Red Team, the Dynamite series from Garth Ennis and Craig Cermak, would seem to be something which, on its surface, is run of the mill comic book fare. It's about a group of badass cops who decide the system is broken, and they set out to kill a criminal monster who is beyond the reach of the law. Every third movie and every other comic book we see has conditioned us to root for guys like this to do just that, to become Punishers, but Ennis is laying it out in such a way that we dread the very idea of it. That's impressive.
The story has been bouncing back and forth between the planning and action of the self-appointed Red Team and the individual members being interrogated, as they've seemingly been caught. That right there helps our minds to keep screaming "DO NOT SEEK THE TREASURE – " er, "DON'T DO THIS! IT WILL END BADLY!" when we flash back to their shenanigans. The twist of the first issue was that there wasn't really a twist. Red Team targeted a bastard, took him out, got away clean and did a lot of good for the neighborhood he was terrorizing. Eddie Mellinger thought that was the worst possible outcome, and in Red Team #2, we start to understand why.
This time, Trudy's in the box, being questioned by an unseen interrogator, and just like Eddie, she seems to be very forthcoming about everything. Five weeks after the initial job, of course, George calls them all together to discuss the possibility of doing it again, just as Eddie feared. He didn't want them to become a death squad, but the other three spend most of this issue talking him into it, laying down ground rules – and the first and second rules about Not Talking about Red Team go without saying.
1. Absolute Certainty of Guilt.
2. Never Make It Personal.
3. Think Like Cops – cover their asses from all angles of investigation.
4. No Speeches. No Drama – no catchphrases, no listing crimes, no shit about justice.
5. We Can't Be Cops – no using cop-only intel.
By the time the team runs down those rules, and Eddie's tried to fight them only to find himself helping flesh them out, he's come up with a sixth. "They have to be truly evil." Once they found someone he couldn't say no to, that was that. Red Team is off and running, and we already know they're going to crash and burn, if this unseen voice is who we're meant to believe it is. Either that, or they're getting recruited by the feds. I'm betting the former, though, because it makes for a better story.
I am a huge fan of Garth Ennis' nuts and bolts, nitty-gritty work. I can enjoy him when he goes over-the-top obnoxious, as well, to an extent – and that extent is generally Preacher's Meatman. That's as far as I want to go, and even that was too much. But Red Team, much like Fury: My War Gone By and chunks of his Punisher work, is the kinda true grit shit I really enjoy reading. It's got a strong whiff of testosterone, but without the ain't-I-cool skull t-shirt or casually cutting to Nick Fury's bed full of whores. Red Team is the kind of subdued macho that isn't nearly as alienating as all that for women. Trudy's the best shot from long range, and there's nothing weak-willed about her in this book. She knows what she's doing and she's fine with it. Yes, there might be some drama to come due to being Eddie's partner on the force and the problems he's been having with his wife, but it's not going to be your typical soap opera crap if it does come down. Cermak's art fits the story extremely well – dark, spare and real, nothing extravagant – just like the Red Team's philosophy. Howard Chaykin may be doing covers, but this is one of those rare cases where the interior work is better.
Red Team gets right into the meat of the vigilante fantasy wish fulfillment that permeates pop culture, but with an ominous tone that makes us remember that we need to be careful what we wish for.