the purest successor to Ostrander’s Suicide Squad this side of Copra.
Red Skull is about a group of super villians and Bucky Barnes forced to team up together by Dr Doom to confirm that Red Skull is dead after being banished to the deadlands. It’s pretty simple in theory; gather team, send into dead lands, watch them fight zombies, people die, plot twist, fin’. But Williamson & Pizzari elevate the story by creating an atmosphere and mood for the comics debut that is just the right sprinkle of dark & dirty without going Poochie by overdoing it. Williamson masters the working class tough guy characterization of guys like Crossbones & Electro while Pizzari has this sketchy & expressive line art style that establishes the book tone and unpredictability. It’s exactly what a comic like this should be, a little grimey, a little dark, a little funny, a little dangerous and totally lived in. They are bad guys, but their imperfections and quirks make them relatable, while they’re status makes them expendable, which creates a natural tension. Yeah it’s simple, but that doesn’t make it any less visceral.
Society doesn’t create Super-Villains, it feeds off the energy of it’s sub working class. Sometimes those people break and society just feeds off that energy more in the prison industrial complex. Comics don’t have to reflect that, in fact, most comics creators aren’t capable of reflecting that. The Ostrander/Yale/McDonell Suicide Squad was the exception & with it’s working class tough guy villains, it’s dark urban setting, it’s allegorical premise and it’s all bet’s are off parameters, the debut of Red Skull feels like that as well.