Written by: Steve Orlando
Art by: Davide Tinto
Colouring by: Francesca Carotenuto
Lettering by: Fabio Amelia
Editing by: David G.G. Caci
Commanders In Crisis tells the story of a group of five superheroes, each from an alternate Earth in a multiverse in which all Earths have been destroyed due to a ‘Cosmic Sepsis’. Nina Next, also known as Frontier, has united the sole survivors of their universes on the last remaining world, Earth-Z, with the intention of saving this last Earth from suffering the same fate as it’s counterparts.
It’s a pretty heavy premise I know, and when I read the first issue at the tail end of last year I was quite invested in the idea of a standalone event comic. Which is kind of what this is?
In the first issue we’re introduced to Prizefighter – Noah Rowe, Seer – Scarlet Davis, Originator – Sumaira Shamsie, Sawbones – Ignacio Mendez and Frontier, we also learn that they’re each the President of the United States in their home universes, specifically the first openly gay president, the first black female president, the first Pakistani female president, the first Latinx president and the first female president respectively. Each gifted with superpowers during their journey to Earth-Z.
Now while there’s the impending threat of the Cosmic Sepsis, there’s also a constant stream of crises taking place across the United States that the heroes are forever racing to solve. There’s also a murder mystery plot intertwined within all of this, concerning a John Doe, and along with him, the death of empathy. On top of that there’s also a storyline running throughout regarding a bill passing through the U.S. senate that will fundamentally change the country, and there’s a cult like movement trying to bring about the end of the world.
This series should be ticking all the boxes for me: Alternative superheroes? Alternate realities? Diverse representation? It’s got all of these things, and they’re all the things I ask for frequently in comics, but unfortunately it doesn’t really make the most of any of these aspects.
One of the main complaints directed at DC Comics cinematic universe was that they tried to do the Justice League too soon, and that’s part of the problem with Commanders In Crisis for me, there’s no time really spent establishing the characters, so they don’t feel fleshed out in any way. While opening with the threat of a huge universe ending event is an interesting start to a comic book, the efforts that are made to have multiple plotlines happening all at the same time ultimately get in the way of establishing…anything.
Our heroes feel barely realised, characters that have no weight behind them, like being representative of the wider population is enough, without expanding on that. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when we scratch beneath the surface and see who these characters could be, but these moments are so fleeting. Sumaira in particular shows an inner turmoil due to the reality warping nature of her power that could be really interesting given some time. Equally the threats they’re facing across the country should be an insight into the nonstop life of one of very few heroes, but instead it just gets in the way of the bigger plotlines.
It’s clear that Steve Orlando has no shortage of ideas, which is a great thing for any creative, but it’s also a burden, and not knowing when to rein it in ultimately stops Commanders In Crisis from being a good book.
Artistically the character designs are good throughout, in particular the members of Crisis Command, Executrix and the Mind Muggers. There’s a good variety in their costumes and, while you can see the influences from existing superheroes there’s individuality to them. Moreover, there’s some really well executed expressions and posture which makes the characters feel real and human. There’s also some nice albeit strange perspectives which adds more personality to the artwork than you’d see in your average superhero comic. David Tinto’s artwork is well supported by Francesca Carotenuto colouring, which throughout this volume is good, classic superhero colouring.
I’m sure care and attention has gone into Commanders In Crisis, but it doesn’t feel like there’s been enough of either. There are good elements within this series, but the knowledge that this is a twelve issue series fills me with anxiety, there’s so much plot in this first volume that we could’ve had ten volumes of uniquely interesting ideas, with depth added to each character and some intriguing ongoing storyline. Instead we’ve been given something that feels rushed and disinterested, trying to cover a million concepts while making silly mistakes like Nina Next not being able to recognise her own boyfriend when he’s lying dead on the floor in front of her.
Maybe this series wasn’t for me, but I encourage you to make a decision for yourself, and if the premise piques your interest you can check out the first issue for free from Image Comics, here.