Beginning its existence as a mini series launched in the midst of the recent “Secret Wars” crossover, “A-Force” now completes its first story arc set in the mainstream Marvel Universe. For the moment it is the last issue to be penciled by Jorge Molina and colored by Laura Martin, who also provided the art for the entirety of the previous series as well. Therefore it is fitting that their last issue with the franchise be one which offers an incredible climax to the heroines’ first official mission as a team. Writers Kelly Thompson (“Jem and the Holograms”) and G. Willow Wilson (“Ms. Marvel”) provide another action packed issue which is full of laughs, fun dialogue exchanges and even at least one double page explosion.
Having rallied around Singularity, a living cosmic entity who hails from a parallel universe in which they were a team, the heroines of A-Force (She-Hulk, Medusa, Nico Minoru, and Captain Marvel) prepare for their final confrontation with her malicious counterpart, Antimatter. One of them (Dazzler) has already seemingly fallen in battle against him, and while they all tend to disagree about many things, they all agree that he’s not going to claim any more victims. Unfortunately, the only weapon capable of destroying him also runs the risk of killing Singularity as well. Eager to figure out some way of destroying Antimatter without sacrificing their new friend, they all unite for a final showdown on the “blue side” of the Moon. Despite mostly being strangers before this adventure, they all work in harmony against Antimatter like never before, and the dramatic reappearance of Dazzler helps turn the tide. After an earned victory celebration of burgers and jukebox tunes, they learn that their alliance as well as their battles against over dimensional beings has only begun.
While Carol Danvers’ Alpha Flight space station serves as a home base for the team (so far), She-Hulk is still very much the de facto leader of the squad – much to the chagrin of the often haughty Medusa (who is only queen of the Inhumans). Considering that virtually every superhero Marvel has was either an Avenger or Defender at some point or another, it’s refreshingly rare to see a squad of heroines who genuinely have barely met (on the most part) work through the growing pains of getting used to each other and ultimately railing against a common foe. The series’ main draw at this point is the dialogue; ever since her emergence as co-writer with the second issue, Kelly Thompson has added the right amount of vigor to the proceedings and brought what makes her run on “Jem” work to this title. The conversations and interaction between the clearly defined heroines alone are entertaining enough to fill twenty pages on their own; a fight with a villain is just the icing on the cake. And considering that Antimatter was often the weakest link of the series considering his one-note nature, seeing them finally triumph over him was quite satisfying.
Also satisfying is the clever use of longtime continuity for one of this issue’s major plot points. The letter column of the previous issue all but acknowledged that the seeming death of Dazzler wasn’t going to stick, which is an altogether good thing. Killing off cast members has long become an over used strategy in comic books. But the method of her resurrection actually ties back into some of Dazzler’s previous adventures with “Excalibur” and “New Excalibur” from 2005-2008 as written by the legendary Chris Claremont. It was a subplot which had periodically brought up throughout the 90’s involving a subclass of mutants who were presumably immortal called the “Externals” of whom Dazzler was presumably a member (along with Cannonball). It had long since been dropped as subplots brought up by writers from years past tend to be, and it looks like Thompson and Wilson are wisely injecting it within Dazzler’s more recent trails and tribulations. From her work on “Jem”, Thompson seems in her element dealing with a blond rock star with holographic light powers as well as baggage to her name. Singularity is also coming into her own, especially now that she can speak in complete sentences. This is also easily Nico Minoru’s best outing since her “Runaways” days, as her dynamic of being a younger character who has still survived almost as much as her elders tends to display itself with a lot of deadpan snark. Having been a veteran of three major superhero teams (the Avengers, the Defenders, and the Fantastic Four) for extended periods, She-Hulk is the natural leader for the team; the writers handle her so well that they should be on the short list for a relaunch of Jennifer’s solo series when it inevitably returns. In fact it’s hard to find a character here who isn’t treated well; even supporting character Dr. Tempest Bell gets a bit to do!
Although the series’ premise of battling other dimensional beings is firmly established, one hopes that they prove to be more imaginative and dynamic than Antimatter was. He was fine in terms of being a one note threat, but he wore out his welcome at least two issues ago. 2013’s “Fearless Defenders” ran into the same problem of not getting around to having better villains until midway through its run, and one would hope that “A-Force” would not fall into that hazard. Considering how wide and diverse the Marvel Universe is, it may be more fun seeing Thompson and Wilson tackle many of Marvel Comics’ more timeless villains. On the other hand, every team needs some of their own enemies to face, and this premise should provide that as well. Variety, as is often said, is the spice of life.
The art by Jorge Molina and Laura Martin is exceptional, and will be hard for the next creative team to top. All of the heroines look distinct and powerful without any awkward poses for the “male gaze”. The final battle against Antimatter (and especially the explosive finale) are the highlights of their effort, but they’re also able to make “mission control” scenes at a space station as well as a victory burger session at a diner all look vibrant. As they’ve provided the art for all nine issues of “A-Force” so far, their look has defined the series, and it is a shame to see them go. However, change is also the spice of life, and fans of the book should look forward to what the next team of artists bring to the series.
