DC Comics’ One-Star Squadron continues to be a dose of equal parts hilarity and misery. One-Star Squadron #2 focuses on Z-List superhero, Minute Man. Thanks to his Miraclo pills, Minute Man has the power of flight, super strength, and invulnerability. The only catch is, his powers just last for a minute. Writer Mark Russell, artist Steve Lieber, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Dave Sharpe show us that Minute Man’s fame and glory lasted for about as long as his powers do.
The script for One-Star Squadron #2 is hilarious. Minute Man was once so popular, they even made a movie about him. But now, he’s relegated to showing up to kids’ birthday parties and swapping DVDs for bootleg Miraclo pills. And he can’t even get those things right. He’s insufferable. But at a certain point, he becomes so pathetic that it’s hard not to feel bad for him. In the midst of this pathetic display, Russell sneaks in all kinds of brilliant jokes that work to lighten the mood. Yet even those jokes have a sad undertone to them. At one point, a junky gives Minute Man an in-depth explanation of why street deals are governed by the concept of “caveat emptor,” an idea he learned about in law school. At face value, the joke gets a great laugh. It’s absurd and funny. Then the realization that this man had plans for his life, including becoming a lawyer, settles in. Russell’s biting commentary about the results of capitalism gives each joke a bitter aftertaste.
Lieber works perfectly alongside Russell, matching his tone beat for beat. Every scene is just chock full of melodramatic emotion. Minute Man has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the broad side of your head. He grimaces, smiles, and cries with an undiluted intensity. Lieber uses this to distract us from the depressing undertones of each scene, so that those undertones can quietly settle in later. When Minute Man has to call someone for help, he’s at a loss for who to talk to. In the space of three panels he goes from fierce concentration to tears streaming down his face. It’s a sad moment, for sure, but the over-the-top nature of the art keeps the comedic tone of One-Star Squadron intact.
One-Star Squadron #2 is an incredibly brightly colored comic. Stewart fills these pages with the vibrant costumes of Red Tornado, Plastic Man, and more. It’s actually the dull-colored scenes and characters that stand out. Minute Man, in his earthy outfit of dark red and brown, is a lackluster island in a sea of gaudiness. With this, Stewart achieves two things. First, he makes the superhero game feel fake. Their coloring is unnatural and even silly. Second, he makes Minute Man seem even more pathetic. It’s not that Minute Man is above these superheroes. He’s not more real than the rest of the superheroes, he just can’t even get his costume right. He’s a pale imitation of the people he’s trying to emulate.
Sharpe’s lettering in One-Star Squadron #2 is full of dramatic flare. It can be as simple as the words that are bolded in a word balloon. “Please, Red. I need this.” When Sharpe bolds those words, you can hear the desperation. And when Minute Man shows up at a kid’s birthday party, he puts his all into the showmanship of it. His lettering is colorful and it bursts past the borders of his word balloons. “Who wants to see some SUPERPOWERS?” he asks the kids. The kids’ exclamations and excited laughter are just as colorful and big. Sharpe shows us how much effort Minute Man puts into his work. He might fail at just about everything, but that isn’t because he doesn’t try.
You might not know whether to laugh or cry but, either way, you’re destined to love One-Star Squadron. This series is funny and sad. Russell and Lieber make their criticism of capitalism a joy to read by filling it with laughs. Pick up One-Star Squadron #2, out from DC Comics January 4th, at a comic shop near you!