A-Force #1 Review

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A-Force #1 is another of a bazillion Secret Wars tie-in titles. This title is an “all-female” title. I have never been a fan of “all-anything” type of titles. They often seem too limited and too pandering. And while meant to “promote” a certain segment of the Marvel Universe they often backfire in that goal. Personally, I think the best way to elevate some of these female characters is to insert more of them in big name titles like the Avengers and X-Men. Or to simply give some of these characters their own solo titles.

All male or all female teams both seem really odd to me. I know all male teams are derided with the derogatory term “sausage-fests.” What is the corresponding derogatory term for an all-female team? A “tuna-fest?” Anyway, I would prefer that A-Force had a roster with some diversity. Keep in mind that I am a long-time die-hard Legion of Super Heroes fan. I grew up with a team that had a roster that had a large number of female members. The Legion was way ahead of its time compared to other team titles. Because of my Legion upbringing, I am more of an inclusive guy than an exclusive guy. At any rate, even though I am not a fan of a team that only consists of one sex I still had to give this title a try. Why? Because you all know I cannot resist a title with a “#1” on the cover! All right, let’s hit this review.

Words: Margeurite Bennett & Willow Wilson
Pencils: Jorge Molina
Inks: Jorge Molina & Craig Yeung
Colors: Laura Martin & Matt Milla

Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with She-Hulk, who is the Baroness of Arcadia. The team that patrols and protects Arcadia is the A-Force. She-Hulk meets with Medusa and Spider-Woman in the Hall of Justice. (Oh, no you didn’t!! There can be only one Hall of Justice!) We learn that Arcadia is akin to the Garden of Eden.

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We shift to Carol Danvers, Ms. America, Dazzler, Pixie and Sister Grimm flying through the air patrolling the border of the island of Arcadia. Suddenly, a massive Megalodon jumps out of the water and attacks our heroines. Our heroines start brawling with the Megalodon. They get the upper hand when Dazzler blasts the Megalodon out of the water and sends it crashing onto the land. Ms. America then, impulsively, grabs the Megalodon and flings it high into the air and it flies over the wall surrounding Arcadia and smashes into the ground of the Deadlands that exists on the other side of the walls of The Shield.

The heroines tell Ms. America that she shouldn’t have done that. Suddenly, a member of the Thor Corps appears on the scene. It is Sam Wilson. He has wings and a Thor costume all rolled into one. Sam Thor says that Ms. America broke the Battleworld’s greatest law. That Ms. America breached the Shield and endangered everyone. (Uh, just by throwing a Megalodon over into the Deadlands? Really? This is considered the greatest violation of Battleworld?)

We cut to Sheriff Strange calling She-Hulk and telling her that the most sacred law is that borders should never be crossed. She-Hulk countered that Ms. America is young and she was in the middle of the chaos of battle when she threw the Megalodon over The Shield. Sheriff Strange said that these are God’s laws and She-Hulk and her people will feel the wraith of Doom if She-Hulk does not turn over Ms. America.

We slide over to the members of A-Force surrounding Ms. America. Female Loki enters the scene and asks what happened. (Ms. America and Sister Grimm are Loki’s two proteges.) Ms. America says that she is not dying. That she will find a way out of this. (During this scene Ms. America randomly calls Sister Grimm “hermanita.” This is the only Spanish word in the entire issue. It means “little sister.” More on this later.)

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Suddenly, the Thor Corps appear on the scene. We have Old Thor (I guess this issue takes place prior to Secret Wars #2.), Beta-Ray Bill, Thunderstrike (Eric Masterson! Hey!) and two other Thors. The Thors take Ms. America back with them to Castle Doom. Loki drops to her knees and holds Ms. America’s cloak.

She-Hulk apologizes to the A-Force members and says that she tried to plead with Doom. Sister Grimm is all pissed with She-Hulk. She-Hulk said it was out of her power. Sister Grimm says she wishes she was out of She-Hulk’s power. Loki and Sister Grimm then exit the scene. Medusa tell She-Hulk that it is tough being Baroness. It is a tight rope that She-Hulk must walk. She-Hulk says it is their honor and duty to protect Arcadia. She-Hulks orders that the Sub-Mariners are to be summoned.

We cut to She-Hulk talking to Namor, Namora and Namorita. (Namor is wondering what he is doing in this comic.) She-Hulk says that something has invaded Arcadia.  That they do not know why that Megalodon appeared but that they are going to find out why tonight. She-Hulk sends Team Namor to find out the source of the threat that is located deep in the water. Team Namor swim down into the water. They encounter a bright light and look amazed.

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We then shift to Sister Grimm being all emo and sitting outside of Bishop Lighthouse under the night sky. She is sobbing that she could not save Ms. America. Suddenly, something a bright light streaks across the sky and crash-lands near Sister Grimm. For some odd reason, Sister Grimm thinks this might be Ms. America. (Uh, why? Does Ms. America ever appear as a comet?) Sister Grimm looks into the crater and sees the unconscious body of either Captain Universe or Eternity (Female version, natch.) Sister Grimm exclaims “Who are you?” End of issue.

The Good: The best part of A-Force #1 was the fight scene in the beginning. C’mon! They fight a Megalodon. Let me repeat: A Megalodon. How can you not love that?! It was not a long fight scene but it was fun and exciting and a cool way to kick off this issue. And the best part of the fight scene? Seeing Disco Dazzler in action! Yeah! It is impossible to see Dazzler in all of her proper disco glory and not have a big smile on your face. This was probably the highlight of the issue for me. Well, seeing Storm in her classic Dave Cockrum designed costume with her trademark hair was also pretty awesome, too.

