VanHook recently spoke with our very own Jeffrey Renaud about this series and mentioned that new to the legend of Red Tornado would be the other android elementals. As a concept, I like it, but the notion seems extremely forced in this first issue. Forgoing the option of providing the reader with narration by Red Tornado, himself, VanHook tells the tale of the Tornado largely through caption boxes. If VanHook was using this device to help distance us from Red Tornado, well done, otherwise it just seems as though VanHook couldn't quite find the voice for Reddy and that's just sad. Dan DiDio edited this book, which makes the retconning that occurs inside a little bit surprising to me.
This series is trying to expand the world of Red Tornado, and it seems forced and a little unnatural in this first issue. After years of being with Red Tornado, surely Kathy Sutton (Reddy's girlfriend) would be able to come up with a better way to cover for him and would have more than a few excuses prepared to leave an event of any kind. To default to a sitter -- with her child present -– seems indicative of this series having some faults. The attempt to shoehorn in other androids with elemental abilities further cements the faults of this story. If records of these previous androids existed, but were eliminated from the public eye, but not the JLA databases, and the JLA knew of them –- or at least had them on file -– wouldn't the world's greatest detective have picked up on them at some point? Before Reddy linked into the databases, who maintained those records? Shoehorning in a massive retcon just to add some intrigue to a character seems sloppy to me. Bring in the new characters, give them a reason to be engaged with Red Tornado and move forward. That said, VanHook has a good concept in hand, I just hope he manages to execute it more succinctly in the next few issues to avoid making this story seem any more contrived than it is.
Luís' art is fundamentally sound, save for the uncertainty of scale on the character of the Red Volcano. The character seems like he may be larger than "standard" characters, but I'm uncertain where his limits are. Luís' style seems trapped between wanting to be a lighter version of Ed Benes and wanting to be a style of its own accord. There is a tinge of 1990s hyper-detail in the shading of some areas, but it is used to add detail rather than make up for incompetency. Luís has a solid foundation to build on and I look forward to seeing what he does with this character.
On the subject of the art, the establishing shot of Red Tornado riding along atop his vortex shows the vortex as it should be. It's worth picking up at the comic shop and opening the cover just to see. The logo design is industrial and clean, a big difference from the one used for the 1985 miniseries that was written by Kurt Busiek. I quite like the new logo and hope it sticks around for the character.
All in all, I was more than a little disappointed with this first issue. I think the massive shoehorn used to wedge Red Torpedo into Tornado's past is unnecessary, as the "beacon" could have been a strong enough plot device on its own to bring the characters together. I'm glad to see T.O. Morrow in this series; Kathy Sutton and Traya are also welcome additions. I'll be back to check out the next issue, but it will need to make up some ground for this first one.