Longtime followers of The Revolution know that I cannot resist any comic book with a #1 on its cover. Add to that the fact that I am a big fan of both Bucky and Jessica Drew. So, when I saw Strikeforce #1 I knew that I had to give this title a try. Tini Howard is the writer for this new title. I have never been particularly impressed with her writing skills. I do think that Howard is better suited for indie comics than for mainstream superhero comics. I have never heard of Germán Peralta so I had no expectations for the artwork. Hopefully, we get a strong debut issue for this new team title. Let’s go ahead and hit this review!
Words: Tini Howard
Art: Germán Peralta
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Bucky, Spider-Woman, Wiccan, Spectrum, and Angela breaking into a lab and stealing some secret virus and then toasting to the end of the world.
We cut to the present with the Avengers (Iron Man, Black Panther, Ghost Rider, Carol Danvers, and She-Hulk) arriving at a U.S. research facility. Some vials of a rabies-style virus were stolen from the facility. The facility was then put in automatic lockdown.
For some reason, all of the employees in the facility are rioting about the lockdown. (This makes no sense. They all work at a secret federal facility. So these are all highly trained and skilled people. They know that a lockdown is a standard operating procedure. Why would they be acting like this?)
The Avengers enter the facility and are attacked by several guards who were exposed to the virus. They take down the guards. She-Hulk then hears voices in a nearby lab. (Stupid derivative She-Hulk is soul-crushing. What a waste of a classic character.) She-Hulk busts through some walls and busts into a room where we see Bucky, Wiccan, Spider-Woman, Spectrum, and Angela standing there with the missing vials of the virus.
We cut to Avengers Mountain. The Avengers have our captured heroes in a room. The Avengers cannot believe that Spider-Woman, Spectrum, or Bucky would do something like this. (Sorry, Wiccan and Angela! The Avengers think you guys are trash!) Iron Man says that there is no evidence of mind control or shapeshifters like Skrulls.
Black Panther says that he has called in Blade since this may be dealing with the supernatural or magic. Blade told Black Panther to trust him and let him work this out.
We shift to inside the room where Bucky, Wiccan, Jessica, Monica, and Angela are being held. They wonder about why they are being held here. They then wonder if they will get some food. Bucky plays paper football with Monica. The heroes talk about how none of them remember how they got into the secret federal facility.
Blade suddenly appears on top of the table in the room. (Where the hell did he come from? Can the dude teleport like Nightcrawler now?) Blade throws four security cameras onto the table. (Wait, Blade was able to magically teleport into this room, then cut down cameras in four different locations without anyone in the room seeing him or without him being shown in any of the panels? This makes no sense.)
Blade says that he took out the security cameras so that they could talk in private. (I…still don’t understand why Blade is keeping so much secret from the Avengers. You know…his team.) Blade says that he is the only one who knows why the captured heroes are here. (And…he’s not telling the Avengers because…)
Jessica says that she has to get home to her child. (So…who exactly is taking care of her baby right now? Jessica implies that nobody is going to be able to take care of the child if she does not get home. I would think that Jessica would either want to call someone at this point. Certainly, this should be a reoccurring plotline. No mother simply just says “screw it” and stops thinking about their unattended baby.)
Blade says that he told the Avengers to stand down and stay out of the way. (Because why wouldn’t Blade want the Avengers to help? Why must it be this utterly random mishmash of characters, instead? And if the Avengers have agreed to stay out of Blade’s way and let him lead this random collection of characters of on whatever mission he has in mind then why did he have to destroy all of the cameras in the room?)
Blade opens the door to the room and then leads our collection of heroes off on their mission. Blade tells them to come with him and he will tell them what he couldn’t tell the Avengers, but he can’t tell them here. (Ummmm…okay.)
Blade then…proceeds to tell the characters what they are up to. (Wait, aren’t we still in the hallway outside of the room in Avengers Mountain? This page does not have any “Later” or “Outside of Avengers Mountain” caption at the top of it. Didn’t Blade say he couldn’t tell them this information here?)
Blade tells the team about when he was in Berlin. (We don’t know the year, but judging from Blade’s hair and outfit it must be the 1970’s. It is a rather spectacular look. I must admit that!) Blade says three vampires were attacking a woman. Blade killed two of the vampires. The woman then brutally killed the third vampire. Upon witnessing this, Blade immediately sliced the woman in half. (Because that is what you do when you see something that you don’t understand. You just kill it. Makes sense.)
The woman then transformed back to her original form. She looks like a Dark Elf from Asgard. Blade then discovered that the woman the creature was impersonating was captured and locked in a nearby garbage dumpster. (Wait…how in the hell would Blade know that this never seen before creature can only assume the shape of a person that they kidnap? And how did Blade know the girl was in a nearby dumpster?)
