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When we last left off, the Red Team had killed a couple of notorious troublemakers. Everything went smoothly, and this elite police unit started getting quite comfortable with their new after hours initiative. In the next two issues (#’s 3 and 4), things begin to get a little more complicated. Should white-collar crimes be punishable by death? They set ground rules for themselves. Isn’t it a bit early to be breaking them? Ennis raises the question and I’ll reiterate it here: is this too much power for a group of four to handle?
Four issues in, and we’ve only seen Eddie and Trudy speak candidly about the things they’ve done. This gives the impression that Duke and George might either be dead or still at large at the time of the interrogations. It also shrouds the two most trusted and experienced members of the Red Team in total mystery. Trudy and Eddie both look up to Duke and George, which is why the two tenured vets are the leaders of this death squad.
Initially, I thought each issue would focus on a different member of the team. By the fourth issue, I’m forced to reconsider that assumption. We now know Eddie and Trudy intimately. They’re partners and happen to know each other quite well. Trudy’s character is my favorite so far. She’s tough, capable, and damn smart. Remember, the Red Team was considered elite long before they started assassinating suspects, so each is above average as far as the police department is concerned. And perhaps “suspects” is an unfair designation at this juncture; there’s no doubt of their victim’s guilt.
Still, there’s a moral ambiguity that runs through this book. Earlier, I mentioned that things get a bit more complicated in issues 3 and 4. In fact, things get progressively more complicated. In Red Team #3, Eddie chooses to go after a priest accused of pedophilia. Before he pulls the trigger, he removes his mask and tells him what he’s there for—the broken rule I was talking about. In the following issue, they kill a greedy banker. Only, this banker was about to make a deal with prosecutors and give up some very guilty associates of his. Not only were they a week shy of running into a protection detail for this guy, but they actually only succeeded in making things harder for the do-gooders.
I really can’t sing Garth Ennis’s praises enough. The writing is fantastic, and I always find myself wanting more. Each character acts so distinctly, every work spoken consistent with their personalities. He also manages to constantly surprise me, to create situations that are both shocking and logical in a narrative sense. Red Team is one of the most riveting comic books I have ever read, and I can’t wait to see what direction he takes it in.
Craig Cermak’s artwork is getting better by the issue. Tasked with depicting faces full of fear on a regular basis, Cermak is more than displaying his deft hand with the pencil. Visually speaking, there’s a lot of darkness in Red Team, lots of shades and shadows. Cermak manages to mirror the tone of the story without knocking you over the head with his meaning, and that takes skill. Also, these characters have depth, and that’s not just the work of the writer.
Red Team continues getting better, while the questions just keep on mounting. Are Duke and George the reliable leaders they appear to be? Eddie manages to come off as the most careful and a loose cannon all at the same time. Will he keep up his balancing act? Issue #4 brought us a shocking series of events in the life of Trudy, a reminder of how close they can come to being outted as killers at the drop of hat. Red Team is walking a tight rope, and Ennis has us right up there with them looking down at the sharp rocks below. Will they fall?