In Review: Inferior 5 #1

A good intro to these familiar heroes who are in a wonderfully warped environment.

The covers: Helen, Lisa, and Justice stop in their tracks beside a building that’s come to ruin in Dangerfield, Arizona. Behind them in the sky is the image of Billy, possible the missing now-back, Billy Shanker. It’s difficult to make out the details in this cover because the characters are so in shadow and the colors are fairly dark. This is typical style of penciler Keith Giffen, who’s inked by Michelle Delecki. Giffen likes to use dark colors, so I’m sure Hi-Fi was following his instructions. The boy with the bag over his head that sports the letter X, Billy, stands out due to the color of the letter on his face. I do like the glow within the building, giving it a supernatural flair. This cover highlights the tone of what’s to be found within. Though I’m a tremendous of Giffen, this might not be the right image to get readers to pick this up. The Variant cover by Jeff Lemire is a bit better by showing the Peacemaker on the left side of the cover and a Dominator on the right. The characters are very different visually and are colored very differently. The settings are unique as well, with the hero in the American desert and the alien on a world in space. Excellent tease of the five paged back-up story in this issue. Overall grades: Regular C+ and Variant B+

The stories: Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire share plot credits on the seventeen paged Inferior 5 story, with Lemire scripting it. The book opens with a woman in a hospital gown racing through the desert. She stops running when she comes across a small figure with his head covered that features a red X on it. She drops to her knees. “Please, just — just let me go this time. I won’t tell anyone. I — I promise! I won’t tell them what you really are!” The masked character replies, “Three little kittens. They lost their mittens…and they began to cry.” As he begins to talk a blinding light hits the woman, followed by a CHOOM. All that’s left of her is a tendril of smoke as he finishes his rhyme. A sign is shown from a distance welcoming drivers to Dangerfield, Arizona. Someone has crossed out the population total. Narration from Justin explains how his father died during the Invasion. Evidently this series continues after the 1989 limited series crossover event of DC aliens invading Earth. This series is set a few months after the Battle of Metropolis. Justin wanders the town which is a mess and that no one can exit from it. His mother seems to have a double identity, but before this can be further explored, the story turns to Dominator and Khund talking for a page, then moving to little Lisa in a comic book store. Theresa is then introduced, along with Vance, which is followed by Helen. Only Helen displays any abilities and no one is aware of them. The issue ends with a man in a HASMAT suit speaking to X-boy Billy who’s done something rash. I don’t know what the heck is going on, which is something Giffen brings to some of his stories. I’m more than willing to read a few issues to learn what’s going on in this desolate place. The five paged back-up story is Peacemaker, Chapter 1: The Bunker by Jeff Lemire. This has the title character entering a country to do a job for Amanda Waller. Rick Flag has issues with Waller’s choice, but the actions of the character show he was the right man for the job. Again, plenty of clues are given to the reader about what’s occurring, but nothing is explicit. I love a good mystery. Overall grade: A-

The art: The first story has Keith Giffen doing the pencils with Michelle Delecki the inks. I am an unabashed of Giffen’s work and this is what I was expecting visually, so I was happy. Giffen employed a nine panel layout for his pages when he returned to the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 90’s and this shows that he’s moved to a six panel layout. He does differ it at times, but this is the most common set up. The opening page is cinematic as the setting is established, the woman on the run, the frantic woman’s face, her beating it into the wilderness, the reveal that she’s wearing a hospital gown, and the first appearance of Billy. Her reaction to the boy starts on the second page, which is followed by her destruction (?) in the middle two panels. Giffen then pulls back to return to the setting and introduce Dangerfield. Page 3 is a full-paged splash that shows how decrepit the town is. The doll hanging from a noose is an appropriately ghastly inclusion, with the notes that pepper the same tree good teases. Justin’s wandering of the streets introduces the setting fully to the reader. When he goes home readers should note that mother carries the wounds of the Invasion on her face and neck. Lisa is a spunky tyke, whose appearances show her to have an attitude in every panel. Vlad, is drawn in a very telling way, which is often employed by Giffen in other books. Another part of the city is shown in a full-paged splash on 9, which continues to show how beaten this burg is. Helen is introduced at the bottom of 12 and she does something quite remarkable. Mysterious Billy returns on 15 and I’m extremely curious as to the identity of the individual talking to him. What’s discovered on 16 is creepy and a great visual; a simple idea that’s carried off beautifully. As I said, I’m a Giffen fan, so I really enjoyed the look of this book. The second tale is illustrated by Jeff Lemire. I like the pages featuring the Peacemaker, but the two characters on the second page look more like sketches. Rough sketches. Really rough sketches. I like the creature encountered on the third page and the layout of Page 4 is cool. However, the second panel on that page again has really rough characters. The story ends looking good, but it’s hard for me to forget those rough supporting heroes. Overall grade: B

The colors: Hi-Fi colors the first tale and captures the heat and blight of Arizona. The sky of the first two pages increases the anxiety created by the visuals. Billy’s power is fully on display with the white and yellows in the third panel on the second page. The turn to blues for the background on 3 is a quick change in locale for the reader that creates a more relaxing tone. However, a turn of the page brings a yellow sky that blasts Justin. I like the yellow of the comic book that Lisa reads, making that book much older than it actually is. The pink pullover that Theresa wears has her draw attention when she appears. I like the magical blues that Helen employs when she does “something.” The various colors on Lisa’s notes give them a frantic feel. The reds on 16 are great. José Villarrubia colors the back-up feature and it’s very bland. Granted, Peacemaker is in an interior without much light, but it muted the read of the tale. There are some reds and greens, but they’re so bland, they bleed into the other colors. I didn’t like the coloring on this. Overall grade: B-

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, signage, the story’s credits, and narration are created by Rob Leigh for both stories. I like my comic dialogue and narration to be in different fonts, and the narration is in a slightly italicized font, so the reader can identify the difference between the two, rather than relying on the shape of the balloons and boxes that contain them. There’s a lot of signs in this book and they look great: they’ve got a manufactured look that all signs have and each is striking in their own way, such as the sign outside of the town and the one that designates the record store. The sounds are fun, with CHOOM my favorite. I like the Chapter title on the Peacemaker story which gives it an old time serial flavor. Overall grade: A

The final line: Though both stories are related, I’m enjoying the main tale more so than the back-up. I like that the fallout from Invasion is the setting as I enjoyed that series when it first came out. I’m interested to see what’s done with these familiar DC characters, and having Giffen play with them makes me happy. This is a good intro to these familiar heroes who are in a wonderfully warped environment. Buy this or Billy will make you go CHOOM. Overall grade: B+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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