Tuesday, May 3, 2022

One-Star Squadron #6 Review

It Ends The Way It Began

Written by: Mark Russell
Art by: Steve Lieber
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Letters by: Dave Sharpe
Cover art by: Steve Lieber
Cover price: $3.99
Release date: May 4, 2022 

One-Star Squadron #6 ends the experimental series with Red Tornado struggling to make sense of life and his place in it after the destruction of the HEROZ4U office and news of a hero's death.
Was It Good?

One-Star Squadron #6 ends the series exactly as it began - with an uneven mix of bizarre-but-not-amusing satire mixed with a surprising level of emotion. In short, it's a mixed bag and par for the course in this experimental story by Mark Russell.
The beginning story finds Red Tornado struggling to get on with life after the HEROZ4U office is destroyed. His status is unclear (does he still work for the corporation? How does he make ends meet for his family?), but we do see him driving around in an unmarked, white van performing acts of service.

The difficulty of relating to Red Tornado's status in this finale is the same difficulty we've had throughout the entire series - Why is a powerful superhero seemingly occupied with mundane tasks and unable to find a sense of meaning or purpose in life? This is Red Tornado. A member of the Justice League and a hero responsible for saving countless lives worldwide. The character presented here doesn't match the character's history. The single biggest failing of Russell's experiment is his inability to reconcile the conflict between his version and everything that came before.

Everything about Red Tornado's life is presented as cynical and devoid of hope. Former workmates have moved on, sometimes for the better. Russell sneaks in as many jabs at capitalism, consumerism, and commercialism as possible through cynical classroom lectures and cynical job interviews. The jabs feel entirely subversive but lack any with or charm.

[Spoilers Ahead]

During the malaise of daily life, Red Tornado hears the Minute Man has been found dead from unspecified causes. He assumes nobody would be around to claim the body, so he visits the morgue to confirm Minute man's identity, but he sees the body is not Minute Man's. Instead, Terry faked his own death.

Later, Red Tornado receives a letter in the mail from Minute Man with an explanation. After their last meeting, Terry attempted suicide. The attempt failed, but EMTs' rescue set him on the path to recovery and peace. The letter is a surprisingly heartfelt and inspirational message of hope that give Red Tornado a badly needed lift to end the issue and the series.

And, that's it.

If there's a second big failing of this series, it's Gangbuster's mysterious re-emergence. Russell completely drops it and makes no effort to explain what happened to Gangbuster to leave him in a frazzled, amnesiac state and why his family had abandoned him. Gangbuster's arrival was the strongest part of the first issue, presented as a mystery, yet Russell ignores any conclusion to that thread.

As for the art, it's okay. Lieber's grounded style is tailor-made for personal dramas, and this series falls more into the personal drama category than anything else. Unfortunately, the contrast of having grounded, low-energy artwork with superheroes in full costume never rises to the absurdist joke the creators intended. So it comes off as oddly weird instead of surreal or amusing.

Bits and Pieces:

One-Star Squadron #6 ends the series as well as the series started - with a mix of one part satirical jokes that don't work, one part misery, and one part heart. The grounded art is acceptable for the story's dramatic elements, but neither the writing nor the art makes sense for these characters and the superhero world they inhabit. In retrospect, there is no point or entertainment value in this series, so chalk it up to a creator vanity piece that will likely never be remembered.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Gangbuster is one of my favorite Latino characters, especially because he wasn't a legacy character, but an original, with a cool name & costume. But, the treatment he got from this depressing mini-series was awful. If any character could've died off in it, it should've been Minute-Man. And like you said, Jose/Gangbuster's reintroduction for the first time since the New 52 reboot just left a lot of unanswered questions, so I just want to ignore that this whole story & believe it isn't canon. It's awful, but with decent art. And I say that as someone who totally agrees with the message the writer was trying to tell.