The DC Comics’ series Danger Street is deceptive and strange. At face value, Danger Street is a story about superheroics and earth-shattering events. But when you start reading, and the layers start peeling back, you realize that this series has very little to do with capes and cowls. Danger Street is about the things that separate us and the things that bring us together – and how in the face of great odds, it’s only the latter that really matters.
Writer Tom King, with artist Jorge Fornes, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer Clayton Cowles, do a lot to trick us, though. Danger Street’s roster is full of folks with vibrant costumes. But while it might feature characters such as The Creeper, Manhunter, Darkseid, Highfather, Starman, and Warlord, most of them are rarely seen in their brightly patterned duds.
One of the most flamboyant ensembles in comic book history would have to be that of The Creeper. When Jack Ryder transforms into his vigilante alter-ego, he has neon yellow skin, striking green hair, and wears a fabulous red feather boa. And yet, The Creeper rarely appears. We see him for a page or two, here and there. But we’re mostly following the exploits of his muted counterpart. Jack Ryder wears gray or black suits and his skin is far from neon. His problems aren’t superhuman – he’s a provocative news anchor who is willing to stop at nothing to boost his ratings. The main thing we see Jack deal with is his own conscience and whether his fame and status excuses his deeds or simply makes them worse.
Another character with a unique skin tone would be Mikaal Tomas – otherwise known as Starman. This hero, with bold blue skin, travels around with Travis Morgan, alias Warlord. Mikaal shows up in his white, purple, and gold disco-style costume for only four of twelve issues. Travis sports his Warlord outfit only once. Mostly, they walk around in flannels, jeans, and sweaters, trying to figure out what they can do to become Justice Leaguers. It becomes very clear as the story progresses, that they are their own worst enemies. Their rampant self-doubt and anxiety is what leads them to a place of needing the validation a Justice Leaguer gets.
King, Fornes, Stewart, and Cowles are constantly bringing us away from fantastical stakes and into the world of the mundane. Even this series’ villains are a group of prepubescent billionaires, who use their wealth to control people with fear and corruption. In many ways, Danger Street has more to say about the real world than it does about space gods and men of steel. Behind the big, distracting facades of even the most powerful characters, there are people who are struggling with very normal problems and human shortcomings.
What Separates Us
So it would seem that all of these characters with mundane problems are pretty alike then, no? Not exactly. While these are characters who live humble lives in an otherwise fantastical world, they’re more focused on what makes them different from others than they are on anything else. Starman and Warlord are obsessed with the status that they desire. They desperately want that membership card that tells them that they “made it.” Darkseid and Highfather, two of the bigger picture players in this miniseries, are rival gods who rule planets that are in perpetual war with one another. Two assassins in this run – the aptly named “Codename: Assassin” and “Manhunter” – work for opposing forces and are at constant odds. The Green Team, the young billionaires mentioned earlier, are forever using their resources to pit the world against a shadowy group of terrorists called “The Outsiders”.
There’s a very real sense in this comic that people primarily get their identity through what makes them different from others. Starman and Warlord aren’t a part of the Justice League. Darkseid isn’t from New Genesis and Highfather isn’t from Apokolips. Codename: Assassin works for The Green Team while Manhunter’s goal is to eradicate them. And The Green Team’s biggest refrain is that no one is like The Outsiders. They’re not like us and we should all fear them. But that’s just where this story begins. As King, Fornes, Stewart, and Cowles show us, this odd collection of obscure comics characters has more in common than you’d think.
What Brings Us Together
It’s in Danger Street #9 that things really start to become clear. On the roof of a building, Codename: Assassin and Manhunter square off for a deadly duel. But we join the duel after it has already begun and after a brief clashing of blades, they both drop their swords and sit and talk. The primary focus of the issue is not on the action of what’s happening, but on their strange kinship. They’re nearly identical – raised to be killing machines yet holding to immovable codes of conduct. They simply work for different people, that’s all that makes them different.
Darkseid and Highfather, who couldn’t be more diametrically opposed, realize that they’re both the only ones who understand what it feels like to have a whole planet dependent on your leadership. They begin to lean on one another, fighting side-by-side to stop Armageddon from taking their worlds from them. Starman and Warlord learn there’s a team they’ve been a part of this whole time, right under their noses. And finally, when The Green Team come face-to-face with The Outsiders, we learn that what may have been so frightening for these wealthy youngsters was just how similar they were to a group of unfortunate misfits. The two teams are, at their core, far more alike than you’d expect.
Since this creative team rarely depicts any of the characters in their colorful raiments fighting super villains – but instead in casual clothing, fighting things many of us are acquainted with like depression and anxiety – we’re being constantly reminded that they have a lot more in common than they seem to think. The things that differentiate our cast are ultimately just set dressing and costume changes. It’s all a show. Behind every brave front is a human character who is struggling with the mundanity of their own life.
Danger Street’s Challenge
All in all, Danger Street’s message seems to be that our problems come mostly from our focus on what makes us unique. The Green Team’s rejection of The Outsiders, Starman and Warlord’s view of themselves, and assassins who let their codes stop them from being human – it all leads to chaos and violence. But when we allow ourselves to see the things we have in common, perhaps we have a chance at stopping the world from ending.
Danger Street was published over 12 issues. These, along with the first collection, can be found in all good comic book shops, online retailers, eBay, and Amazon/Kindle. Volume 2 will be published on 28th May.