Saturday, January 27, 2007

Actually Essential Storylines: Red Tornado

(Note: That super-cute customized Lego figure of Red Tornado above? It's courtesy of artist Todd Nauck, and there are a ton more like it at Nauck's site I clicked there looking for a Nauck Red Tornado image, since he's drawn the character more and longer than just about anyone in the past decade or so, but this is all I could find. But that's cool—I think this is the single greatest version of Red Tornado I've ever seen anywhere.)

This week’s 52 origin story is that of everyone’s favorite sentient cyclone housed in an android body, Red Tornado, as drawn by Phil Jimenez.

Mark Waid does a pretty great job on this origin, devoting much of it to a rather thorough (well, as thorough as a six-panel story can be) re-telling of the Red Tornado’s origin and, killing two birds with one stone, the skinny on T.O. Morrow (who’s turned out to be a much bigger player in 52 than the Tornado has).

Glossing over is a necessarily evil in these origins, and Waid ends up glossing over just about everything that’s happened to the Tornado since the “Satellite Era” of the League, including when he got his android-like face plate, that ugly yellow arrow on his forehead, his time with Young Justice and Primal Force and his current status quo as a member of the still-relaunching Justice League of America team (a senence is devoted to pointing out that his “soul has recently been merged with flesh and blood.”

Looking at the recommendations under “Essential Storylines” this week, DC has done a much better job than usual, and reading the three books they suggest on top of this origin should pretty much get you up to speed. But in the interest of overkill, I’ll offer plenty more.

Here’s what DC suggests…

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #1 (2006): The first story arc of Brad Meltzer, Ed Benes and Sandra Hope’s new JLoA story is called “The Tornado’s Path,” and Red Tornado—or “Reddy,” as his teammates insist on calling him—is the focus of the story. In this issue, his soul is seeking to return to his body after his seventh death (give or take a few), but he’s lead by “Deadman” to take on a human body, a discarded duplicate from the lame-ass villain Duplicate. Thus “Reddy” has a human body, although when he powers up he still has green, pupil-less eyeballs and a red face with an arrow on top of it. I don’t know if he paints all that on and pops in green eye contacts or what.

He still has his tornado powers, but I personally feel this is something of a bad move. It’s not just because I’ve experienced the non-human sentient being becoming human for the first time story so many times before (though that’s a factor), but because the Red Tornado’s character up to this point was that he was an android that makes tornadoes. Now, he’s just a guy who makes tornados, which cuts his individual attributes in half (it be a little like Batman not dressing up like a bat anymore, you know?).

Oddly enough, DC only suggests #1, but the Tornado appears in #2-#5 as well, and will presumably be part of the formalized line-up of the team (as seen recently in Green Lantern #16), whenever Meltzer gets around to formalizing the line-up. A trade is certainty and, in fact, has already been announced.

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS VOL. 2:This is the second in a series collecting classic crossovers between the JLA and the JSA, back when the former was on the parallel Earth-2. The stories referred to by the first couple panels of Waid and Jimenez’s 52 origin refer to are contained within.

52: Yes, Red Tornado does appear in this series, but then, so does most of the DCU, doesn’t it? The Tornado hasn’t been seen much in it, those his severed head appeared on the cover of #28, and, in that same issue, he showed off his crazy new battle and shouted “52!” over and over. Perhaps he’ll have a bigger role as the story progresses, since he likely saw whatever Animal Man, Starfire and Adam Strange saw (Smart money says the multiverse). His maker, Morrow, has been an important player, recruiting Dr. Will Magnus to join Egg Fu’s island of mad scientists.

And here’s what they missed…

THE GOLDEN AGE RED TORNADO: The origin doesn’t mention it, but the Red Tornado is something of a legacy character. Or, at the very least, his name comes from another character that proceeded him. It was Ma Hunkle’s superhero identity. You can see her subjected to ridicule here, as well as in some archive editions that I can’t afford.

Post-Crisis, she appeared alongside the female JSA members in 1999’s Sensation Comics #1 (part of the Justice Society Returns! event), and in JSA #55 Green Lantern Alan Scott, Flash Jay Garrick and Wildcat visit Ma Hunkle and convince her to join the JSA in a non-combat role, and she’s since become something of their den mother. Her granddaughter, Maxine Hunkle, was recruited to the team in JSoA #1, and will apparently be joining the team under the codename Cyclone.

THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA HEREBY ELECTS…: The Satellite Era, during which Red Tornado was an active member, is one of the least-collected League eras, and short of lucking into some back issues, you’re pretty much stuck with the Crisis on Multiple Earths books and this recently released volume, which collects the story of Red Tornado’s induction into the League (as well as those of several other heroes).

The Justice League and Society weren’t the only teams that Red Tornado served on, of course. This short-lived ongoing series spun out of the Zero Hour crossover/event, and featured an extremely odd collection of heroes: A new Claw the Unconquered (going simply by Claw), a golem named Golem, one of the ten or twenty Jack O’ Lanterns, Meridian, Dr. Mist and, of course, Red Tornado. It launched in 1994 and only lasted 15 issues (counting the #0 issue). Tornado was one of the more recognizable characters, but he didn’t have very many liens. When the team first find him, he’s in some sort of walking android coma, and just sort of floats around, dragging across the ceiling like a helium balloon while indoors, and occasionally springing to life to shoot tornados when threatened. It wasn’t terribly popular and is now mostly forgotten, but the weird line-up of obscure properties, and the fact that it was written by Steven Seagle (who would go on to write It’s a Bird…) make it worth a look, should you come across it in back-issue bins.