Blade said that ever since that day the creature’s face stuck with him. That it felt like something was still in his head and talking to him. Blade’s solution? He stopped thinking about it. (BWAHAHAHAHA!!! That is too funny.) But, recently, that voice returned and started saying the same crap to Blade. (Well, that is convenient.)
We then shift to The Temple of Three in the Rainforests of Indonesia. Blade says that the shape-shifters that they are dealing with are magical in nature and must have kidnapped our heroes and then broken into the lab, stolen the samples, and then left our heroes there to take the fall.
Blade says that after he killed the shapeshifter in Berlin that he took a sample and had Tony Stark and T’Challa make him a gadget to track its “spore things.” (Wait, I’m lost. Blade took a sample of the magical shape-shifter in the 1970s and kept it for decades before just recently giving it to Iron Man and Black Panther for them to make a gadget for him? That seems unlikely.)
Blade says that the Avengers do not know that the gadget is related to the shape-shifters. And it is imperative to keep it that way. (What did Tony and T’Challa think they were building? A garage door opener? How does a person create a gadget without knowing the purpose and use of the gadget?) Suddenly, Doctor Doom attacks our heroes. Angela easily takes Doom down with one swing of the sword. It is revealed that Doom was just another magical shapeshifter. Jessica comments about how she hates shape-shifters. (Ha! Great call back to Jessica being kidnapped by the Skrulls during Secret Invasion.)
Angela looks at the tissue from the shape-shifter and says that these creatures are from Svartalfheim (The land of the Dark Elves.) That the creatures are called Vridai: The Twisting Fae of Svartalfheim. Angela says that the Temple of Three was a bridge of the Black Bifrost. Angela says that Vridai can only change into the form of a person that they have captured. Blade says that this means the Vridai must have Doom captured.
Blade and Angela enter into the temple without the rest of our team. Blade and Angela are attacked by a bunch of Vridai. Suddenly, Bucky, Jessica, Monica, and Wiccan enter the scene and join the fight. Our heroes beat up the Vridai. Blade then yells at the heroes, “No more splitting up!” (Wait! It was Blade’s idea for him and Angela to go off into the temple on their own! Why is he yelling at the others to not do what he just did? Hypocrite.)
Our heroes come across Count Ophidian, the King of the Vridai. Blade immediately leaps to chop Count Ophidian in half with his sword. Suddenly, a red force field appears around Count Ophidian and Blade bounces off the energy sphere.
Suddenly, Damon Hellstrom appears on the scene. The other heroes combine their powers to try and break through the red force field protecting Count Ophidian. Angela tells Wiccan to stop trying to use his reality-warping powers against magic. That it could backfire on him. (Yes. Evidently, Blade thought that bringing the guy whose powers are totally useless against magic would be perfect for this mission. Brilliant.)
Hellstrom takes down several of our heroes. Suddenly, Blade gets up and stabs Hellstrom in the chest. Exactly at that moment, Blade gets a cellphone call from Satana. Satana says that her brother, Hellstrom, just showed up and she didn’t know who else to call. (Really? Really? This is the type of ridiculously convenient writing that we are going to get? And of all people, Satana calls Blade? Not Doctor Strange. Blade. A character that she has zero past connection with. Okay.) Satana says that Hellstrom is acting weird. End of issue.
The Good: Strikeforce #1 was a rather uninspired read. Tini Howard serves up a luke-warm bowl of oatmeal with this issue. Having said that, there were moments that were entertaining. Strikeforce #1 certainly was not a bad read. It just was not a good read, either.
Another enjoyable aspect of Strikeforce #1 is the amount of action that Howard delivers in this debut issue. To be sure, if you like action then Howard serves up enough action to keep you happy.
Strikeforce #1 is also well-plotted and paced. Howard has a clear direction in mind with this issue. Now, you can argue about the quality of the writing, the depth of the story, and the creativity of the story, but from a technical standpoint, Strikeforce #1 is well-plotted and paced.
Howard quickly assembles the entire roster, she introduces the main villain for the opening story arc, she places our heroes in peril and then ends the issue with a hook ending designed to get the reader to come back for more. That is simply really good plotting from start to finish.
The pacing in Strikeforce #1 is also great. Howard never meanders about in this issue. Howard keeps focus and drives the story forward at a crisp pace. There are no moments where the story slows down. Howard always makes sure that the reader never goes too long without getting some action or something lively happening in the story.
Howard kicks Strikeforce #1 off with a six-page scene at the federal facility that delivers plenty of action. This opening scene is definitely a lively start to this new title. Howard is able to smack the reader in the face with some quality action, deliver some good intensity in the story, and then quickly assemble the entire roster for Strikeforce. That is not a bad way to start a new title!
