I want to like Commanders in Crisis. It’s so close to being really good. And, to be fair, there are a lot of really good things in Steve Orlando’s maxiseries. There are good ideas, good characters, and Steve Orlando is unquestionably a good author, just as Davide Tinto is a good artist. But the execution never really lives up to those ideas and characters that Orlando and Tinto so lovingly crafted. It really feels, in fact, that Commanders in Crisis’ reach exceeds its grasp.
Issue #3 follows the titular team of superheroes, the Crisis Command, as they attempt to solve the murder of the abstract concept of empathy. To do so, they found the guy that was the anthropomorphized concept – the one who had been murdered – and resurrected him for a day. And man, what a great high concept! That’s one of the great, ridiculous yet touching concepts that can essentially only be done in superhero comics. It’s everything that should be done in this sort of book.
Moreover, the characters themselves are really interesting. I won’t repeat what others at AIPT have discussed so often, but I find this core conceit that powers them all to be really interesting: superhero presidents from destroyed dimensions.
But they never manage to take these ingredients and make it into a good comic. The sense of alienation, and the emotional vulnerability that the book tells us that the characters have isn’t really there. The villain is telegraphed as being this horrifying character that can pervert people’s minds and souls, but just comes off as being frankly ridiculous. Similarly, the great big crisis that the superheroes show up to stop is just . . . strange. It’s not scary and there is no dramatic pressure to it; it’s just odd.
Even the death of empathy, the big thing that the heroes are desperately trying to stop, ends up being . . . the heroes are slightly meaner, and congress is debating a basic return to federalism?
Orlando and Tinto aren’t limited by anything beyond their imaginations and the page count. Why can’t they go bigger?
Tinto, similarly, just lets you down a little bit. He does the big splashes really well, and I love the designs of the characters a lot: Prizefighter, in particular looks fantastic, as some kind of a combination of Superman and John Cena. But when it comes down to execution, it all just looks off. The faces are twisted, the bodies have just a few too many lines, and Francesca Carotenuto’s art is just slightly too washed out for the tone of the book.
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