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She-Hulk took her rightful place as the Baroness of Arcadia. For my money, She-Hulk is the best of all of Marvel’s female super heroes. So, I loved that She-Hulk got the spotlight and the role as the Baroness of Arcadia. Bennett and Wilson did their best character work with She-Hulk and gave her a strong personality. I liked that She-Hulk’s strength of character was delivered in a restrained and quiet manner. It made her even more impressive as the Baroness of Arcadia. Sometimes less is more and this is one area where Bennett and Wilson actually delivered that.

Outside of She-Hulk and Dazzler, the character that I was most excited to see was female Loki. I loved female Loki when JMS brought back Asgard during his run on Thor. JMS’ female Loki was an excellent character. So, for my money, the more female Loki we get the better. I hope she gets more panel time in the upcoming issues.

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Bennett and Wilson did a nice job setting up two mysteries by the end of this issue. One mystery concerning the source and identity of the threat to Arcadia and another mystery surrounding the appearance of the starry figure at the end. I am guessing this is Captain Universe. Either way, both mysteries were delivered in a good fashion and both served to bring the reader to the edge of their seat and then hook them into wanting to come back for the next issue. Despite my criticisms with this story, Bennett and Wilson did their best to try to sell the reader in giving them several reasons to come back for the next issue.

Jorge Molina’s artwork is the strength of this issue. Molina whips up an attractive looking issue. Molina packs plenty of personality into the facial expressions of the various characters. This helps to inject some emotion into the story. The fight scene is well done as Molina draws some dynamic looking panels.

The Bad: The one plot device that I had a tough time with was believing Ms. America’s crime of throwing the Megalodon over The Shield and into the Badlands was the worst crime in all of Battleworld. It seems that worse transgressions have occurred in other Secret Wars tie-in issues and in Secret Wars itself. The classification of Ms. America’s crime and the penalty for it seemed to overblown. It seemed forced and lacked internal logic with the rest of Secret Wars. This made it seem more of an artificial plot device that Bennett and Wilson forced into the story in order to move the story forward into the direction they wanted.

The plotting of A-Force #1 was weak. The construction of the issue and the flow of the story was rather disjointed and choppy. Scenes awkwardly cut into each other and the story advanced in a clunky manner. All of this combined to make A-Force #1 a jarring read and the result is that the reader gets pulled out of the story at different moments. This issue failed to completely captivate my attention and I never became fully immersed in the setting of this story.

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The character work was average at best. While Bennett and Wilson did a nice job with She-Hulk’s character they failed to do the same with anyone else in this issue. The rest of the characters received little to no character work at all. Most are generic cardboard cut-outs that mechanically proceed through their scenes. Medusa, Dazzler, Spider-Woman and Loki are all bland and one-dimensional. None of them ever really engage the reader.

Then you have Ms. America and Carol Danvers who come across as the stereotypical “I’m as tough as anyone else, NO REALLY I’M TOUGH!” female super heroes. It feels like the writers are just trying way too hard to get the characters over as characters as testosterone fueled as Wolverine. And when a writer tries too hard they usually fail to achieve what they are trying to with the character.

Then you have Sister Grimm. She has a great name and a great look. Unfortunately, she is written like a stereotypical emo teenage girl. Her character is predictable and she has no depth to her personality. Hopefully, as the title proceeds forward Bennett and Wilson can solidify and strengthen the character work on this title. Otherwise, it will be difficult to get invested in this title with the type of character work we received in this issue.

The dialogue was average at best. Part of that is an extension of a lack of character work. The dialogue gets the job done and that is about it. The characters do not have unique voices. And there is little chemistry between the characters outside of the stereotypical sister/friend style relationship between Sister Grimm and Ms. America and the stereotypical mother/mentor relationship between Loki and Ms. America and Sister Grimm.

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And, now I will get to the scene in this issue where Ms. America randomly breaks out the Spanish word “hermanita” while talking to Sister Grimm. That is the only Spanish word in the entire issue. This stuck out like a sore thumb and was a groan inducing moment. It has long been the practice for comic book writers to deliver Hispanic characters in a stereotypical fashion and have them speak Spanglish throughout an issue. Now, do some of my relatives speak Spanglish? Yes. Not all of them, but some of them. So I cannot deny that it never happens. But, they do that when talking with other Hispanics only.

So, I am glad that Bennett and Wilson at least avoided excessive use of Spanglish in this issue. That just comes across as a bit stereotypical and racist. But, Bennett and Wilson cannot resist the urge to slip at least one random Spanish word in there because, you know, Ms. America is Latina so she just has to bust out some Spanish at some point. No. The use of the word “hermanita” seemed forced and stupid. It just reminded me that Bennett and Wilson are white girls. Hispanics do not randomly insert a single Spanish word into conversation just because we cannot help ourselves. In fact, many Hispanic people cannot even speak Spanish. Our ethnicity is not defined by the Spanish language. I would rather see writers just avoid the random Spanish words and write Hispanic characters like they would a white or black character. No need to let a language or ethnicity define a character’s personality.

Sorry. I apologize. This is a pet peeve of mine. I will shut up and move along now!

Overall: A-Force #1 was an average read. I can’t recommend buying it, but I can’t recommend avoiding it, either. It is just an awkward in-between issue. Like I said before, I think an all female team is as weird and unappealing as an all male team. So, A-Force #1 had limited appeal to me in the first place. If you just cannot get enough all female action then A-Force #1 will probably be right up your alley.