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Wednesday, April 29, 2020 

CBR sugarcoats Geoff Johns' terrible Red Zone Avengers story

Here goes CBR with another fawning take on a modern story that served to bring down superherodom, this being one of a few items the awful Geoff Johns wrote for Marvel, which CBR ludicrously tries to compare with a far better story like Under Siege from 1986:
Despite the large scale of the most well-known Avengers' storylines, some of the best Avengers' stories are the ones on a smaller scale or a bit untraditional. Two good examples of this style of under-rated Avengers' stories would be Roger Stern's "Under Siege" and Geoff Johns' "Red Zone." This article will provide a case for why either story is the most under-rated Avengers story.
Wrong. Only Under Siege makes for a great underrated tale. Red Zone was an early example of post-2000 political metaphors run amok, and insulting to the intellect. Worst, they seem to be exploiting the current situation with Covid-19 to justify Red Zone's embarrassing structure, made all the worse by how padded out it was for the sake of trade paperbacks:
"Red Zone" is a story that deals both with dangerous diseases straining the US Government's resources. These plot elements become much more relevant today than were when the story was originally published in 2003.

"Red Zone's" parallels to today are a little weaken a little by the fact they are twisted in some fantastical direction with a flesh-eating bioweapon being the cause of the crisis and the US Government being subverted by a disguised Red Skull. Despite those twists, the story did remain oddly premonitory and this story does a great job of approaching politics for a comic book.
Oh really? A story which makes the US government out to look like it's worse than modern day terrorism, or, like only they provide the tools for the toxins? Not to mention a story that hints Black Panther had something to do with it, along with Iron Man?
One Distinct Aspect of "Red Zone" is the fact that its tone is closer to a disaster movie for its first half and a political thriller for its second half. This tone makes the story stand out from other notable Avengers' storyline.

"Red Zone" similarities to a disaster movie is that it primarily involves the Avengers working to stop the spread of a bioweapon released from a lab hidden in Mount Rushmore. The second half is a more political thriller that focuses on several heroes seeking to prevent a disguised Red Skull from using the crisis to seize control over the United States.
I notice they don't get into details of how padded out the story was within 6 issues or so, all for the sake of making it valid for paperback publishing. Or how the lowercase lettering Bill Jemas mandated at that time dampens the proceedings ever further. Or that politics is hardly anything new to the Avengers. Or, they can't comprehend that this isn't similar to a disaster movie so much as it is a disaster of a story. Or, why do they fail to take an in depth look at how the Skull was blabbering about how he "loves America", despite putting the following panel on display:
So, why isn't this scene, where Red Skull gives a the kind of salutation that could be used when reciting lines from the Constitution upon obtaining citizenship, seen as disturbing by CBR, despite their making use of it? Or even the following:
I don't think these scenes were any accident, so much as they were a leftist insult to conservatives. Why, now that I think of it, when Skull speaks of "understanding" while punching Cap in the head, does he mean he "understands" that the USA advocates violence?!? Now that would certainly be bizarre logic.
One high point of "Red Zone" is the climactic fight between the Red Skull and Black Panther. This occurs in the story's final issue as Iron Man and Black Panther break into the Red Skull's office to free a captured Captain America and Falcon. While Iron Man goes ahead to free Captian America, Black Panther decides to deal with Red Skull himself.

This fight is good for many reasons as it is both a fun and very satisfying fight to read. This satisfaction comes from simply the fact that "Red Zone" remembers that Red Skull is a racist, and these views would be his downfall, as he does not believe Black Panther was a threat.
I notice they forgot to mention Red Skull implied at one point that the toxins he used were derived from experiments Black Panther had worked on, and possibly Iron Man to boot, as seen in the following:
Which ran the gauntlet of making T'Challa and Tony Stark look bad themselves. Hmm, something's definitely amiss here. And Henry Gyrich, the government liason who could be a thorn in the Avengers' side in the past, provided Skull with the documents he says are legit?
Geoff John's as a comic book writer is well regarded for his runs on team comics like Teen Titans and JSA, and his skills at writing a team book shine in "Red Zone." What he does to make "Red Zone" an exceptional story is that he allows each member of the team some time to shine on there own.

