Author Greg Pak, Illustrations Mirko Colak
Oh Greg Pak. Sometimes his books are freaking incredible. And sometimes they just kind of fizzle. Red Skull Incarnate, unfortunately, fizzles.
Red Skull Incarnate is a companion piece to his own X-Men: Magneto Testament. Magneto Testament is about a young Magneto suffering through life as a Jewish boy in Nazi Germany. It’s spectacularly written and ads extreme depth to Magneto’s character. Depth that expands past the one book and into the larger Marvel canon.
Johann Schmidt, the boy who would become Red Skull, is also a young lad in Nazi Germany. The difference is that Schmidt is primed for evil and can pass for Nazi.
Pak shows us a young abandoned orphan who is determined to gain the power the world denied him by any means necessary. Schmidt learns how to use violence and manipulation to work his way to the top.
We see young Schmidt crossing the barrier from victim to bad guy when he learns how to desensitize himself to killing at the local dog catcher’s.
Sigh, yes, that means he warms up his evil muscles like this:
Now, this panel certainly does the job of getting me to hate Johann Schmidt. I can’t stand seeing animals get hurt. The other day I killed a moth and my atheist self said a prayer for the poor little guy. I’m sorry moth! May you receive an eternal reward for your sacrifice! But I also eat meat so I’m a hypocrite, moving on…
I hate seeing animals get hurt. Especially dogs and cats and other animals Americans love more than people. So this little plot point accomplished a task. But it also felt cheap. Of course people are going to hate seeing someone club a bunch of innocent dogs! That’s easy! Way easier than making me feel emotions for a human character and then having them killed.
So at this point, I get it, Schmidt is evil. And throughout the short run he goes on to be more and more evil. It’s an origin story of sorts but it never ties it back to the Red Skull we know.
When and how does he come to look like this:
Usually when I see Red Skull pop into a story it’s just presumed you already know him. Obviously he’s a bad guy, just look at him. But I actually don’t know much about him! I thought this would be his story but it’s not.
It’s Johann Schmidt’s story. At least his earliest story. But it’s definitely not Red Skull’s story.
If you read Red Skull: Incarnate as a story of an evil young lad in Nazi Germany, it’s adequate. It’s got some good moving pieces and his manipulations fall into line even if they feel a little rushed. It’s not a bad read, just won’t wow you either.
But as a Red Skull story it fails.
3/5 skulls 💀💀💀
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Buy it here: Captain America: Red Skull – Incarnate