Content warning: Commanders in Crisis #10 contains a scene of explicit police brutality. Please read at your discretion.
Earth-Z is in the endgame now — sans a large, purple, world-destroying titan. Commanders in Crisis #10 sees the Crisis Command continue last issue’s fight with the Revenge Regiment in an attempt to stop them from heralding the impending cosmic sepsis. While their enemies are distracted with the battle, Frontier heads off to find the mastermind of the whole ordeal, Executrix aka Frontier’s evil doppelganger.
Inevitably, this is the part of the superhero story where nothing much happens besides fighting and villain confrontations. However, the action sequences that fill most of the space aren’t tired or played out. This, in part, is due to the art. Francesca Carotenuto’s almost pastel colors are have been a refreshing sight throughout the series and Commanders in Crisis #10 give the big superhero fight visuals a fresh facelift.
Davide Tinto’s dynamism in movement and expression also contributes to this freshness in action scenes immensely. Admittedly, earlier in the series I wasn’t a huge fan of his art style, mainly because it fell into portraying stereotypical hyper-feminine and masculine body styles. Now, I feel that it fits both the themes and emotion of the story, the accentuated facial expressions contributing to a sense of sometimes unease or satisfaction. And it uses the style of the unrealistic muscles and grapefruit-sized breasts to comment on the campy nature of superheroes and the tired tropes that this series deconstructs, reinvents, and avoids.
But Commanders in Crisis #10 still brings a few new elements to the story besides the fresh fights. It turns out that people all over the world are a part of the Extinction Society and have spray-on masks of (what I think are) some sort of prehistoric bird to signal their allegiance to the end of the world. It’s equal parts odd and terrifying considering the real-life equivalents of hidden, radical-right movements.
There’s also the Frontier’s attempt at killing Executrix with her technology, only to learn that she’s invulnerable to it. There’s a sort of metaphor there, that ideas like nihilistic destruction and apathy that Executrix represents can’t be defeated through simple technology because they are always going to exist, or that technology like social media has no real power in stopping them. It’s these little side themes that Steve Orlando puts in that add dimension to the series’ overarching theme of hope in a world of apathy.
Some of these little themes and nods to our world don’t work as well, though. In Commanders in Crisis #10, it’s the revival of Prizefighter from the brink of death seemingly through the power of hashtags, topped off with him saying “Dead? I’m trending.” It’s remarking on the power of social media to revive ideas, interesting in relation to the philosophical explorations of issue #8, but the line is a bit cringey on a first read.
Similarly, a lot of the themes and parallels made with our world have been engaging throughout the series, but have sometimes felt a bit on the nose. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m looking for the metaphors or that they’re just a bit too obvious (maybe a bit of both), but making them too unnatural can pull me out of the story too much, like this “trending” line.
There are also a lot of the superhero tropes to be found in Commanders in Crisis #10, like “hero thought dead is not,” a big villain/hero battle, “heroes crying out against callousness of villains,” an overlaying news narration forecasting doom, and “hero’s first plan to stop big bad fails.” They are very recognizable but don’t feel too stale, due to the original concepts that the series is founded on and the aforementioned highlights of the story and art.
With only two more issues left to go, Commanders in Crisis #10 showcases a revived penultimate superhero showdown through dynamic art and colors and engaging thematic development. We’ll have to see what whimsy and struggle the creative team throws Earth-Z and the Crisis Command into next month.
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