I am so thankful that Howard wasted no time at all assembling the entire roster for Strikeforce. It drives me insane when writers dither about and take an entire three to four-issue story arc to finally assemble the complete roster of a team. There is just no reason for that. I love that Howard does not bullshit around and gets our entire roster together from the start. This allows Howard to quickly install her main plotline and get the story moving quickly and with a clear direction in mind.
The only characters on this roster at this point in the issue that really appeal to me are Bucky and Spider-Woman. I have been a massive Winter Soldier fan ever since Ed Brubaker brought this character back from the dead. If Bucky is on a title then I am going to buy it. I like his character that much. Bucky really does not do anything in this issue at all, but the little that we get from him was enjoyable. I will never complain about seeing the Winter Soldier delivering headshot after headshot on a bunch of evil magical creatures.
I am also happy to see Spider-Woman back in another monthly title. Jessica Drew is such a fantastic character. Sure, I would rather see Jessica on a more high profile team than Strikeforce. But, beggars can’t be choosy. At any rate, hopefully, Jessica will get her chance to shine on this title.
The use of the Avengers in the beginning of Strikeforce #1 was smart. Howard uses an iconic franchise in the Avengers to help lend some credibility to the roster that constitutes Strikeforce. Again, this is just smart plotting and storytelling. It is a good way to get readers to view the characters that comprise Strikeforce’s roster as important.
The three-page scene with our heroes being held in the room in Avengers Mountain was Howard trying to give the reader a sense of the different personalities of the various characters. This was also Howard trying to show that none of these characters know each other and have been randomly brought together by some unknown occurrence. Again, the quality of the writing can be debated, but this is a smart plotting decision by Howard.
The two-page scene with Blade in Berlin is pretty funny. I loved Blade’s funkadelic 1970’s look. More importantly, this scene is more proof of how Howard never makes the reader go too long without some action in this issue. This scene is also proof of Howard quickly installing the main plotline involving the Vridai. Again, this is good story construction.
The nine-page final scene in the temple was another action-packed scene with plenty of fighting. Howard also officially unveils the main villain for this opening story arc. Then Howard wraps up Strikeforce #1 with a hook ending in the form of Hellstrom’s “death.” Again, this is straight forward plotting and story construction.
Hellstrom and Satana are both wonderful 1970’s Marvel horror characters. Marvel did such a great job creating some really cool horror characters back in the 1970s. Hellstrom was created by the iconic Roy Thomas and legendary Gary Friedrich and first appeared in Ghost Rider #1 in 1973. I have always loved Hellstrom’s character ever since his time with the Defenders. I must say that I do hate Hellstrom’s bald look in Strikeforce #1. Give the Son of Satan his glorious ginger hair back!
I am glad that Marvel is trying to get Hellstrom back into a comic book, once again. Yeah, I am sure this is only being done because Disney is rolling out a new Hellstrom show on Hulu. Whatever. I am just glad that Hellstrom is back in a monthly comic book. Hellstrom has plenty of potential and, hopefully, Howard can realize that potential in Strikeforce.
Satana was created by the iconic creative team of Roy Thomas and John Romita, Sr. and first appeared in Vampire Tales #2 in 1973. Satana is such a classic 1970s horror character. I just love her. Though, I will admit that I much prefer her in her classic look rather than this current look with the stupid goat horns on her head. That just looks dumb. At any rate, it is great to see a fantastic character like Satana getting some panel time in a Marvel comic. This is a great use of a D-list character that has tons of potential.
The Bad: Unfortunately, despite the positives of this issue, the fact remains that Strikeforce #1 is a pedestrian read. The debut issue of a new title has several goals that it must attain. First, the writer must tell the reader why they need to add yet another title to their pull list. The writer must do something to make their new title stand out among all of the other mainstream superhero comic books that are flooding the market. The writer must show the reader that this new title is something special and unique and worth adding to their pull list.
Second, the writer must let the reader know exactly what they can expect with this new title. The writer needs to convey the mission statement of the new title. The reader has to be clearly told that the new title is going to be an action-packed street-based story. Or perhaps the new title is going to be a high concept Science Fiction story. Whatever the new title is going to be that identity must be clearly conveyed to the reader.
Howard fails to deliver on these two critical goals. The fact is that Howard does not give any reason for the reader to come back for more. Howard never manages to make Strikeforce #1 anything unique or original that would allow it to stand out among all of the other mainstream superhero comic currently on the market.
