As this was the first Serect Wars book I had access to (i.e. my friend bought it, so I didn’t have to blow $4 of my own money on a 21-page comic book.), I figured I should read and maybe write about it here, on the Internet, which I am now doing.
So, the Secret Wars tie-ins are apparently really beginning en medias res, huh? This book opens with a first page of six, small, tight, horizontal panels, and then a two-page splash page(s) filling up the second and third pages.
In the first, the narrator–presumably She-Hulk, as she's standing front and center and filling the most space on the crowded cover–talks in poetic language about an island, while we see see a half-dozen rapid fire images of seven female superheroes and some civilians (Is that Luke Cage in panel three? Or is it racist of me to assume every huge, super-cut bald black guy pushing a stroller with a baby in it and standing next to a white lady with dark hair is Luke Cage?). The narrationboxes are green instead of standard yellow or white; another good indication that it's She-Hulk (who is, remember, green).
On the splash, we see roller skate-era Dazzler, X-Person Pixie, Runaway Nico Minoru, Ms. America (America Chavez version) and Captain Marvel Carol Danvers flying over a big, beautiful, vaguely Mediterranean-looking island nation: "Welcome to Arcadia," a little green box says, followed immediately by another that add "It's pretty tight."
No sooner had I begun to question whether or not Miss America and Dazzler could fly and how Nico Minoru could without using The Staff of One (and why she'd waste a flight spell on patrolling) when the title page interrupts, explaining this much at least about Secret Wars:
As for the plot, there's not much to it for a first issue, and the bigger, more obvious questions go unanswered–Why is it called Arcadia? Why is the team called A-Force? Why is A-Force composed entirely of female characters, particularly if there are at least a few super-dudes in town?
During a routine, morning patrol, a gigantic monster shark with spikes on its face that we're told is a Megaladon attacks America, the patrolling super-people kicks its ass and, after it's down, Ms. America picks it up and throws it...out of the bowl...that the ocean is in...maybe?
And there's a ghost in the background...I think....?
As throwing monster sharks out of the borders of a place is against the laws of Doom, America is to be arrested by the Thor version of The Falcon (sadly not Accompanied by Redwing in a little viking helmet), and she's to suffer some terrible punishment that readers won't know enough about to guess the exact nature of.
Female Loki and Medusa are kind of catty about She-Hulk being unable to stop this from happening, and Nico, who is apparently super-tight with America in this new setting with what I assume must be a new, jumbled continuity (She doesn't need her staff ever for anything, apparently!). She-Hulk turns to help from Namorita, Namora and Namor, as apparently Megaladon don't naturally occur in the ocean bowl outside of Arcadia, and when the three sea-going superheroes investigate, they find something that we'll have to wait until next issue to find out about .
Namorita, I should note, has a seashell over one breast, not both breasts, as Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker. Man, it's weird Jill Lepore wrote about A-Force in The New Yorker and discussed Namorita's breasts. It's weirder still that she messed up that part, as it's not like she was dealing with very big or complicated numbers. Namorita only has two breasts; we're dealing with numbers between one and two here.
I still can't wrap my head around that article's existence. Why did Marvel give Lepore a copy of this book, instead of Secret Wars, or any of their billion Avengers titles? Why did Lepore decide to write about this in relation to Avengers: Age of Ultron, as if this book were somehow the most representative of Marvel comics? So weird.
The book is written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett, and drawn by Jorge Molina, who both pencils and inks (with Craig Yeung helping out on inks and two colorists needed for the 21 pages, for some reason).
It's not very good, but it's not bad either; it's well-crafted, What If..?-style continuity gobbledygook. Characters are introduced, characters that have the names and appearances of some fairly familiar if minor Marvel characters but are essentially brand-new, based on their characterization and their relationships. A few conflicts are introduced, ones that will likely be explored during the remainder of the series, with the way in which the book ties into Secret Wars proper becoming more clear as it goes on.
The artwork is fine, but unspectacular; Molina's work is almost perfectly clear and well-executed, in a style that doesn't distract form the story, with the only real confusing bit occurring during what was unfortunately a rather key moment (the bit with the border violation). I don't like the way he draws Megaladons, but I guess I've never seen one in person, so I really can't claim he's drawn it wrong.
All in all, it's a perfectly acceptable, laughably over-priced, mediocre comic book from Marvel. Thinking back on Lepore's attacks on it and Wilson's defense of the book, it's hard to understand what either of them got worked up about, as it reads like nothing more than paycheck comics-writing devoted to 1/75th of a line-wide event series of the sort Marvel publishes on the regular.
I just went back and re-read Lepore's article, having now read the comic book she devoted so much New Yorker ink to. This is the second-to-last paragraph:
There’s an underwater superhero in the A-Force, but we couldn’t figure out her name. All I remember is: she wore a seashell on each breast.Here's the panel in which "the underwater superhero" is introduced:
I could understand Lepore not knowing which of the three characters belongs to which of the three names, but even without the benefit of knowing who any of them are or Googling 'em, she and her 10-year-old co-writers should at least be able to narrow the name down to one of three likely possibilities, right?
I just saw a link to this today, proving that The New Yorker isn't the only completely idiotic print media institution to publish bizarrely out-of-touch stories about superhero comics as if their staff and their audiences haven't heard anything about them since the Kennedy administration. George Gene Gustines' "Fashion & Style" page article "Sorry, Batman: Dick Grayson Outgrows the Robin Costume" lets NYT readers know that Dick Grayson is all grown-up and no longer Robin, thus catching them up to the year 1984 in the character's development.
Maybe in another five years, GGG and the NYT can write a story about how Jason Todd was murdered by The Joker ("Holy Murder, Batman! Comics Aren't Just For Kids Anymore!") or that Batgirl was shot and paralyzed by The Joker.