I’ll start by stating the obvious: Red Skull is not a sympathetic villain. He’s a Nazi, which is probably, in fact, the exact opposite of a sympathetic villain. Greg Pak has taken on the difficult task of writing a Red Skull origin story where we’re asked to follow along in the early years of a character who, as the title of the comic itself suggests, is basically evil incarnate. Red Skull is not the sort of villain who, while clearly not the product of a loving home and a good childhood, is also not someone who you can effectively portray as having the excuse of lacking those things. The story of how Red Skull becomes Red Skull cannot be one of a decent man turned bad, but instead the story of a bad man turned evil. In Red Skull Incarnate #3, Pak continues as he’s done in the last two issues of this series by walking the fine line between showing what sort of tragic past a man like Red Skull could have and showing what was innate in him all along.
Pak also does a good job of weaving history into his story, hitting the points he needs to about pre-WWII German history without coming across too much like a textbook. Instead he uses dates, settings, and historical facts to further ground the story and strengthen the background of a character who is so rooted in his time. Red Skull doesn’t work as a character without being a Nazi, and by working to fully tie his story into the tumultuous historical period that allowed the Nazis to come to power, Pak is also able to better flesh out Red Skull for the modern reader.
Sara started reading comics in the third grade, and now puts her English degree to good use talking about them on the Internet. She currently resides in Western Massachusetts with a roommate, three cats, and an action figure collection and spends the time she isn’t reading comics working for a non-profit. You can visit her blog at Ms. Snarky’s Awesometastic Comics Blog.