Inferior 5 #1 review

In the Sixties, the Inferior Five comic was a good-natured superhero send-up.

In 2019, the Inferior 5 comic is, well, I’m not sure… yet. I am sure this first of 12 issues is one of the most intriguing comics I’ve read in ages.

For one thing, it’s set in 1988. We’re in the small US town of Dangerfield, where new arrival Justin is bored and lonely.

His mother has mysterious phone conversations.

Lisa is disgusted by the state of the comic shop owner’s dental health.

Local teens Vance and Theresa rub each other up the wrong way.

And Lisa’s putting clues together with her pal Helen. Who speaks a lot like an alien who wants to sound human might. And teleports.

What the heck is going on? Another local kid Billy – he’s the Scarecrow wannabe on the cover – is terrifying, haunting the issue, marking houses with an ‘X’. Are his actions being predicted in the Invasion! comic book that annoys Lisa so? Is Vlad an impaler? What are the Variables? Are there Dingbats on Danger Street?

And those are only a few of the questions this book raises. An aspect I really like is that co-plotter and penciller Keith Giffen uses his late Eighties style, dialling back the usual comic book good looks and drawing people who actually look like people. Vlad the comic vendor even gets one of those daft great shadows over his face. The foregrounding of rocks and litter in frames brings back memories of the Five Year Gap Legion of Super-Heroes, and as it did there, the evocation of a devastated landscape suits the story.

As I indicated earlier, though, I’m not quite sure what the story is. Giffen and co-plotter and scripter Jeff Lemire drop intrigue throughout, but what the link to the original Inferior Five is, I have no idea. The only obvious – to me – nod to the E Nelson Bridwell/Joe Orlando series is Theresa being nicknamed ‘Dumb Bunny’ by Vance. It’s entirely possible there is no in-story link.

Justin’s father, he says, died in the Battle of Metropolis during the Invasion, and his mother is keeping something from him… was her husband a superhero, does Justin has powers she doesn’t wish him to know about?

Lisa suspects the town is some kind of prison, and has noticed something worrying in the newspapers.

Australia was the continent worst hit by the hostile alien alliance which targeted Earth… is that significant?

Is this series set in the regular DC Universe? It seems unlikely, as this takes place seemingly within a year of the Invasion! crossover… then again, if Dangerfield (and its Australian equivalent) are part of some government experiment, as seems possible, they may be in stasis fields or somesuch. Answers on a postcard…

Giffen, Lemire, inker Michelle Debecki, colourist HiFi (applying suitably uncomfortable hot tones), letterer Rob Leigh (giving us a scratchier-than-usual font that simply fits) and editors Michael McCalister, Marie Javins and Joey Cavalieri make a great team… I wish we didn’t have to wait a month for the next issue.

There’s another element to this comic, a back-up featuring The Peacemaker, told from the point of view of Suicide Squad high muck-a-mucks Amanda Waller and Rick Flag. Waller has sent him to Siberia to hunt down a super-weapon.

Flag is uncomfortable because he reckons Peacemaker is too unstable – and this is a man who works with Captain Boomerang and Deadshot. Waller is so oddball that she thinks his MO makes sense…

Lemire draws as well as writes this short, which links to the main strip, and it’s a sharp, great-looking extra. Jose Villarrubia gives the story a vintage feel with muted colours and yellowing gutters. Rob Leigh letters in his usual, more conventional style.

Will Peacemaker make it to Dangerfield soon? I wouldn’t bet the farm…

I would bet that you’ll like this comic. Give it a go.

14 thoughts on “Inferior 5 #1 review

  1. Either I agree one hundred percent with your views or zero it seems. This is a disagree. Right off the bat, the Inferior 5 name shouldn’t be used for a dour, ugly story! I did love the art. It’s my favorite of Giffen’s style but the story was just one downer after another. I even forgot to read the Peacemaker short I was so turned off. I guess it’s my preference for heroic fiction acting up since there’s no one likable let alone heroic anywhere to be seen!

