What happens when good people do bad things? That’s the question in the all-new title Red Team from Garth Ennis. The writer behind and continues his long collaboration with New Jersey-based publisher Dynamite in this seven-issue series that follows an elite New York police squad who decide they’re above the law. Partnering with up-and-coming artist Craig Cernak (), Ennis is bringing his penchant for morally ambiguous characters into the halls of the NYPD.
Announced last week as part of Dynamite’s rush of pre-New York Comic Con announcements, Red Team will serve as the flagship title for a new line of crime comics from the publisher (which will also feature a contribution from incoming writer Andy Diggle). Newsarama spoke with Ennis about this new series that will launch following finale, and talked about crime in New York City, the crime genre, and the powerful wake that shows like leave for him as an author. (No Red Team art was available at press time.)
Newsarama: Garth, what can you tell us about the Red Team?
Garth Ennis: Red Team is made up of four highly motivated and intelligent NYPD plain clothes officers. They primarily handle narcotics and related homicides, and therefore gangs. Their job is to disrupt the drug trade in New York's grimmest neighborhoods through surveillance, amassing evidence, building watertight cases.
Nrama: And just who are the four people that make this elite strike unit up?
Ennis: Eddie Mellinger and Trudy Giroux are the main characters, and we switch back and forth between their points of view as the story unfolds. They're younger and slightly more idealistic, Eddie more so than Trudy. Duke Wylie and George Winburn are the founding members of the team — it doesn't get much more old school than these two.
Nrama: As a transplanted New Yorker yourself, have you had any personal interaction with the people who do this kind of work?
Ennis: Not much in New York. I've known a couple of police officers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nrama: The Red Team doesn’t seem the type to avoid danger, but Dynamite’s initial statements said that they bring on a different kind of danger when they murder a suspect. Without spoiling the book of course, can you give us the context of that?
Ennis: The trouble with putting such smart, able officers up against the very worst of humanity is that they might eventually form their own ideas about how to proceed, particularly when they encounter certain frustrating situations. This is dangerous ground, the kind of thing that cops never talk about but which does of course happen from time to time.
Nrama: I’m familiar with Red Teaming from the military, and I noticed since they act outside the normal infrastructure they become at odds not only with their enemies but also their fellow soldiers because they’re so separate. What’s it like for the Red Team and the larger NYPD before this murder of a suspect goes down?
Ennis: There is in fact another special unit at work here, and occasionally their paths through the ghetto can cross with Red Team's. Our heroes — primarily an intelligence-gathering outfit but more than capable of looking after themselves — find that they have to tread lightly. All the more so once they take the drastic course that they do.
Nrama: Dynamite describes Red Team by referencing television shows like and . How would you say television shows like these have influenced the overall sub-genre of police fiction like you’re telling in Red Team?
Ennis: Hard for them not to. is probably the best show ever to appear on TV, and changed the way a large part of the audience looks at so many aspects of crime and policing — where drugs money goes, how stats are manipulated, the part criminal activity plays in any city's infrastructure, etc. is the wilder, more action-driven story, but it touches on many of the same points. I recall reading an interview with a police technical advisor, who said that no one individual or unit could get away with everything that Vic Mackey's Strike Team did — but that everything we saw them do has been gotten away with by someone, at some stage.
Nrama: Garth, you’ve told stories that have weaved themselves in and out of New York going back decades. Finding you here again, why is that? Does it feel like the most natural place for this kind of story? Does this story need New York City?
Ennis: It has an obvious criminal past (and present), and to me it feels like that city that counts the most- where the biggest things happen. Beyond that, the notion of some neighborhoods becoming gentrified and pushing their problems out to others that are then almost deliberately ignored, that's an interesting one to me.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!