A-Force 1

Reviewed by 01-Jun-15

Sisters…. ain’t quite doing it for themselves…

A-Force (2015-) 001-000SYMPHONY IN BEIGE

This series, set in one of the microcosms of Battleworld, the sole surviving realm after the destruction of the entire Marvel Universe (don’t ask me, it must have happened on my day off), should have been right up my alley.

An all-female team of superheroic protectors, co-written by G. Willow Wilson, who has been doing such a stunning job of making the current Ms. Marvel a funny and thrilling family dramedy that transcends its clickbait description of “Muslim-American teen girl angst”.

It was trailered as having She-Hulk front and centre, and co-starring many heroines who have become favourites of mine.
So yeah, when I heard of it, I thought, “Yes, please; sign me right up”.

Then I read it, top of my heap of comics that week. And, uncannily, by the time I had reached the bottom of the heap, I remembered literally nothing about it that I hadn’t already gathered from the pre-release publicity. It was so unmemorable that it just evaded my neurons’ grasp.

So I read it again. And by the third reading, the odd thing did begin to stick, just by sheer determination and repetition.

Battleworld is, it appears, a kind of mosaic of fragments of different Earth parallels. Arcadia is one such fragment, an island paradise guarded by the A-Force, an all-female (with one exception)  battalion of adventurers, under the leadership of She-Hulk who doubles as the Baroness of Arcadia. She is answerable to Doom, who appears to be the lord of this particular realm, and conducts her team’s business under his strict supervision, with rigidly defined punishments for infractions,  the most dreaded of which is exile to the Shield, the defence which protects Arcadia from the rest of Battleworld.

Do all the women have to have the same body type and sashay in exactly the same pose? This is a superhero comic, not RuPaul’s Drag Race. And hey, what’s Namor doing as the rooster in the henhouse?

This first issue is mostly devoted to exposition, introducing the cast and situation, with the obligatory bickering and byplay and an obligatory touch of melodrama as one of the team is despatched to the Shield after defying Doom’s law.

Jorge Molina’s artwork continues the blanderisation. It’s perfectly competent, fadedly pretty, but middle-of-the-road, lots of tiny panels, no intense emotion (except in scenes involving the Runaways’ Nico Minoru, where for half a second you almost give a crap) , no extreme layouts. It’s homogenous and subdued. Beige in spirit, if not in spectrum.

But this situation, this combination of characters, doesn’t ring true. How is it that all of these women, with their different backgrounds (Asgardian, Inhuman, Atlantean, mutant, sorceress, gamma-irradiated powerhouse) have ended up on  this one island? Alternatively, if some bizarre concatenation of circumstance made all these heroines originate in Arcadia, why do they look so familiar – wouldn’t different origins and histories from the women we know have caused at least some variation?

What’s with the ‘Femme Force’ schtik anyway? There’s Spider-Woman, but no Spider-Man; She-Hulk, but no He-Hulk; Arcadia isn’t a ‘wimminonly space’, men are very visible as citizens, so are they disbarred from adventuring, or simply disinclined?

A-Force (2015-) 001-001

Isn’t that Luke Cage and family in the middle panel? Why’s he, and all the other men, content to let the wimmenfolk do the fightin’?

And how come Sub-Mariner gets to be an ‘Honorary Girl’, in that he, alone, retains his heroic persona?

And why are they all so effing passive? This version of She-Hulk practically rolls over to have her tummy tickled when Doom makes his pronouncements! They have the appearance and abilities, but none of the backbone, that we’re accustomed to. Even America Chavez, one of my favourite characters of recent years, comes over as petulant rather than fiery. They’re all pale pastel imitators.

Doubtless at least some of these questions have been raised deliberately, in the hope of intriguing the reader and hooking them into the mystery, to keep them coming back for more. But in the case of this reader, I’m sorry, it just irritates and disappoints.

In summary, this title, which from its description would seem to have been almost tailor-made for me, turns out to be so, so much less than the sum of its parts.

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