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    1. Pop back and read Peacemaker, you never know… it’s a shame the main strip wasn’t for you. Maybe this series will lighten by the issue and we’ll end up with Merryman, Dumb Bunny and co. Stranger things and all that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did go back and read it. I think I’m gonna at least commit to another issue. I love Giffen (can’t really think of any Lemire books I’ve read) so I’m not gonna let being turned off by the first issue stop me.

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  2. I have high hopes for this – went to collect it from my LCS but they’d forgotten to order it for me, so it’ll be next week, now. A standalone maxi series that doesn’t tie into Year of the Villain? I’ll take that!

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  3. I was very confused by this, but reading your take makes me think of something. What if this is one of the fragment universes that appeared in the convergence event before Rebirth. What if those universes, or bottled fragments of universes, were not returned to their original places in their own universes?

    Could this be a fragment stuck partly in the main universe, a fragment still in line with an old continuity, and old timeline?

    Probably not, but it’s a fun conjecture. I’m enjoying thinking about the possibilities of those fragments are still out there.

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  4. Glad you liked it, Mart! I’m intrigued by it, and will probably continue. For one thing, I love Giffen’s art — not always for the figure work, but simply for his clear and consistent control over the pacing and frame. He’s a guy where I know I’m seeing exactly what he wants me to see. And in this case, what he wants me to see seems like its slowly going to turn bonkers.

    I’m less of a Lemire guy, but with Giffen co-plotting, I’ll give it a chance.

    One thing I’m curious about — are you sure the book is set in 1988? Was there a caption to that effect (I didn’t notice one), or are you just extrapolating from the year Invasion! was published? If it IS 1988, it’s an ’88 with cell phones — note Justin’s mom using one in one of the pages you posted. (Then again, Lisa is pretty heavy into print media for a modern kid.) But my guess is, it’s the present, with the Invasion (in some form) shoehorned in to the history of the current DCU. (I also liked the nod that there’s something going on in Australia — IIRC, Melbourne was one of the sites the aliens touched down in back in the original Invasion! series. Or maybe it was Sydney, to give artists a chance to draw the Opera House.)

    At any rate, this is unexpectedly weird. I’m happy to support that and see where it goes.

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    1. I love your description of Giffen’s work, that makes lots of sense.

      Check out page six, panel two… a 1988 calendar. OK, maybe Justin’s mother is a collector. Presumably the very handsome fellow in the pic is Justin’s dad.

      Aha, so you were wondering about Australia too!

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  5. Oh, good eye! Yep, Giffen puts all the information there… but he’ll make you work for it.

    So 1988…but ALSO a cell phone. Is this an invasion from the future? Or maybe the presumed cellphone is an alien communicator? Oh, man, I wanna know!

    And I’m definitely looking forward to the Australia connection.

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  6. Yeah, I’m interested. Love Giffen so I’ll always give whatever he’s involved with a try.

    I wonder if naming the series “Inferior Five” is going to work against it. Anyone familiar with the concept is going to be going into the series expecting something that they most definitely do not get in this issue. And I’m not usually a fan of co-opting a title or character name, if you aren’t intending to do something related to the concept.

    But since we son’t really know where the book is going, I can’t really think of another DC title that might have fit better. “Secret Six” maybe? But DC has already very successfully made use of that brand a couple of times already, so that’s off the table. It’s a fun little brain exercise to ponder…

    I totally didn’t pick up on the cell phone being used (but I did pick up on the calendar), so I’m very intrigued to see how or if this fits into DC continuity. Not that it has to. My preference would be that it does, as it only adds to the fabric of the greater DCU, but I’m definitely in to see where things go.

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    1. I also prefer a series with a reused name to have a connection to the original (the Champions without Black Widow, Ghost Rider and co? Howling Commandos with monsters?) but as you say, Secret Six. And Suicide Squad. And we did get a nod to Dumb Bunny. Fingers crossed this goes somewhere amazing.

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