‘Commanders In Crisis’ Issue 4 Left Me A Little Overwhelmed… And Sad

Commanders In Crisis Issue 4 Cover

If you’ve been following my reviews on this book, you know I’ve been intrigued by the overreaching plot of a fight for a literal idea. It’s a really interesting premise, and so far the team has handled it well. However, I think things get away from us a little in Commanders In Crisis Issue 4. This issue is a little dense.

I received an advance digital copy of Commanders In Crisis Issue 4 for review. The opinions are all mine. 

If I could spread the events in Commanders In Crisis Issue 4 over a couple of issues, I probably would. There’s a lot of exposition, and that exposition feels concentrated in a couple of places. It made it hard for me to parse what was happening in the first read. 

In one specific place that exposition drags the story a little. I could have done without the Empathy Killer’s uninterrupted monologue. It feels like we are focusing on his backstory way too much, and the heroes give him too much attention. It’s like those documentaries on serial killers where we learn their whole sad backstory that still doesn’t justify their actions.

I don’t understand the heroes’ reactions. I get why Empathy Killer wanted to be seen as important, but not why the heroes humored that with actual superpowers that have a wide-reaching effect. From what we see over those two pages, the Originator’s power retroactively affected this guy’s whole life. As in, maybe she made him relevant enough to the world that he was able to kill an idea? It would not be so great if she’s the reason he had the weight to do this world-changing thing. 

Commanders In Crisis Issue 4
Why would Originator use her magic to make this world murderer relevant?

It’s possible I’m reading too much into this. Over-analysis is my go-to with comics, after all. I’m just… over giving drains on humanity a voice like they are relevant, you know? It’s wild how often that happens in the real world. Seeing it happen in a story I’m enjoying makes me tired. 

Plus, there is no obvious reason why the Commanders would bother to do this. Do they really have no better way to get information from this guy? He knows he’s going to die (though they don’t) and is desperate to spill his guts. They could have just as easily taunted the information out of him.

The density I mentioned earlier Commanders In Crisis Issue 4 ramps up after that scene as the Mind Muggers appear. We get a respite in the form of a thrilling little fight sequence where Sawbones looks cool (nice) and Prizefighter loses his memories of Douglas (oh nooo, can he get those back?). Fun stuff.

Then we get hit with just… so much exposition surrounding the Big Reveal of Frontier not actually being from this Earth. I touched on the possibility of an Evil Nina last time. Now that’s confirmed, with the added knowledge that this Earth’s Nina is evil specifically because the world itself has been steeped in evil from the beginning.

Wow. That’s depressing. I mean, it’s a heroic story so I assume the Commanders will find a way to redeem the world in spite of itself, but I don’t know how to feel about the last world standing having the disadvantage of being innately evil.

There’s also the fact that this whole series can be seen as social commentary (not very strongly disguised, either). Many times we’ve seen parallels between this Earth and the real world: diminishing empathy, legislation meant to push people apart, a final struggle for the moral character of the world. This issue’s suggestion of an intrinsically bad world coming at a time where democracy in America is under literal physical assault magnified the negative impact. 

In other words, it’s a real bummer.

Another nit-picky complaint I have is that I don’t understand why the whole team immediately abandons Frontier when they learn she’s been hiding the truth of the world’s innate evil. We’re probably meant to attribute this to the death of empathy. That doesn’t mesh with the fact that this information has no basis in empathy. It’s pure logical strategy. Several people on this team have powers that work at least partly on belief, meaning they would be more effective starting from a hopeful standpoint. The others have powers of insight and connection and should have been able to see the truth for themselves. They simply didn’t look. Keeping the information from them was a solid strategic move that I personally would have considered as well.

Would I have done it? Probably not, because of the aforementioned characters who could have seen through my story if they made the effort. But I get the argument for Frontier’s actions, and the others are being weirdly harsh even considering the metaphysical state of the world.

There’s also nothing in this issue to confirm or deny my theory last issue that Empathy Killer had a fling with Empathy Dude. We do understand now why Nina was so upset over her lost love while he doesn’t recognize her. Like Prizefighter, she left someone behind in her world. 

Someone give Frontier a hug. Heck, give all of them hugs. The Commanders need a Netflix night with popcorn and pajamas and hair braiding in the worst way. I hope they get that downtime when the crisis is resolved. 

If it sounds like I enjoyed nothing about Commanders in Crisis Issue 4, that’s not true. The art is gorgeous. I had a lot of fun looking at it, even when I wasn’t really vibing with the story. Davide Tinto has been consistent with art quality throughout the series, actually. That’s not always a given with a regular book. 

I am sorry to say this is my least favorite issue so far. The bright side is that with all those Big Reveals out of the way, the story should be less dense moving forward. There’s sure to be some room for emotional reaction and character development next issue, and those are places where writer Steve Orlando really shines. I’m looking forward to next month’s issue (and really excited that I get advance copies because I need to see how this plays out). 

What did you think of this issue? Do you think I’m way off base?

Let us know in the comments!

Author: Khai

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 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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