After four issues away from the rest of the Crisis Command, Nina Next aka Frontier has finally come back to the team, but with it, some of the clunkier exposition found earlier in the series has also returned.
Coming off the high from issue #8’s exploration of hatred, American Dreamer, and the origins of ideas themselves, Commanders in Crisis #9 tones down the existential and philosophical ideas and opts for a more traditional superhero-conflict set-up. Nina’s return is earnest and garners an interesting reaction from her teammates, but is fraught with a dense recap of the past couple of issues and layered with antagonist exposition.
These pages with Executrix and her newly founded group of clones called the Revenge Regiment feel tired and like they’re just there for a good maniacal laugh. The idea of the clones themselves is interesting though, both as a foil to the Crisis Command and in representing the irony in how Executrix needs multiple versions of herself to destroy the last reality.
I do enjoy that Nina’s return isn’t a typical reunion scene where they all completely forgive her and hug it out, but instead agreed to solely work with her to save the world. It reflects the theme first brought up in issue #6 by Prizefighter and Sawbones about how despite empathy being gone they can still use pure logic as their driving force for survival. Originator even brings this up in her amicable discussion with Frontier, and it’s the thing that makes her agree to Nina’s plan.
Frontier also comes back with an updated look, including a bident (two-pronged trident) and a classic Scarlet Witch-esque headpiece. It looks like Andy Curry aka Aquawoman got into science and also medieval armor. I appreciate this fresh look as it adequately reflects her time spent with the godly Thunder Woman in Lightning World.
In Commanders in Crisis #9, we are also introduced to Doctor Dracula, a goblin-looking vampire who can track people through their blood with his supernatural senses. To be honest, though, I don’t quite care for him. I suppose he’s there to round out the world building by showing that there are supernatural elements to this earth like a typical superhero universe has. But his introduction serves as more of a structural plot point rather than as any entertainment. Doctor Dracula is set to return in the next issue, so I hope he’s given more intrigue then.
Davide Tinto’s dynamic art does give some of these lesser moments more lustre. A splash page of Doctor Dracula triangulating Extermanix’s locations by consuming her blood is particularly well done. Accompanied by Francesca Carotenuto’s wonderfully colored monochrome panel backgrounds to accentuate emotion, and the series’ art continues to complement the story aptly.
The last half of Commanders in Crisis #9 just consists of a preliminary tit-for-tat between the Crisis Command and the Revenge Regiment. Trading some of this exposition and setup for more of the fallout from Frontier’s return, especially with Seer and Prizefighter who got no attention in this regard, might have made some of the drabber parts more engaging.
The deeper exploration of existential and emotional themes has been one of the strong points of the series and Steve Orlando’s writing. While they still exist in the issue, the break taken from them through a bit more exposition and setup is, in a sense, welcome and may prove fruitful for delving into them even more in future issues.
Commanders in Crisis #9 overall feels like Orlando’s primarily preparing for the climax of the story, but it’s a necessary setup. Unlike some other comics’ expositional issues, this one doesn’t feel like a simple filler — and despite a few lulls, continues to explore the story’s themes and character dynamics. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next installment of Commanders in Crisis to see how this issue plays into it.
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