DC January 2010: Red Tornado #5, House of Mystery #21, Titans #21

Red Tornado #5

Writer: Kevin VanHook
Art: Jose Luis & J.P. Mayer

The idea of the “air elemental” Red Tornado having three siblings — Red Torpedo (water), Volcano (earth), and Inferno (fire) — is one of those clever, obvious only in retrospect ideas that allow the writer to combine battles and thoughts on family. That was always a unique factor when it came to the character: Red Tornado was a robot with a wife and child. That’s what I liked about him, the contrasts he embodied.

Since this is issue five of a six-issue miniseries, most of it is punching and yelling as the factions align and the conflict established for the final issue. The reason I’m talking about it is the guest star: Vixen. There are a couple of pages with terribly overwritten narration in which Vixen hangs out with a lion, a wolf, a snake, and a squirrel near Malibu (?). But that’s not the worst part. That comes when setting up the cliffhanger.

Vixen has gone to rescue Tornado’s wife Kathy and daughter Traya because the animals have told her a big earthquake is coming. She wakes Kathy and the two women run into the child’s room. Sometime between the bottom of the first page of the sequence and the top of the second, the women change places, so that it goes from Vixen leading the way to Kathy. Consistency is not an artistic strong point. Also, the room Traya’s in is apparently much bigger than my living room, so perspective is also an issue.

What really cheesed me off, though, was that the superhero, the woman with the animal powers and the idiotic low-cut leotard, is taken out by a falling piece of rubble. Really? She looks up and sees the ceiling collapsing (as we’re shown in a prior panel) and she can’t come up with strength of a bear or skin of an armadillo or something clever, I dunno, using her powers? This makes her nothing more than a messenger. One lying on the ground under the thickest ceiling I’ve EVER seen in a residential setting (seriously, we’re talking bank vault wall width here) with blood spilling from her head. If this were a TV show, she should fire her agent for getting her the worst guest spot ever.

House of Mystery #21

Writer: Matthew Sturges
Art: Luca Rossi & José Marzan, Jr.

As suggested by the cover image, which reads “Grand Reopening, Under New Management”, this is something of a new starting point for the series. Which it sadly needed, frankly. I liked reading it, but as I’ve said before, I didn’t really know what was happening. I suspect I’m far from the only one — 20 issues is a long time in this market to keep spinning mysteries without giving the reader a satisfying resolution.

Now, Fig, Sturges’ focus character, co-owns the House of Mystery with traditional host Cain, who employs his brother Abel. That should reassure the conservative readers, those who expect this Vertigo title to play into that story mythology. I’m not sure I’m convinced the two casts play well together. Cain and Abel are broad black humor, while Fig and her frenemies were much more psychologically subtle. Fig’s big problem is that her friend Jordan is in love with her and doesn’t want to listen to her missing Harry any more. Abel’s big problem is that Cain kills him daily. See?

In the main part of the book, a new character has to be introduced to the house, bringing the reader along with him and laying out the premise. He tells the special insert story, illustrated this time by Sergio Aragones, whose work is always a pleasure to see but doesn’t work for me in this context. (Yes, I’ve seen Plop! That was another era.) If I’m reading it right, it all boils down to an anti-homophobia joke. There’s also a new plot with your Generic Badguy Rogue, who steals a six-pack and a car. (Where are we, 1956?)

I wish the series well. I hope that the one-off contributing artists continue to be really big names, because I think that’s what will bring me back for more.

Titans #21

Writer: J.T. Krul
Art: Angel Unzueta & Chris Batista & Wayne Faucher

What happened to action storytelling? The skill appears to have vanished from the current generation of DC writers. This issue is about Starfire deciding whether or not to join the Justice League. Note that we don’t see her getting the invite here — that happened in some other, unidentified comic.

Also, first we have to sit through:

  • A page of Cyborg narration about the importance of teamwork that I swear could have been Xeroxed from any random Titan comic
  • Some battle with some bad guys in some random setting with lack of backgrounds and no panels that establish the team together or what the bad guys can do
  • Moping about a maimed team member, an event that happened in some other really bad comic (Justice League: Cry for Justice)
  • Blah blah Flash can’t join the team but wishes them well
  • Another page of Cyborg narration about how sad it is to be left behind and how not being a strong enough leader gets kids killed

Is this thing being assembled by computer from a poorly programmed analysis of what a stereotypical Titans comic must contain? It’s got no skill and little interest to someone who wants a story. With some superpowers. (The fight scene is mostly punching — it’s rather badly drawn, with poor structure and pacing and unintentionally funny facial expressions.)

Hey! It’s page eight and we first see Starfire speak! She doesn’t know what she wants. Oooh! Plot! Or premise, at least. After that, she gets to narrate a visit to Batman (Dick Grayson). Then she returns and (spoiler) — she doesn’t decide anything!

Aside from the utter lack of dramatic interest, what I don’t understand about this story is this: If you know these characters, you don’t need the generic narration boxes reestablishing the internal conflicts they’ve had for the last thirty years. If you need those introductions, because you’re new to the characters, much else in the comic will make no sense to you because it depends on history and familiarity with the concept and characters. The author is relying on a lot of emotion evoked by other people over a number of decades to make his interactions have meaning. Otherwise, he doesn’t seem to know who he’s writing for, and much of it requires you to know the rest of the DC universe, or at least a bunch of stuff that isn’t in this comic.

The description makes this sound like a team roster rebuilding: “the Titans find themselves in crisis. As the team continues to fall apart, the remaining members struggle to put the pieces back together.” But at this point, who cares? Have the Titans had a story in this run that didn’t involve members joining or leaving or being injured or killed or resurrected?

Once upon a time, a story would consist of a character getting a team invite, (and we’d actually see the team involved), having an adventure with them, and making their decision. All in one book! And other things might happen as well! Now, this feels like trying to drink from a river — there’s more before and more after that will push you off-balance and overwhelm you. Forget all this guff, and give me a damn action story!


5 Responses to “DC January 2010: Red Tornado #5, House of Mystery #21, Titans #21”

  1. Bill D. Says:

    The way they kept talking about the names of Red Tornado’s “siblings” in the solicits, I really thought we’d end up with a character named Red Tomato before this was all over.

  2. Alan Coil Says:

    I read Red Tornado #5, and found it weak, as you did,

    I didn’t read House of Mystery #21 because #20 was a perfect jumping off point. 20 issues of random weird stuff happening that might or might not be related to a whole story…I thought I was stuck in a David Lynch movie.

  3. Thad Says:

    Re: Titans: you know, as repetitive as the Lee/Kirby “everyone announces who they are in the third person and then shows off their powers in the first few pages” formula certainly made for accessibility to casual readers.

  4. Thad Says:

    Er, there should be a “got, it” in there.

  5. Young Justice Season 1 Volume 3 » DVDs Worth Watching Says:

    […] connection, but the main plot involves Red Inferno and Red Torpedo (fire and water robots from the 2009 miniseries, “siblings” of Red Tornado) attacking the kids’ cave headquarters. Artemis and […]




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