There’s a wonderful throwback vibe to Inferior Five, which revels in the past it’s working with. Set during the late 80’s, post-Invasion, it’s a book that leans into all the things that come with it. It’s Lemire and Giffen playing in the sandbox of an era long lost, an era long past. Revolving around the mystery of kids who’ve all relocated after the cataclysmic event fallout of Invasion, it’s a mystery set in a small town where unusual events are unfolding.
This issue provides some more context, but as is to be expected, with the small pieces of an answer, more questions arise. We’re aware the book is dabbling in Dominator conspiracies and a sort of strange back-up plan, one of a truer, more sinister Invasion. But as to how that can happen? This is the issue to give us a sense of things. We come to understand it isn’t just any ordinary town, but one inhabited by Durlans as well, not just Dominators. If one were to make the leap from this, given it’s Giffen, given it’s Invasion and it’s the 80’s, The Khunds may not be far behind. But that aside, this all begins the question: Why?
What is so vital and important about this one small town and these kids specifically? Giffen’s 6-panel grid of simplicity masks on the surface something far more sinister and creepy. What you’re seeing isn’t just what’s happening. There’s more in play here. And that’s where the regular backups by Jeff Lemire, Jose Villarubia and Rob Leigh come in. Taking The Peacemaker, they present another side to this story. A far-removed and distant angle that’s ultimately going to tie-back to the main narrative. The Peacemaker is, essentially, the detective, the investigator, the cop on a mission, to track and crack whatever’s up. Except, we’ve already been waiting at the crime scene as the readers since the start, which is a bit of a fun place to be in. We’re just waiting for him to arrive and make some sense of things. Meanwhile, we’re in the same place as these kids and their friendly Durlan plan: We have no clue. We’ve got bits and pieces, but the pieces don’t quite click together. Not yet, anyway.
The backup is rather notable, using the 9-panel grid, dealing with The Peacemaker’s PTSD, which feels rather significant given he is the basis for The Comedian in Watchmen, the book to propel the 9-panel grid to its massive popularity. In fact, the most majority of the readers would know of The Peacemaker is the fact that he was used as a base by Moore, Gibbons and Higgins for Watchmen. So the deliberate choice here to go with the 9-panel grid and just lean into that is intriguing. Besides that, the actual look at a soldier trying to deal with health and therapy in the late 80’s proves to be interesting. It’s not something one got much of in that era, especially given the views and understanding regarding metal health were significantly different, so going back to that era and retroactively sort of taking a look at that, even if briefly, is a nice little touch. It adds a bit more dimension to the character which he may never have had.
The Watchmen allusions don’t quite end just with the grid there as we get a scene evoking The Comedian’s apartment and his secret wardrobe, only the twist here is, things get weird and wacky. The helmet begins to talk to the hero and there’s a bit of an odd dichotomy here, as one isn’t quite sure what to make of things, much like The Peacemaker himself, who’s both curious and unnerved. Is the helmet really talking or is the man just imagining it? It’s left up to interpretation.
As for the main narrative itself, Lemire is very much working loosely with Giffen here. There isn’t much of a tight script, as Giffen draws the book as he chooses after discussions occur and then Lemire sort of plays with that and makes sense of things. It’s sort of a rapid back and forth, a tennis rally, the sort that Giffen often loves, which led to successes like that of Legion Of Super-Heroes. So seeing the dialogue, which has to match the 80’s setting and work with Giffen’s artwork, that’s a lot of fun. And it does work. The only real issue is, given Giffen’s old school art style, rather than the brighter, shinier coloring Hi-Fi opts for here, a different color palette might help more. The sort of muted, matte look of the backups might serve the main story better, as it is, after all, a bit of a murky mystery. As it is, the shinier look of Hi-Fi’s colors, which work well with more modern pencillers, don’t quite fit as well with Giffen.
On the whole Inferior Five continues to be a fun little dive into an interesting period of DC history and it feels much more significant now, in a Post-5G confirmation landscape, where in a lot more of DC’s history is potentially back in play. Is a book like Inferior Five just among the first of many, which dive into the various eras, the numerous ‘generations’ of DC? Is it the forecast of DC’s future, in that sense? Maybe not. Maybe it is. We’ll find out sooner or later. Regardless, it’s a fun little time and while it is definitely not for everyone, but if you like your old Invasion issues and 80’s DC, it’s still a curious little experiment worth peeking in on.