Bad Superman, Bad Wonder Woman, Bad Flash, it’s all been done before, so this book really has to go somewhere to add a new spin to the premise. And this first issue just can’t manage that.
This review of Crime Syndicate #1 contains some minor spoilers.
Crime Syndicate is a new 6-part mini-series from DC, written by Andy Schmidt with art from Kieron McKeown and Dexter Vines.
The series is a spin-off from Death Metal and the new Multiverse that rose from that series. Crime Syndicate #1 introduces us to Earth 3, an alternate Earth where everything is upside down and back to front.
In the cold open, we see Dallas in 1963 and the assassination of the President, however, the crowds rejoice at the event. A quick scene shift to present-day Metropolis and an exposition dump at a newsstand informs us of the current state of play in the city.
Ultraman is the Superman here, but he’s straight out of The Boys, and ruling the city with an iron hand. A front-page story from The Daily Planet has upset the Bad Man of Steel, and he retaliates by throwing a truck through the top floor of the Planet building. The reporter that penned the story, Cat Grant, says she is not afraid of him and calls him out as Clark, and Ultraman responds by threatening to kill everyone in the place. Why Ultraman hasn’t done this already seems silly, and I must admit that I was more worried about how they are going to get that truck back out of the building? Will they leave it there? Will they rebuild the building around it? I just don’t know, and I have a terrible feeling they may never refer to it again. I’m hoping they will though. It would be a great running gag through the series if they have to keep working around this truck in the building. But I get the feeling they might not.
Anyway, the book then works its way through the other members of the Crime Syndicate and what they are up to. Superwoman has tied up President Oliver Queen at the White House, Bad Green Lantern is dispensing his own brand of vigilante justice in Coast City, and Owlman is terrorizing the members of the Talons gang in Gotham. However, an even bigger menace is now threatening Earth 3, with the arrival of giant alien starfish Starro, who seems to have possessed Ultraman, and no good will ever come of that.
The trouble with these alternate versions of established characters is we have pretty much seen all this before, and not just in comics. It’s hard to read Crime Syndicate and not automatically think of The Boys, and yes I know the Syndicate has been around since the Silver Age of comics, but when you dress them up in the sensibilities of current comic books, the parallels are just so obvious.
On top of that, the main story here is only 18 pages. The remainder of the issue is a 4-issue flashback to Ultraman’s origin in Kansas, and honestly, this adds literally nothing to this story.
Bad versions of superheroes doing the opposite of their counterparts is so old hat by now that this whole issue just feels tired and worn. The writing is clumsy and never feels natural. Everything is just information dumps to get the reader up to speed and the art is also uninspired and dull.
I can’t imagine who the audience for this book is. Suggested for 13 years and up, perhaps they hope that the gratuitous violence and character designs will draw in fans of The Boys, but even after one issue, this feels soulless and devoid of any real creative spark. Perhaps with the right creative team this could have been a neat little 6-issue run that would focus more on the character of these villains dressed as heroes, and the effect they would have had on a real world, but this spins into a nothing-really-matters cartoon that won’t bring me back for the rest of the run.