There are many examples of this throughout "Red Zone." From Vision's lamentation over the crisis to Warbird's military past being utilized to organize relief for South Dakota. These little character moments give each member of the Avenger some time to shine.
Once again, I wonder why the decompressed structure of the story didn't warrant mention. Or why CBR's writer didn't see fit to mention how, when Vision was bringing an injured child aboard an airship, two soldiers aboard half-threaten him with their rifles, telling him they're "loaded to capacity" (is that supposed to be a double-reference to their firearms?), and any more weight would cause them to drop (strange, the inside didn't look that crowded to me). So, he grabs away the rifles, throws them out of a door, and hands them the child to look after. What matters is that the scene made it look like military officials were really that worried about peanuts. Also notice how they're asking who the culprit could be, whether it was Islamic jihadist organizations, and then it soon turns out it's merely a government facility responsible.

And Johns is well regarded? Not by me he's not. The more I read of his Flash run, the more I began to realize something was going wrong, and eventually distanced myself from that and his Avengers run too, and have since reevaluated even the books he co-wrote like JSA. The problem he has is an obsession with sensationalized violence and other crude elements, and his now decidedly loathsome resume does have political elements in it that are downright insulting.
While there are many good character moments and arcs in "Red Zone," the highlight would be Captain America's. This arc does a wonderful job of portraying how Captain American is more loyal to the American dream than its Government.

This arc features Captain America being shocked by the reveal that the bioweapons were not some terrorists', but a product of the U.S. Government. These major reveals leads to Captian America deciding to deal with the US official behind the weapon's development before he even found out that this individual was the Red Skull. The story then ends with Captain American promising to oppose the US government if they continue to develop bioweapons.
So they obscure the real issue surrounding this story arc. That terrorists, at a time when the subject was becoming far more relevant, were not the culprits, but rather, the US government. Nor do they mention that the Skull was disguised as a defense secretary named Dell Rusk, same initials as Donald Rumsfeld. And CBR's writer, in all his apparent leftism, predictably sees no issues with this insult to the intellect. Having once read the story years before though, it wasn't clear if Cap actually said he'd oppose the government, but the way he'd been written believing the government was more likely to be a culprit in these cases than an actual modern terrorist cell was forced, and came close to the revolting premise used in the Marvel Knights solo Cap series at the time.

Red Zone is one of the worst stories Johns ever wrote for any company, not just simply for Marvel/DC. And CBR's compounded their negative reputation in the years since they were sold to another media company, sugarcoating awful tales with stealth politics, this one an early example of the increasingly biased leanings the industry took up since the turn of the century at the expense of entertainment. To which we could also add a note on the sad takeover of padded-out storytelling, resulting in increasingly slow-moving stories. It shouldn't be surprising if the writers, Johns included, wouldn't have that much of a problem with it, since the politics are evidently more important to them. Let's not forget Johns was the one who exploited Green Lantern for political bias and apologia nearly a decade ago, by far one of the most blatant displays of leftism in his resume.

If you want really good Avengers stories where political bias is far from present, that's why you should check out Under Siege from 1986, today printed in the Epic Collections, as is the Judgement Day followup, which are written by Roger Stern. Don't waste money on Johns' roach of a story from 2002, and don't waste money on his other writings for DC from the past 2 decades either.

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"notice they forgot to mention Red Skull implied at one point that the toxins he used were derived from experiments Black Panther had worked on, and possibly Iron Man to boot, as seen in the following:"

That is not what the scenes mean. In Christopher Priest's run on the Black Panther, he established that T'Challa first joined the Avengers because he saw super-powered beings as a potential threat to Wakanda and wanted to observe this from the inside, to spy on them. Priest needed to explain why T'Challa would abandon his responsibilities as king to go off to Manhattan, but it undercut and strained his friendship with Captain America, and it made him more politician than hero.

In the Red Zone story pages you display, this is the true Intel given him by Gyrich, which the Skull says he will use to give heft and credibility to the false Intel about Wakanda developing the virus.

"And Henry Gyrich, the government liason who could be a thorn in the Avengers' side in the past, provided Skull with the documents he says are legit?"

Haven't read the story, but it sounds from the pages you put up like Gyrich was using a standard spy tactic of feeding out a little truthful info in order to get the enemy to believe in the false info that he is also giving him.

Terrorist cells don't have the resources and scientific infrastructure to develop bioweopons themselves; it is easier and more realistic for them to steal them from a government lab.

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