Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Red Tornado

The sorting has brought to the surface any variety of mini-series, including this one shining a spotlight on the Red Tornado in 1985. As the Crisis on Infinite Earths loomed, writer Kurt Busiek joined forces with legendary artist Carmine Infantino to tell us a story of the JLA's often-sidelined android member.

The thing about this android, though, is that he was created as the weapon of perennial mad scientist T.O. Morrow, but somehow managed to garner something like a human soul and contradict Morrow's evil programming. The long and complicated saga of Red Tornado, before and since this mini, is found here.

As this series opens, Reddy does battle against a rogue tornado tearing through the New Jersey countryside, saving many people in the process. However, the news coverage of the event cast him unfavorably, and then the android is confronted by the membership of the Justice League, who say they are tired of his screw-up and revoke his membership. Confused and uncertain, the Red Tornado considers his place in the world as the first issue concludes, unaware that all this has been carefully orchestrated by long-time JLA foe The Construct.

Not being able to fathom what he's supposedly done wrong, Red Tornado carries on as issue 2 opens. He is confronted by a Construct-controlled Superman, who tauntingly literally tears Reddy limb from limb for disregarding the League's suggestion, and throws Reddy's parts into the East River.

It's so sad. They always do this to Reddy. It's like the one thing writers can think to do with the robot: dismantle him. Ho hum. Think I'm kidding, check out what they did to RT in last year's 52, twenty-one years later.

Fortunately, his self-repairing circuits bring him back together only minutes later, but this latest confrontation with a so-called friend has him doubting everything. His lack of confidence drives him away from his girlfriend, Kathy Sutton and the negative public perceptions of him causes problems in his friendship with Traya the orphan.

All the while, the Construct gloats. The Red Tornado is the only member of the JLA, we learn, who is immune to the Construct's mind control, thus explaining his targetting for this special torment.

Issue 3 of the series finds most of the world under the Construct's controls, and Red Tornado has abandoned humanity, to sulk in fine emo hero fashion atop a windy mountain top, as befits his name. Kathy Sutton still believes in him, and is finding that she is the only person who has not succumbed to the Constructs controls. The Construct seems to underestimate her ability to sway Reddy, though, and apparently prefers gloating to her about how he could take her mind away through any piece of communications technology. Talk about your computer with an attitude.

Finally Kathy reaches Tornado and tells him about the Construct's plans and entreats him not to abandon mankind. He's playing all cold logical machine here, but she touches him by suggesting that if he ever suspected that he might be human, then the answer had to be yes. Suddenly, the memories of his other lives are restored to him and he can feel his soul and he races off to confront The Construct and save the World.

In the final issue, Red Tornado takes on the Construct head-to-head and they battle to a draw. Entreating the assistance of his creator, T.O. Morrow, Reddy manages to infiltrate The Construct's operating system, where he systematically disconnects the Construct's control over the telephone networks, the radio frequencies and so on, breaking his hold on humanity.

Its sort of a leap, since we've not seen Reddy do this sort of thing before...sort of an "inside the video game" thing, I guess, in keeping with the times. Of course, Red Tornado is victorious and saves the world. It bums me out a little that we never see a scene with the League where they disavow the things they'd said earlier...but I suppose the page count was running out.

On the whole, I really enjoyed re-reading this series. Reddy's a character I've always enjoyed, but not known too much about. I'd forgotten, actually, that he was one of a series of characters who began on Earth Two and migrated to Earth One and served as a member of both the JSA and the JLA.

Carmine Infantino's art is a pleasure here (though I still chuckle looking at that first cover image of the Justice League. Notice how Batman's height matches the tapering perspective of the others, but his legs disappear just above the boot, as though he were standing in a hole.).

It interested me to read in one of the letter columns (remember those?)the comments of a reader who didn't favor Infantino as an artist, stating that all his characters look alike (true enough). And I realized, having read this same opinion from other fans on the internet about contemporary artists, that some things just don't change.

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