A newborn comics company in the tradition of genre steeped small-presses like Boom! And Radical, Benaroya Publishing recently launched its first titles under Image Comics’ publishing and distribution banner. I recently received a pair of the new line’s titles, both mid story — a somewhat dubious tactic since you’d think a new publisher would want to send reviewers the debut issue in the hopes of hooking ‘em — but I dutifully read through both books anyway. Figured if I had difficulty keeping up with their storylines, that’d give me something to complain about.
So let’s look at one of the titles, Red Spike #3, written by Jeff Cahn with art by Mark Texeira and Salvador Navarro. Released in time to run alongside the new Captain America movie, Spike is a story about two government created super-soldiers, Matt Cutler and Greg Dane. The latter, in the third issue, has apparently gone rogue “after a failed attempt to activate Greg’s Phase II system,” and his compatriot — along with a comely doctor named Maggie Downey — are invested in pulling Greg back from the brink. The inevitable shadow government types have other plans for both “toy soldiers,” of course.
Even if you don’t know all the players among the sinister suits, the plotline is familiar enough to make the third issue readable to newcomers. Though somewhat flashback heavy, this centerpiece of a five-issue mini-series has its one grisly moment (courtesy a flashback to a failed third super-soldier volunteer’s fate) and some convincing brotherly rivalry between the two super-leads. If Dr. Downey’s presence in the storyline could’ve been fleshed out a bit more for newcomers — since she is the one who spends much of the third ish snooping out the secret behind the Red Spike system — that’s a small grouse.
Too, scripter Cahn is cheeky enough to set the issue’s climactic confrontation at a soon-to-be-decimated Washington monument, giving his slickly stalwart artists a chance to revel in some old-style Marvel Comics rampaging. The advertised cover to issue #4, with Greg brandishing the head of a beloved capital statue, promises even more boyish mayhem. Why else make your super-soldiers super?