ROUND 1, BATTLE 18
RED SKULL #1
This is how the battle between 1872 and Red Skull plays out. Let’s start with 1872.
This is Marvel’s attempt at a western style drama. It’s complete with native Americans, saloons, and the backdrop of the American Southwest. The story uses characters familiar to the Marvel world to fill the roles of characters familiar to the western genre. Steve Rogers plays the tough, law abiding sheriff. Tony Stark is the town drunk. Kingpin is the greedy villain who wants to divert the river to pave the way for a railroad (or some such Spaghetti western bullshit). Ultimately, what 1872 has going for it is how well it adapts to western conventions. Its easy for Steve Rogers to slip into the role of an old timey Sheriff and he wears the skin of the character quite well. The second thing this comic has going for it is the casting.
This issue does such of good job of adhering to convention that it is almost a little boring. It’s practically paint by numbers.
So what does it mean to adapt to western conventions?
The wild west is a mostly an invention of Hollywood. Actually history doesn’t report many duels or much gun violence during this period. The hooker with the heart of gold is an urban legend. There was only ever one show-down at the OK Corral. The world of the wild, wild west came to life on the silver screen. 1872 looks to movies for the inspiration for it’s stories. Basically, every western movie is based on the characters created by this man:
and/or this man:
and sometimes this man:
How Captain America is going to function within a cowboy’s jurisdiction is a wee bit enticing. I am interested in what happens to Steve Rogers because of my familiarity with his character. It’s amazing how you can place two well worn things together, in this case westerns and Captain America, and somehow it’s fresh again. I’m familiar with the characters and I’m very familiar with the genre, but perhaps because of this familiarity I am more fascinated with how well these different elements work together. This comic isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s doing what Marvel does best, exploring different aspects of their superheros. The ability to explore their character’s limits is what gives guys like Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, or Steve Rogers a pulse.
Moving on to the other comic book in this battle: Red Skull. The basic premise of issue one is that megadouche Crossbones has kidnapped a group of characters
and is forcing them to hunt for another megadouche and enemy of Lord Doom, Red Skull.
But here’s the rub, all those badguys,*ahem, Spoilers* save Magneto, are killed almost immediately. This is the opposite of a convention. This is a twist ending, and in issue #1 no less. Twists typically come during the climax of a story, near the end. The phrase “twist endingsâ€ almost always invoke the memory of this guy:
Twists exist purely for titillation. They come at the cost of whatever point was being made.
The fact that this happened in issue one tells me that the writers either have too much confidence in their ability to tell a story, or far too little. If it’s the first one, too much confidence, it is due to the bravado in breaking from conventional storytelling. Of course its possible to break conventions. But you really have to know what you’re doing. That means there has to be a point to it. When Janet Leigh was murdered in the first 30 minutes of Psycho, everyone was shocked because audiences assumed the main character was safe. Director Alfred Hitchcock effectively upset everyone’s expectations on purpose to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. It’s a ballsy move to break conventions. It is rarely pulled off. If the writers of this comic suffer from not enough confidence, they threw in a twist as a way to hook readers into issue #2. Either way, the twist effectively flushes everything else that has happened so far down the toilet. I hope for for the rest of the series writers keep it a little more simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, Red Skull isn’t making it out of the 1st round for this bracket.
The winner of this round is 1872. It leans into the future issues with much more skill than Red Skull. We’ll see if it can hold its own against Korvac Saga in round two!!