THIS REVIEW OF ‘INFERIOR 5’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. The Inferior 5, as a DC property, has gone largely undeveloped in their 53-year history. Even Prez has had more attention. Brother Power the Geek probably snubs I5 members at company picnics. Besides background glimpses of the Inferiors during big events, they’ve been featured as true participants only a paltry few times. (Notably, once in The Brave and the Bold where they encountered the Legion of Substitute Heroes, and again when member Dumb Bunny was revealed as the sister of Angel O’Day in 1991’s Angel and the Ape miniseries.)
The parody team pariahs were originally meant as funny analogs for offspring of the Justice League. Conceived by E. Nelson Bridwell and Joe Orlando, the group lampooned its way through three issues of Showcase and then a twelve-issue series. The stories were bizarre and offbeat, but Inferior 5 was no Not Brand Echh. Even Steve Gerber’s pitch to do a Vertigo book with the I5 went nowhere.
Until now. Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire are redefining the Inferiors and between the two, it’s anyone’s guess where this maxiseries will go. Based on the premiere, the destination is possibly darker, certainly less comical, but rife with quirky and interesting possibilities.
Giffen’s work might have you imagining an Ambush Bug-styled I5 iteration. Or a Super Buddies team book. Co-writer Lemire has famously done DC analogs at other companies. Their combined efforts here result in some humorous moments, but it’s a series that dodges the anticipated approach and blazes its own course.
Issue #1 opens in 1988, as Earth still reels from the Dominator-led Invasion! event. Teenager Justin and his mother have moved to Dangerfield, Arizona from Metropolis after a battle with the alien forces there led to his father’s demise. Too many bad memories for Mom, so relocating offers the opportunity to create fresh bad ones. Lisa’s a young comic book fan who pre-orders Doom Patrol. She’s not smitten with fictional tales incorporating horrible ‘real’ happenings like the invasion; she wants escapism. Helen is Lisa’s ‘friend’, though she might also be working with the aliens. Theresa and Vance are older teens, neighbors, and she feels he’s stalking her. He says, given the mysterious disappearances of Dangerfield citizens, they must watch each other’s backs.
True to the original Invasion! plot, not all the Dominators and their alien compatriots managed to vacate our world after their incursion failed. Small cells require mopping up, and at least one of them still has bigger plans to carry out. They use a strange child with Trick ‘r Treat Samhain overtones called He Who Marks the Houses to single out humans suitable for the Dominators’ shadowy purposes.
In a backup story scripted and drawn by Lemire, Peacemaker is sent by Amanda Waller to Russia. His mission? Locate and acquire a ‘super weapon’ the aliens left behind before the Russians do. Rick Flag questions her choice in sending Peacemaker, who’s been on the ragged edge of sketchy since serving on the front lines and repelling the invaders. Even before, he was the man who wanted peace so badly he was willing to kill for it. What he finds in Russia ties back to Dangerfield.
It’s a good mystery Giffen and Lemire have brewing. The backdrop of Invasion!, which was written by Giffen and Bill Mantlo, is appropriate for shady goings on like these. Peacemaker is a valid character choice as the touchstone for unraveling this covert alien menace; he’s always been a strange, ideals-driven precursor to characters like the Punisher and pitch-perfect here. The examination of everyday kids with their lives uprooted in the aftermath of the alien attacks invests us, especially if you recall the original storyline.
If you haven’t read Invasion! your appreciation of the new series may be lessened despite Giffen’s and Lemire’s artful plot construction. If you’re a fan of the original I5 spoofery, it’s early to tell how much will remain intact. The writers must build the plot into something that doesn’t rely on either of those requirements, and they’re tasked with keeping their audience seated for the full twelve issues. Both have the writing chops to succeed.
Giffen’s pencils backed by Michelle Delecki’s inks are right for this, and Lemire’s art blends in flawlessly. Both the main story and the backup almost appear rendered by the same person. Rob Leigh’s lettering matches the style, and Lisa’s conspiracy theory notes on vanished Dangerfieldians is giggle-worthy.
With a Gene Bomb as part of the original Invasion! storyline, a device that isolates superhuman metagenes and incapacitates those possessing them, can the capture of our protagonists and the unlocking of their super-potentials be imminent? Likely. Some I5 members had various metahuman abilities. They were just ham-strung by either their inability to use them effectively, or the weakness of the powers themselves. Both elements offer this creative team opportunities unrivaled.
DC / $3.99
Written by Keith Giffen and Jeff Lemire.
Pencils by Keith Giffen with additional art by Jeff Lemire.
Inks by Michelle Delecki.
Colors by HI-FI and José Villarrubia.
Letters by Rob Leigh.
7.5 out of 10
Check out this 9-page preview of ‘Inferior 5’ #1, courtesy of DC!