Two-part prestige miniseries JLA: World Without Grown-Ups teamed Robin, Superboy and Impulse together for the first time and would promptly lead to the creation of Young Justice, an A-List version of the Teen Titans (a name used at the time by Dan Jurgen’s all-original team of Teen Titans). The series, which pitted the kids and the League against a villain named Bedlam, ended with the Big Bad’s consciousness taking refuge in an inert Red Tornado, who was just sort of decorating the corner of the League’s old Happy Harbor base (Red Tornado only makes a two-panel appearance in this series).

It was enough to make him a prime player in the Young Justice ongoing. The series got off to a very rocky start, but eventually the creative team of Peter David, Todd Nauck and Larry Stucker settled into a groove and started producing a great team book, one which lasted 56 issues (counting the #1,000,000 issue, and was cancelled not because of poor sales, but rather to make way for Geoff Johns’ relauched Teen Titans title).

Red Tornado served as the chaperone/mentor for the team of teen heroes. His wife Kathy Sutton and adopted daughter Traya would play increasingly large roles in the supporting cast, with #11 standing out as a Tornado-focused story (in it, Kathy is put in coma by a brainwashed Traya and R.T. has to go to court to determine if he’s considered human enough to have custody of a human being or not).

The Suttons also played a role in Young Justice 80-Page Giant #1, a story that featured Bedlam in Reddy’s head. The 1998 Secret Origins 80-Page Giant #1 featured Tornado bonding with Secret. Very little of Young Justice has made it into trade form, but the YJ miniseries/event Sins of Youth is definitely worth a looksee.

Shortly before Young Justice was forcibly disbanded—the contrived ending of the series was covered in the godawful Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day series—the Tornado had an interesting spotlight story in JLA/JSA Secret Files and Origins #1. This 2003 prequel to JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice featured a four-page story called “Stormchasers,” in which several super-teams converge to help with emergency flood relief, and Superman asks Reddy to re-up with the League and Flash asks him to rejoin the Society. He turns them both down, saying he’s needed most as a mentor to the Young Justice kids, and tells the heroes that “the child has become the parent.”

JLA: The Red Tornado had a solo story in 1998 anthoogy JLA 80-Page Giant #1 by Todd Dezago and penciller Ben Herrera. Entitled “Tin Man’s Lament,” it’s about Reddy trying to reclaim his place in Kathy and Traya’s life, but he’s rebuffed by Kathy (who doesn’t want to keep putting their daughter through having to announce that her android superhero father has “died” every couple years). He flies off to go sit in the Happy Harbor HQ and for his JLA: World Without Grown-Ups cameo.

Like most of the Satellite League, Red Tornado appears in the Geoff Johns/Allan Heinberg co-written JLA arc “Crisis of Conscience”. He gets torn to pieces by the Secret Society of Supervillains and dumped on Batman and Martian Manhunter in the first issue. Batman puts him back together in the Batcave just in time for the Tornado to spring to the rescue at the climax. It’s not a very good story, and basically boils down to groups of superheroes making unexpected entrances for five issues.

Tornado would also briefly appear in the next (and last) JLA story arc, “World Without a Justice League.” He spins onto a crime scene just in time for Donna Troy to swoop in and ask he and the other space-worthy heroes assembled to go off to space as part of her cannon fodder brigade. Red Tornado spends the Infinite Crisis with Donna and company, and comes back to earth in pieces (see 52).

The Kingdom Come-iverse, which is apparently about to become part of the DC Multiverse v 2.0 (Earth-KC?), had a pretty cool Red Tornado in it, though I don’t recall him/it doing much more than standing around looking cool. It was roughly man-shaped, wore a cape and had a pair of eyes, but rather than a solid, android body, it’s was simply made out of a little, person-sized tornado.

In the Alex Ross-iverse, Tornado is a member in good standing of the Justice League. He had a small role in Ross and Paul Dini’s oversized JLA: Liberty and Justic, and is also among the massive superhero army currently starring in Justice (In #3, an unseen villain takes control of Tornado, and forces him to tear his own head off and rip wires out of his chest. That poor bastard seems to get torn to pieces in every third appearances).

Tornado was also one of the eight thousand DC superheroes who made up the Justice League Unlimited line-up, which was more than sufficient to earn him a place in DC’s Justice League Unlimited comic book (where he sports blue gloves and boots, a slightly cooler look than he does in the Ross-iverse). JLU #13 was a Red Tornado spotlight of sorts, focusing on his relationship with Steel, who learns to appreciated Tornado as a friend as well as a marvel of engineering.

1 comment:

Carl Spackler said...

Caleb, I also have to add Justice League of America (original run) #192 and 193. Great Perez art, the explanation of the whole Tornado Tyrant/Champion thing, crazy T.O. Morrow, and the All-Star Squadron preview in #193. Must-haves, for me.