The Action of Mystery
David Talaski’s alternate first issue cover to the upcoming Commanders in Crisis created a flurry of thirst trap reactions with its exuberant retro homage to male physique photography that also serves as a clever nod to the famous image of Superman holding a car above his head on the cover of Action #1. Not that Steve Orlando’s name wasn’t enough reason already for me to add the series to my pull list. Imagine my surprise in receiving an advance review copy of the first issue!
Frontier! Prizefighter! Originator! Sawbones! Seer! Together they are the Commanders In Crisis who protect Earth and humanity from threats large and small and they’re about to face a catastrophe of potentially epic proportions! But is the looming threat born from the future or something more mundane and insidious working its way through the minds of people today?
Here’s what I love about Commanders In Crisis. The five Commanders simultaneously feel familiar and fresh with a little quirk tossed in here and there. As distinct as they are in power sets and personalities, four of the group share a secret they’ve vowed to keep to avoid panicking people. When you read the first issue you’ll realize that “commanders in crisis” isn’t just alliterative – it’s a clever little reference to their former day jobs.
I felt a sense of excitement as glimpses of past crises were revealed and what their implications might be for these heroes as threats from the future and their present rear up to be dealt with. Aside from Marvel’s recent Empyre event, this is a feeling I’d not felt about events and crossovers in several years. That pleasure derives from thinking this story is self contained and the status quo won’t be upset down the road when the next senses shattering, budget busting crossover comes along.
There’s the diversity of the team itself with three women and two men. Three of the five are people of color and one is gay. (Who knows, maybe more. It’s early still.) Having an openly gay superhero particularly a Superman analog like Prizefighter is a definite plus! Even better to see Prizefighter receive the same kind of adulation we’ve seen straight male protagonists get from women. I’m excited to learn what Orlando has planned for Prizefighter.
Generally speaking I love high concept ideas in comics and I find the more successful ones for me are ones that are more strongly connected with people rather than just floating around on the page so to speak. Orlando does so in several instances and manages to make them easily digestible. For example, Originator manipulates reality by hacking the power of language, arguably the same power used by God to breathe the universe into existence. The menacing “mind mugger” villains from the future wear their brains in transparent cases on their backs, a metaphor for masses of people devoid of critical thinking if I ever saw one. Their reason for raiding the past is quite simple. They’ve come to steal one of the most important human emotions because it no longer exists for them in their time. Orlando also mixes in some fitting meta commentary on the current political and social divides in the United States but I don’t want to say more on that front.
On a purely personal note, I’d like to know how Orlando reached into my memories to retrieve a childhood nightmare involving a giant bird. Okay my nightmare bird was a chicken but this is a little eerie.
On the art front Davide Tinto’s style is clean, crisp, and uncluttered. Tinto makes great use of mostly standard page layouts to effectively convey Orlando’s script. For some reason I’ve not been able to pin down yet his line art evokes a sense of old Justice League artists Dick Dillin and Mike Sekowsky if those two distinct styles could be blended together. Maybe it’s the lankiness of many of Tinto’s figures. Colorist Francesca Carotenuto’s palette of often bright yet subdued colors coupled with restrained shading and lighting is a perfect compliment to Tinto’s lines. I look forward to seeing it in print without the necessary “advance reading copy please do not share” watermark on every single page of the preview copy.
If you’re a fan of Orlando’s past projects I think you’ll appreciate Commanders In Crisis too. Beyond that, I think this will appeal to nerds looking for more queer male and diverse representation or someone who has fond memories of crossovers before they became sprawling events.
Orlando requested reviews mention that Commander’s final order cut off is September 21st. Below is an order form you can print or use to order a copy with your variant cover of choice.