I’ve personally never known a whole lot about the Red Skull’s earlier days, or even how he became the crimson faced menace, this series wants to change that. Issue one focuses on Johann Schmidt, an orphan in post-World War One Germany. Honestly, I went in to this book expecting a typical origin story, some people fight, things happen, super powers gained, world is doomed etc. What I got was an emotional character story about a young boy for whom you can’t help but feel compassion. Schmidt is forced into an orphanage after his mother dies giving birth and since hasn’t caught a single break. The boy seems doomed from the start, but the story gives enough glimmers of hope you want him to be alright in the end.
The story opens with Johann helping another boy hide a puppy from a dog catcher and later their headmaster. Schmidt seems hardened but ultimately a good compassionate kid. But, the beating and yelling by the headmaster finally pushes the boy to his breaking point. This culminates towards the end when he runs away. Hiding in a truck, he asks the dogcatcher driving to show him how he kills the animals he catches. One last glimmer of hope can be seen when Schmidt refuses to kill a puppy. But is quickly lost when the puppy is attacked by other dogs and Johann, in a flurry of anger, murders all of the attackers.
Overall, the issue gave me more of an emotional kick then I ever expected. I found myself rooting for young Schmidt and saddened by his inevitable path towards insanity. The art seemed perfect for the setting as well, crisp and clear but still drab and gloomy to reflect the tone. Faces convey great expression, and the color change really reflects the tone towards the end. The cover is also in the style of Nazi propaganda pieces from the time, which cast an uneasy tone and really compliments the story. This is just an excellent book and I highly recommend it, not just too comic fans but to anyone who like a good story.