Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing A-Force 1, originally released May 20th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.
Michael: Full disclosure: the exact ins and outs of Secret Wars are kind of over my head. I know that it is a better (and actually planned out) version of DC’s Convergence. I also know the basics of the event, which pretty much can be boiled down to the recap page of: “The Multiverse was destroyed! The heroes of Earth-616 and Earth-1610 were powerless to save it! Now, all that remains…is Battleworld!” So I’m going to try to take A-Force objectively, at face value.
A-Force 1 chronicles the adventures of the all-female team that protects the island of Arcadia. She-Hulk leads the team comprised of versions of characters like Dazzler, Captain Marvel, Medusa, Ms. America and Nico Minoru/Sister Grimm (Runaways). On a mission to save Arcadia from a Megalodon, Ms. America (America Chavez) hurls the giant shark across the Battleworld border into what is known as “The Deadlands.” On behalf of the supreme ruler Doom, Stephen Strange reminds She-Hulk of the punishment for such an offense. She-Hulk is forced to banish America from Battleworld to the prison of the Shield. This action does not sit well with the other A-Force team members, including her mentor Loki and Sister Grimm. A-Force sets out to the sea to enlist the aid of Namor and the Sub-Mariners to figure out how that big ol’ shark got to their waters in the first place. Hoping that America has somehow returned, Sister Grimm instead finds a mysterious blue woman who has fallen from the sky.
Whenever “controversial” status quo changes occur in Marvel or DC books these days, the mainstream media takes notice. I’m not talking about when Bucky Barnes takes over as Captain America or when Robin dies, but when Sam Wilson (an African American) takes over as Captain America or when Iceman (at least a version of him) comes out of the closet. The “controversial” of course always means anything but white, straight and male. Naturally, an all-female superhero book like A-Force is going to receive that kind of attention because lord help us when a bunch of fictional lady superheroes team up. Whatever “feminism propaganda” any naysayers were afraid of, I don’t really see any of that here. A-Force 1 is an Avengers story by another name; a cop story by another name, really. You have an ace team of heroes doing their damndest to protect their home, then one of them crosses the line and has to be dealt with according to the law of the land. Being the leader, She-Hulk was definitely in the Captain America role. More to the point, she was a leader who made a solemn vow to obey the law, even if it’s at the expense of her teammates. She-Hulk is the leader who is learning that being in charge isn’t always so clear-cut and commanding respect doesn’t necessarily guarantee affection.
Though I was flippant earlier, an all-female book is certainly something to be celebrated; along with the fact that it’s written by women and is actually a very entertaining comic book. I had to do some digging before I realized that Sister Grimm was from (the fantastic) Runaways, and I wasn’t very familiar with America Chavez, but this is still a fun book. Writers G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett give us a straightforward tale about the chain of command that just happens to feature women in leading roles. It can be done people! Some stray thoughts: I have seen “Lady Loki” before, but never before have I seen one that was a sympathetic character and not a conniving schemer. Also you’ve got a handful of X-Men on the team, but Dazzler is featured more prominently than any of them. I’m not knocking her, but I find comicdom’s fascination with Dazzler to be inexplicable and interesting.
Jorge Molina does the ladies of A-Force justice in this book. The double-page-spread of some of the team flying over Arcadia exudes confidence and triumph; not to mention the wonderful caption “Welcome to Arcadia. It’s pretty tight.” That, plus some epic dino-shark smack downs make A-Force full of some Avengers-level action and some Avengers/Whedony-level character moments. Taylor, can you fill me in on some Secret Wars stuff that I might’ve missed? Are we supposed to know who the blue lady made of stars is? Will there be copious amounts of egg on my face?
Taylor: Oh Michael, I wish I could fill you in on all of the stuff happening with the Secret Wars, but I just can’t. If you or anyone else is interested in the exact back story up to this date, the Wikipedia page on the event is surprisingly thorough. My lack of knowledge of the event really comes from my complete lack of interest in it, to be honest. I know that makes for bad journalism, but we live finite lives and there’s only so much time to spend on the things we love, to say nothing of the things we don’t. I think the reason I’m not into Secret Wars is that I generally like my comic stories to be categorized into neat universes. When I was a kid I would only eat only one part of a meal at a time and rarely mixed and matched my food. And while I’ve grown out of that now at the ripe age of 30, perhaps some aspect of it still lingers on in my distaste for crossover events.
And A-Force 1 is emblematic of what I most dislike about crossovers even though in many ways I find it to be a fine issue. In my mind crossover events should be a whole mess of fun. What could be better than seeing my favorite heroes team up with heroes from other comics? But too frequently, and as is the case here, we have heroes we know and care about paired with those we’ve never met before. As a result, I find it hard to care about a lot of these characters and their interactions. When America is banished an emotional scene breaks ensues with blame and sadness being tossed around in equal parts.
This is the climatic scene of the issue and instead of feeling something, I feel nothing. Frankly, that shouldn’t be the case at what should be the high point of the issue. A good issue will have me wrapped up in these character’s emotions and hopefully experiencing some of the same emotions they are feeling. That’s what makes stories memorable and fun! Here though, since I have no idea who Nico or America is, I just don’t care. The damned thing about this is that this problem isn’t Bennet or Wilson’s fault. The writing is fine. It’s the crossover event itself which forces writers into weird situations where they have to create drama with a limited amount of pages. That and it’s also really hard for the average person to know who everyone in this comic is. For the die-hard fan, maybe this scenes carries more emotional heft, but for the casual fan who picks up a few issues a week, it’s impossible to know and care about all of the characters presented here.
Despite the fact that the very fabric of this issue is what holds it down, there are still some genuinely fun moments in this issue. While seeing Beta-Ray Bill is fun the part of the issue that I most enjoyed was the opening sequence with the Megalodon attack.
You guys, megalodons are so in right now. This fight reminds me of the fervor caused by seeing a shark eaten by a dinosaur in the Jurassic World trailer and it also reminds me of the infamous Sharknado movie. Both are popular right now and it’s funny to see both ideas so heavily referenced here amid all of the high drama of the Secret Wars. It’s essentially a wink and a nudge by the creators acknowledging that Secret Wars is maybe just a little over the top in the same way Jurassic World promises to be and Sharknado is. Ultimately that makes me feel better about this book because it let’s me know not to worry too much about what’s happening here. Sure, Nico’s pain is sad but in a world with gigantic sharks and multiple Thors, it has to be taken in perspective.
I don’t know, maybe this book will ultimately change how I feel about crossover events. It it has the kind of levity I hope for, it could be a fun event. But if Marvel is going to try and make this event mean something, then I might find it harder to read. In any case, I think you’re right Michael: we should all take Secret Wars and it’s issues at face value and just enjoy the ride.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?