Marvel Comics responded to the high demand for the “A-Force” mini series by immediately granting it an ongoing series run, and it has been a run which is well deserved. In fact it may arguably be the best team book which Marvel Comics is publishing right now (especially as “All New All Different Avengers” has been mired in crossovers for two issues). So, anyone who hasn’t picked it up and is a fan of Marvel needs to give it a look as soon as possible. It is a fun, action packed series that is really going somewhere that readers should want to be!
Below are marvelous Marvel Comics mentions. They’re all solid four dollars of entertainment, but they’re not cool enough to dance with the women of A-Force this week!
All New All Different Avengers #8: For a title that feels so fresh that it has “all new all different” in its title, there’s nothing more old and routine than spending two issues embroiled in the crossover of the day. While writer Mark Waid managed to eke out a win last time around with some clever characterization, this time not even the artwork by Adam Kubert (and three different colorists) prevent this issue from being more than a well intended mess. Both the “unofficial” Avengers team and the “unity squad” team of mostly old X-Force members have found themselves summoned to Pleasant Hill, a reality warped prison intended to recreate the worst super villains into more passive citizens. Unfortunately, SHIELD director Maria Hill didn’t account for the villains eventually overtaking the facility (despite this literally happening in every single super villain prison that has ever existed in the Marvel Universe, a fact she herself acknowledged) nor did she account for the power source for the prison – a living child named Kobik – going haywire. Quicksilver quickly reassembles the heroes in their new forms, but they quickly find themselves overrun by rampaging villains until only Deadpool is there to reason with Kobik. One can imagine that three people coloring an issue means the was some kind of rush, and this isn’t helped by the fact that all of the characters are in new forms and thus barely recognizable. The Man-Ape, who is a villain who has been African since his inception (and has long been borderline stereotypical), is colored as a Caucasian throughout the issue, which is quite a gaffe. Aside for the bit between Deadpool and Kobik, who aren’t even regular characters in this series, the entire issue was a bit of a wash. This may perhaps be a key issue for those with crossover checklists, but regular readers may be looking ahead to May eagerly.
Silver Surfer #3: A rare 50th anniversary issue for a franchise characters where Marvel Comics didn’t decide to tack on a three digit numbering and slap on an extra dollar on the cover price out of pure unadulterated greed – a rare thing indeed! Dan Slott, Mike Allred, and colorist Laura Allred take the celebration of the Surfer’s half century in print to present a tale in which the character seems to make the ultimate sacrifice for the people and planet he holds dear. His old love Shalla Bal has returned with a device called “the Illuminatrix” which seeks to rewrite not just Earth, but much of the universe, with the culture and history of the seemingly perfect culture of Zenn-La (their homeworld which was long destroyed by Galactus). Even worse, the Surfer’s old friend the Thing has become Shalla’s lackey, willing to fight for her with all of his legendary vigor. Thanks to Norrin’s efforts, only Dawn Greenwood and Alicia Masters seem unaffected by the cultural takeover, and they do their best to aid in the struggle for Earth’s very history and achievements. Naturally, this is a classic “perfection vs. adversity” parable, with Shalla offering a blissful heaven without sickness, war, or want, despite the fact that such adversity often gives life its meaning. In addition, seeking to “force” entire worlds to adopt the culture of an invading race is classic colonialism, which was long ago revealed as repulsive. The struggle of Norrin and his friends is very exciting, with his seeming sacrifice in the finale truly touching. The chance to reunite with the Thing – who Dan Slott wrote in his own solo series for some time – is an added bonus. The art by the Allreds is masterful as always, and with issues as good as this, it’s easy for forget that the last one shipped in February! Easily Silver Surfer’s best ongoing series run in decades, it is hard to ask for a better anniversary issue than this. From cover to cover, this was the only comic offered by Marvel this week which came anywhere close to matching “A-Force”.
X-Men ’92 #2: Another book born from the “Secret Wars” crossover, it is also one of the strangest. It is loosely based around the FoxKids “X-Men” animated series circa 1992, which was itself a five season sampler of what the comics were like throughout the 90’s. This series uses that as a loose continuity but also seems to have evolved into a soft parody of other X-Men stories of the last century. Writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers and artist Alti Firmansyah (with colorist Matt Milla) seem to be telling a story which seems to combine elements from many past stories throughout the X-Men’s history. Their “new class” of students seems to evoke the recent efforts of the 21st century with characters who hail from the late 90’s “Generation X” era such as Chamber and M. The villains are very clearly imitating the “Younghunt” of the late 90’s, while rehashing a plot involving Omega Red and old Soviet living weapons which launched the first arc of “X-Men” in 1991! Finally, Storm’s ties to Dracula himself stem from the 1980’s. The dialogue is light and the artwork is very crisp, seeking to ape an animated style very well. It is still a shame that the adult Cyclops seems to be the subject of an embargo throughout Marvel Comics right now, as the X-Men franchise just isn’t the same without him. Regardless, another delightfully wacky and unpredictable issue.