Review: A-Force #1 (Or: A Lament On The Current State of Comic Books)

Ah, Secret Wars... Marvel's latest "Earth-Shattering Event" has certainly kicked off with much fanfare. One of the benefits of Secret Wars is that it's paving the way for a number of new series allowing an array of talented writers and artists to go in directions that were previously unheard of. Here we have A-Force written by Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson with pencils by Jorge MolinaA-Force features a line up of recognizable super heroines tasked with protecting the island of Arcadia.

Does any of this make sense? Good, then you're just as lost as me.

 Let me just start with saying that I love the concept. A-Force has a strong cast of interesting women with many characters that haven't been given the chance to shine because they've taken a back seat to the men, or just outright ignored. The series stars a few high-profile heroines like She-Hulk (acting as the Baroness of Arcadia) and Captain Marvel, but also manages to give some face time to lesser knowns, like Sister Grimm from Runaways and Young Avengers' Ms. America.

The premiere issue focuses on Ms. America's impetuousness and gives readers a taste of the rules and laws of the domains of Battleworld. When Ms. America breaks one of the immutable laws, she is banished from Arcadia despite She-Hulks protests. It's a simple enough premise for a 22-page story and works well to introduce readers to the layout of the universe. That doesn't make it easy to follow for casual comic readers.

The problem A-Force faces is not the same as most new series, being mired in continuity that new readers have a hard time to keep up. In actuality, the problem is that it's mired in an all new continuity, making it difficult for long time readers to keep up. Well, I shouldn't say "long time" as I have a feeling those that have been following the latest Secret Wars titles would be able to understand the back-story of A-Force. Even new readers who make this their first title would be able to keep up, their lack of comic history being to their benefit. But fans like me who have had to pare down their comic reading in recent years due to financial restrictions would have a hard time with this new direction, mostly because it features familiar characters in very different incarnations.

Take, for example, the two male characters that show up in A-Force. The first is Falcon. But not my Falcon. This one is imbued with the power of Thor, looking more like a Hawkman knock-off that the new Captain America. Then there's Doctor Strange, who appears as an emissary for Doctor Doom, the overlord of Battleworld, who imposes the ruler's laws on the island of Arcadia and its inhabitants. These are two characters that I know fairly well, but I spent way too much time wondering what the fuck was happening that it impeded my appreciation of the book.

I assume that these are versions of characters that I'm familiar with from a different continuity. So...how much effort do I need to put into Secret Wars for this to make sense? Will all of this be explained in A-Force or do I need to follow multiple series? Which ones? Do I have to abandon my dreams of retirement in order to give Marvel every last penny I've earned just to have my questions answered? Who the fuck knows?

But do I hold the writers responsible for this? Nope. I'm well aware that all of this is because of Secret Wars, in which Marvel takes multiple lines of continuity, from the regular line up of books that he been in print since 1962, to the Ultimate Universe that has been around since 2000, to the animated X-Men series from the early 90s, crumpled them all up together to create one massive new world for fans. Criticized for being a reboot, Marvel is calling this stunt a "reset", but I don't see much difference. They're taking decades of continuity and sending it on its head to see what sticks.

I...probably sound bitter over the move. I'm not. It's a hell of a bold move on Marvel's part to condense their different continuities into one easy-to-follow bundle. It's just kind of a shame that it came three years following DC Comics' same initiative, "The New 52".

Unfortunately, there isn't much else to say about the first issue of A-Force. While I like the few characters Bennett and Wilson have chosen for the line up, the action was rushed. The entire issue felt like a very tiny cog in an over-large machine. Sure, it may be integral to the way the Secret Wars universe works, but that's not obvious from this. I'm definitely interested in seeing how the events play out, as well as the additional characterization we're destined to get but for now, this just boils down to another tie-in. With that said, I will continue to pick up A-Force just to see where the story goes (and hopefully have some light shed on this whole "Falcon" thing).
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