|Cover by David Aja|
Red Skull: Incarnate #2 (August 3, 2011)
Writer: Greg Pak
Penciller: Mirko Colak
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
The Red Skull: Incarnate series once again provides a solemn and thought-provoking comic book that forces the reader to take it absolutely seriously. This is not always the easiest thing to do as a comic book fan, especially when you are reading so many that are, to be succinct, silly.
Pak’s work on this arc, however, is anything but and with this second installment, it’s proving itself to be one of my favorite discoveries this summer. Once again, the reader is presented with a short window of time in the young Johann Schmidt’s life. He is living off the street and quickly learning how to survive in a cold and dangerous world as Nazism grows and Communism struggles to help the working class.
Neither Pak nor Colak shied away from the degradation and violence that was becoming commonplace in 1920s Germany. Pak gave the reader characters that were frantically and gleefully anti-Semitic and Colak drew panels with stark renditions of everyday violence. At this point, it is probably a cliché to bring up the concept of the banality of evil, but I truly feel that this is overall theme of the Red Skull: Incarnate arc.
Pak is not trying to romanticize Red Skull (which is very easy to do with villains) or even give him excuses. We’re not necessarily supposed to feel sorry for the young Schmidt as he runs away from street gangs, finds shelter with a sympathetic Jewish family and then betrays both them and the street gang and commits his first murder. In fact, we’re not even sure what Schmidt himself feels or if he does at all. The only thing Pak is doing is showing the reader that in a world gone to hell, it is so easy for evil actions to be committed.
This brings up the question then that has plagued sociologists, psychologists, juries and basically anyone watching a true crime show: is evil inherent or produced? As a reader of this comic, am I supposed to think that Schmidt was always capable of atrocities or is he a product of his state and time? Is it a combination of the two? I may be asking these questions but Pak certainly isn’t and I appreciate that. He’s relying on his storytelling skills, not preaching or giving his opinion, and therefore he’s allowing me to draw my own conclusions. I really wish more writers did that.