Strikeforce #1 is a shallow read. There is absolutely nothing under the surface to this story. Howard delivers a thin story that lacks any true substance that would make the story an immersive read. Howard definitely never engages in any type of quality world-building in Strikeforce #1. The reader never gets treated to a well constructed or fleshed out setting for this new title. The result is that the reader never gets pulled into the story.
Howard also only installs a single solitary plotline: Count Ophidian is attacking our heroes and Hellstrom is one of Ophidian’s pawns. That is it. It is imperative that a writer install the main immediate plotline and then install some seeds for future main plot lines and also install a few minor plot-lines in the first issue. It does not need to be much panel time in order to plant these seeds. Just a few panels are necessary. This conveys to the reader that the writer has a story in mind for the opening story arc, but also has some long-range concepts in mind for the next few story arcs, and also has some smaller minor plot lines running through the major plot lines to create more story depth.
Strikeforce #1 also lacks internal logic at certain moments. Howard also glosses over or ignores certain plot points in order to move the story in the direction that she wants. Strikeforce #1 suffers from way too many conveniences. Howard uses these conveniences in place of logic and strong writing in order to move the story forward.
There are moments in the issue where the story unfolds in a manner that is so contrived or illogical that it rips the reader out of the story. This is a serious flaw that prevents the reader from ever truly connecting to any of the characters or the story itself. Howard asks the reader to simply shut off their brain far too much and far too often in order for this story to work and make sense.
Howard also struggles with the character work and the dialogue in this issue. All of the characters, with the exception of Blade, are all rather bland and generic characters. The external voices for all of the characters are equally generic. There is zero chemistry between the characters on this roster.
Blade, on the other hand, does have a personality. Unfortunately, that personality is one of a total caricature. At no point does Blade come across like a real person or a fleshed-out character. Blade is nothing more than a cartoonish caricature that is hard to take seriously.
On top of this, Howard also presents the reader with a dull main villain for this opening story arc. Count Ophidian is a painfully generic villain. The reader has seen this exact type of villain in numerous other comic books. Count Ophidian never comes across as a unique character with an interesting personality. Instead, the reader views Count Ophidian as a cut-and-paste standard-issue style villain that you see in any type of fantasy-based story.
The entire story in Strikeforce #1 lacks any creativity or originality. It feels like Howard is on auto-pilot while writing this story. Strikeforce #1 is such a generic issue that it completely fails to distinguish itself from all of the other mainstream superhero titles on the market. And that is fatal for the debut issue of a new title.
Howard also never clearly tells the reader in the story what kind of comic book Strikeforce is going to be going forward. Is this a superhero team? Is this a fantasy-based title? Is this a street-level title? Is this a horror comic? Is this a gritty action title? Your guess is as good as mine. Howard seems to jumble a little bit of everything into Strikeforce #1. The result is a comic that lacks a clear identity. A lack of a clear identity is another fatal defect for a new title.
The roster for Strikeforce #1 also seems like a mess. There appears to be no thought or logic put behind this roster of characters. None of these characters have any connection with each other. None of these characters even share a similar genre. This roster seems like a random mix-mash of characters for no apparent reason. Howard never conveys to the reader why these completely unconnected characters would ever be operating together in this fashion. Howard never convinces the reader that it makes sense for all of these characters to be operating together as a team.
Angela is a fantasy genre character. Bucky is a spy/espionage/war genre character. Spider-Woman is a spy/espionage/superhero genre character. Wiccan and Spectrum are both superhero genre characters. Blade and Hellstrom are both horror genre characters. The fact that Strikeforce #1 does not have a clear identity is compounded by the fact that none of these characters mesh together into a coherent team concept.
If this is going to be a magical/fantasy title then Wiccan serves no purpose on this roster. It has already been pointed out that him using his powers on anything magic can lead to him being harmed. Bucky would also serve no purpose on a magical/fantasy title. Spider-Woman and Spectrum would also be odd choices for a magical/fantasy title. And, if this is a horror title then it makes zero sense for Angela, Bucky, Spider-Woman, Wiccan, or Spectrum to be on this team.
Strikeforce #1 also suffered from unimpressive artwork. Germán Peralta is not bad but it is not good, either. The art is average at best and a bit generic at worst. Peralta’s backgrounds lack detail. Peralta also does not inject much emotion into the story, either.
Overall: Strikeforce #1 is very underwhelming. The quality of writing was not at the level that I expect from a mainstream superhero comic book. This title fails to state a compelling reason why readers should add it to their pull lists. I would only recommend Strikeforce #1 to readers who are massive fans of Tini Howard or to readers who just love all things Blade. For everyone else? Pass on Strikeforce #1. There are simply way too many mainstream superhero comics currently on the market that offer a far better value for your money.
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