For those of you who are fans of Greg Pak’s work you may have previously read Magneto: Testament. Set in a similar vein Red Skull: Incarnate explores the early years of Captain America’s most notorious adversary.
Set in the economic depression of Germany after the First World War - when even the simplest of foods cost millions of Reichmarks - we are introduced to the orphan Johann Schmidt. To say that an environment creates a person (in this day and age) is a controversial statement at best, but, here we have the story of a young boy becoming the product of a bleak and desperate system.
In this first issue Pak has focussed on the environment that Schmidt was subject to, including the treatment and expectation befitting an orphan. As an interesting style choice the direction of the story is more aimed and the why of things as opposed to the feeling it evokes. You see Johann struggle and strive but never really have an outburst (saving for the end) which encourages the reader to really feel for the main character. Now this would seem like a fairly normal writing ploy that most authors would use, but usually in the case of a hero or anti-hero, not an individual who will become a hate-filled Nazi. Pak has pulled off a great feat of misdirection that actually makes the reader sympathise with the plight in front of them.
As an aside, there is another great little touch in that the issue is “authentic”. Pak has taken the time and effort to ensure that the events of the Weimar Republic have been reflected as accurately as they can whilst also playing a part in the comic too.
In the afterword Pak has said he was drawn to the project after seeing David Aja’s cover work, and I can understand why. The cover itself invokes the propaganda posters of World War 2 which fits this title fantastically.
Inside is the work of Mirko Colak. I don’t really know much of Colak’s work with the exception of Secret Warriors a couple of years ago, but from what I’ve seen I can say like it. Colak uses a fine line style for the most significant parts of the frame and a softer style for the surrounding. This gives a very nice effect of framing the key parts and naturally draws your attention throughout the issue.
I would say that there are times when I found some of the frames a little barren though as there is an inconsistency when it comes to background. These scenes seem to sit outside the conventional framework but when you look at them a second time they are all moments of significance in the creation of the mindset. All of them have a direct psychological impact on Johann whether obvious or not in the outset.
The issue is cunningly written and cleverly drawn. I would almost go so far to say that if it hadn’t been preceded by Magneto: Testament that it would have created its own waves within Marvel BUT it would have been a title that people only caught onto after and then got on back order. With the help of Magneto however I can see this becoming an instant hit to fans of Pak and/or Captain America.
Matt Puddy speaks for us all when he says you should really give this one a go. Impessive work from Pak and co.