Some of the best humorous titles, in my experience, often know when exactly to make a turn into the more serious stuff.
For One-Star Squadron, that issue is this one.
Issue: One-Star Squadron #5, April 2022
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Lieber
The Plot: Who burned down the home office? And why?
Commentary: I mentioned above that this is the issue that gets serious, and while it is not totally devoid of humor, it also is able to make that change in large part due to the fact this series already had a number of serious undertones. This story is very much about the idea that the gig economy isn’t good for people, but it’s applying that idea to superheroes. The heroes in this series, save Red Tornado, have been scrambling after gigs moreso than actually doing good for people. It says something when this issue has a couple pages of Power Girl, top suspect in the office fire, takes some time to save some people from a burning building and actually feels good about it.
Considering how Power Girl has been portrayed up until now, I think it says something that the creators remembered she’s one of the good guys…though why anyone who can fly at high speeds owns a car, I have no idea.
Essentially, this is where the heroes have to figure things out for themselves. Gangbuster’s story reaches what is probably an ultimately tragic conclusion, the mystery buyer of the company is revealed, and even the arsonist and his motive comes out. In the center is the Red Tornado, trying his best to keep some sense of humanity, and this issue even has him reference the fact that he’s still a machine.
My hope, heading into the final issue, is this series doesn’t end with the characters all realizing they’re heroes and they don’t do that for money. Part of the series’s overall main point has been that the heroes need the help, that they don’t really have a source of income, and a job like this, no matter how demeaning it often is, is really all they have or else they wouldn’t be doing it. That can describe so many people in modern America, and that is where the satire comes from.
As such, when the final few pages reveal the truth behind the arson and the tragic consequences of the fire, it really hits as hard as it should. This is a series that may put a smile on your face, but it’s also trying to put a thought in your head, and for me, I have found it to be doing so very successfully.