DC Comics recently released a more upgraded form of their Infinite service. This one, Ultra, allows subscribers to read comics one month after release instead of six. I opted to give it a try. I pay annually, and it’s not that much more in the grand scheme of things.
Point is, among other things, I have access to all six issues of this satirical mini-series.
Issue: One-Star Squadron #3, February 2022
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Lieber
The Plot: Red Tornado, trying to do the right thing by the people he’s managing, expects to get fired. That is not what happens.
Commentary: This series has this really odd premise that there’s a gig economy style company for superheroes, namely Heroz4U, where second, third, or even fourth string heroes can get a job and make some money. By this point, I am more or less used to writer Mark Russell’s satirical takes on the modern world, even if in the past he did it with cartoon characters. Using DC’s heroes is maybe a little new, but the very idea that superheroes are working for a company like this and scrounging for every possible dollar is supposed to obviously feel wrong.
Enter Superman in a pair of scenes where he outright says as much to the company’s board of directors. He’s mostly there to threaten to pull the Hall of Justice’s endorsement for Heroz4U, and then later to more or less actually do so, but since this is Superman, and he’s the moral center of the DC Universe, he does get what is arguably the line of the issue when an executive explains what they do and why they do it, and Superman just frustratingly observes that they just referred to the problem as the solution.
And yes, he does know how to make a dramatic exit.
The thing is, the company is clearly have a dehumanizing effect on its employees. Power Girl riled up the other heroes in the office to sign off on a letter attacking Red Tornado as an inefficient and hated manager, and the Tornado is clearly one of the few characters in the series treating these other heroes like human beings who need help. This issue plays around with that a bit. Tornado expects to be fired. He remembers when his former manager and mentor, one of the Manhunters, more or less went through the same thing he is.
Except this is a satire, and while it will show a hero ditch rescuing people when their ship sunk at sea to make an appearance as a Halloween party, it also makes some sharp points about how the corporate world works, Tornado isn’t going to be fired. The board found another way to possibly dehumanize him the same way the company has dehumanized all the other down on their luck heroes. I’d say more, but I think that reveal comes too close to the ending, and this seems like the sort of thing the reader should check out for themselves.
So yes, this mini-series is continuing with the sort of stuff I quite frankly really enjoy about Russell’s writing, and Steve Lieber’s artwork is just the icing on the proverbial cake.
Better Call Saul “Coushatta”
Noteworthy Issues: Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #8 (October, 2022)
The X-Files “Duane Barry”