4 out of 5
While Red Rooster’s general focus on a Golden Age superhero isn’t the freshest idea in itself – dames in Stars n’ Stripes underwear; a square-jawed hero with a plucky dog; old school, mustache-twirling villains – Patrick Stiles’ scripts (over Mitch Breitweiser’s and Mark Pelligrini’s story) does a great job of avoiding the norms of such a setting: using it to be cheeky; using it to do some kind of Watchmen commentary on the reality of the times versus the nuclear family stereotype. Instead, we jump right in to a day in the life of the titular hero, with dashes of post-stardom – starring in commercials to stay relevant; dealing with his drunken partner – but very much focusing on forward momentum, with a handful of the aforementioned villains putting their kill-the-hero plans into play pretty much right off the bat. At the same time, this isn’t rushed, with time given to establishing tone, and character, just using some cutaway sequences, and between-panel implications as opposed to wallowing in exposition or excess dialogue to set the stage. Combined with Mitch Breitweister’s unbelievably dynamic and readable art – with equally explosive coloring by Elizabeth Breitweister – the book is a breeze to read, and somehow manages to come up with appreciably weird and threatening villains, without resorting to shock value stuff like over-the-top bloodshed or language. It’s fun, and it’s interesting.
It’s also bookended abruptly. The whole story is a flashback, but the transition into and out of this flashback is very herky-jerk, and there’s an awful lot of “extras” in the story that don’t quite serve as setup for something else, or effective immersion detailing – rather, these bits come across as cool concepts someone didn’t want to leave on the cutting room floor. The pacing is sustained throughout, so it’s not clutter, but once you step back from the story and are out of the energy going from page to page, it doesn’t really fall like all the scenes were wholly necessary, and so maybe the structure – or ending of the flashback section, which is also abrupt – could’ve had more room to be smoothed out.
Overall, though, the team approached their pastiche character with seriousness and heart, making the issues actually worth reading, while also getting hyped over the gorgeous art.