Commanders in Crisis #1 (opens in new tab) is an incredibly earnest book. Writer Steve Orlando and artist Davide Tinto bring a clear and straightforward vision of superhero comic books to this original creator-owned outing from Image Comics in an action-packed debut issue.
Without spoiling anything, Commanders in Crisis has a very - well, DC 'Crisis'-inspired energy, featuring a band of heroes brought together to face down an existential threat to Earth. You know, just little superhero things.
Written by Steve Orlando
Art by Davide Tinto
Colors by Francesca Cartenuto
Lettered by Fabio Amelia
Published by Image Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
There's a lot that feels familiar about Commanders in Crisis, but all of it is fun. This book is the idea of capes comics dialed up to 11, with a particular eye for heroes who find themselves unexpectedly thrust into carrying the burden of defending an entire planet. Orlando, in particular, wears his heart on his sleeve here, bringing such palpable enthusiasm for the genre and love for the universe he and Tinto have created that it shines through in every line of dialogue.
It's clear this is a book Orlando has been anxious to write for a long while, and the result is a heartfelt introduction that will feel delightfully familiar and welcoming to fans of the likes of Doom Patrol or DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
The debut issue focuses on introducing the team against the backdrop of a series of crises of increasing scale and danger, from a street-level investigation of an unusual death, to government intrigue, to the type of world-threatening danger superpowers are made to stop. Orlando does a tidy job of bringing the multiple threads together by the end of the issue, and it'll be exciting to see how Commanders navigates the implications of its final pages moving forward. Orlando and Tinto's ambitious concept offers a lot of promise for a story rooted in exploring emotional connections for their own sake rather than emotions just in the concept of a 'Crisis'-level event, where characters get their worlds shaken and then frequently leave behind the results of that when the publisher's next event gets rolling months or weeks later.
For all that promise, though, there are some moments where the book winds up feeling like a bit of a pastiche of 'Big Two' superhero comic books - there are a couple of moments that walk an extremely fine line between heartfelt and earnest and a little cheesy in a way that's very specific to capes comic books, and the art, in particular, feels very similar to a number of Marvel and DC comic books in a way that doesn't necessarily line up with what seems to be a book trying to bring a fresh perspective and more modern approach to the genre.
Tinto and Orlando have created a number of great designs for its main cast (Prizefighter and Originator are particularly fun) and Tinto does a stellar job with the action scenes, while colorist Francesca Cartenuto's vibrant work is perfectly suited to the energy of the script. Tinto also draws great faces, and there's a particular scene with Originator where her emotions are so palpable on the page you almost feel bad for the person she's talking to. But stylistically, the book feels weirdly retro, leaning into a very specific set of silhouettes for bodies and edging towards the crop tops and low riders aesthetic that permeated capes comic books through the late '90s/early '00s. It's not poorly executed, by any stretch, but just feels a bit dated in a way that seems counterintuitive to what the rest of the book seems to be trying to do.
All the same, Commanders in Crisis #1 is a delight to read. It's fun, vibrant, and approachable in a way many current superhero comic books don't land on, whether due to the burden of long-established canons or a lack of interest in catering to anyone beyond a very specific set of comics fans (which is a valid choice to make, but also a choice that doesn't lend itself to inviting in new readers). If you like superhero comic books, or any of Steve Orlando's work, you'll have fun diving headfirst into Commanders in Crisis #1.