We knew all the Commanders had tragic backstories, but dipping into those in Commanders In Crisis Issue 2 is a bit of a heartbreaker.
I was provided with a free copy of Commanders In Crisis Issue 2 for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Commanders In Crisis Issue 2 picks up not where we left off with a dead body, but with a dying planet. Prizefighter- then President Noah Rowe- was snatched from the embers of his dying planet just as those violet skies Frontier was talking about in Issue 1 made their final destructive sweep.
I need to pause here to talk about Douglas. Normally, if a gay character’s love interest dies in a second issue I’m basically done with that series. I’m so, so tired of Sad Dead Gays. However, Noah and Douglas’ story hit me differently for a couple of reasons.
- Douglas’s death happens off-screen in a non-exploitative manner that has nothing to do with his sexuality. It has some weight instead of garish sensationalism.
- Widowerhood isn’t used as a way to effectively neuter a gay character to be more palatable for audiences. Prizefighter clearly misses his husband, but he still tries to connect with people and seeks out romance or physical affection when he needs it.
- All the extra-dimensional Commanders have lost their worlds, so Douglas wasn’t killed casually to show that Gay Is Bad.
In short, writer Steve Orlando didn’t “bury his gays” because he didn’t use the trope for any of the ridiculous reasons lazy or judgmental writers kill gay characters for. He’s avoided (so far!) falling into the pitfalls that come from those reasons as well. I was sad when Noah looked back at the rubble of the White House and said his husband’s name, but I didn’t have any of the frustrated resignation I get when a big name book axes a queer character.
Still no solid evidence as to whether it’s just humans or all life the violet skies are after. There’s a lot of destruction in the few pages we see of Earth J, so I’m reluctantly starting to lean towards “the whole worlds are destroyed” instead of “humans were wiped out but there are still animals”. That’s… fine. I would have been stoked if it had just been people, but maybe the whole world collapsing is what gave the Commanders their powers.
Speaking of which, was anyone else under the impression that the Commanders already had their superpowers back in their own worlds? It definitely wasn’t brought up before, so I don’t know why I was surprised by Prizefighter’s origin story at the beginning of Commanders In Crisis Issue 2.
Getting powers by being pulled through the Cosmic Breech into another dimension is an interesting idea. It’s reminiscent enough of other hero origin stories to feel plausible, but not the same as any I can specifically remember. There are characters whose powers come from another dimension, or travel among them, but not too many whose powers come specifically from being translated across the multiverse. (Drop some names in the comments if I missed someone, but don’t come tell me about Cyclops’ eyes being dimensional portals because I know. I don’t want to know but I know.)
It appears that each Commander’s power is somehow connected to how their world saw them, or how they saw themselves. That is deeply interesting given what we’ve learned about some of them so far.
Prizefighter showed up on this Earth grieving the loss of his husband, Douglas, who he asked Nina to save instead of him. I wonder how he got a power so tied to public acclaim? It seems like a strange power given his very recent widowing. Maybe America saw him as a strong, unassailable figure and that is the basis of his powers?
I’m a little worried that Prizefighter has a time limit on his powers now. As empathy fades, won’t people stop applauding him for heroic acts? Or is simple admiration enough to fuel him? At least he got experience shrugging off negative commentary while running for President or I’d be afraid he has an obvious glass jaw. (Oh, and how in the world could he tell a reporter his biggest weakness? That’s Superhero 101 stuff!)
Sawbones was a musician who was apparently beaten so badly by the police he lost the ability to play. The press from the incident sent him down the road to the White House, and ultimately to Superherohood, but that is deeply tragic. Can you imagine not ever being able to do your favorite hobby again? To be mourning that while people tell you to be grateful you didn’t die, or yelling at you for rocking the boat by pushing for justice?
So he’s a man who was broken, but then fixed things. That plays into his Sawbones persona. He says he’s not a doctor, but did name himself after one (kind of), and his powers lean heavily towards fixing things up. Seeing through things to the one critical point of information- well, that is enormously useful.
Maybe I’ve got his powerset wrong. So far he’s just looked through bodies, shot a bunch of bad guys, and yelled at some local law enforcement people. That would make Sawbones underpowered compared to the other Commanders, though, so I think it’s more than that.
The Originator was someone known for speaking the truth. That led to a powerset so intense that her first conscious usage was to limit her own power. Respect, but wow is that frustrating. She could have nipped the whole violet skies situation in the bud but decided not to before installing a 24-hour limit.
She feels very strongly that no people should have so much power, and that using it should only be done with a ton of forethought. I am guessing that when we look at her backstory, there will be a lot of powerful people making things worse by “helping”.
We don’t see much of the other two Commanders’ backstories yet. I guess we know some of Nina’s. Now we also know why she doesn’t have a superpower other than being the team inventor. She didn’t cross the Cosmic Breech, so she was never remade.
Seer does have a sweet moment when she puts global welfare on hold for a bit to find a family’s lost son. Given the overall theme of the story, I think that was a smart decision. The Commanders put people first, even if it’s not convenient for them.
Hopefully, that will make a difference in what looks to be an unwinnable fight.
Final thoughts on Commanders In Crisis Issue 2:
- “People are sick of being called evil just because they disagree.” Real talk, that could have come from a Thanksgiving table with my extended family. Since when did “you shouldn’t be allowed to have the same legal protections and rights as me because I think you’re a lesser being” become a disagreement? I hope we as a country (or a world) can ease past this super awkward adolescence sometime in my lifetime.
- We all saw the tattoo on that instigator officer, right? I was half expecting to see one on the reporter, too.
- If Sawbones got rebuilt when he went through the Cosmic Breech, did it fix his hands so he can play again? Because if not, not cool Cosmic Breech.
- A little of the dialogue still feels exposition-heavy. As I hoped, though, it’s evening out.
- Seer’s powers feel very hard to use practically. If Empathy is dead (dying), she’s going to be in a lot of danger passed out around town.
- I’m still a little hazy on this “Ideality” place. Hope that gets explained more later.
- Are we ever going to meet Thunder Woman?
Taken as a whole this issue offers a lot of enjoyable character development. It’s always a good sign when each issue is better than the last, so let’s hope that keeps being the case.
You can pick up Commanders In Crisis Issue 2 at your local comic shop today. Have them add the next one to your pull list while you’re at it. In my experience, people catch on to a new series like this around Issue 3 and then the store runs out of stock copies.
Oh, and let us know what you think!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology being published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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