A-Force #1 review

It's impossible to ignore the huge publicity this comic has generated for Marvel - I'm not sure why the pre-issue furore, it's not like this is the first comic featuring an all-woman team. It's not even the first from Marvel, with X-Men and Defenders series being the most recent. 

It is, I suppose, the first tying in with a massive event, in this case Secret Wars. Given that the first two issues of that series frustrated, then bored, me, I'd have given this a miss were it not for the co-writing presence of G Willow Wilson, whose Ms Marvel book has been a bright, smart delight over the past year or so. 
The story opens in an idyllic realm which, for reasons not given, is run by the Women of Marvel who, for reasons not given, refer to themselves as A-Force. Sure, Namor is on call, but every active hero based on the island of Arcadia is a heroine. When men appear, they're unwelcome, invasive presences - Dr Strange, here in the role of Dr Doom's lackey; a squad of Thors as Victor's enforcers. They intrude when an apparently straightforward mission - mash the megalodon - goes awry, and Miss America Chavez (here Ms America, which is less charming) faces exile. Especially upset are realm ruler Baroness She-Hulk and America's closest friends Loki (back in womanly form) and Nico of the Runaways. The latter goes off for a wee weep and discovers someone new...

This is enjoyable, in a 'What If Marvel Had a Legion of Super-Heroines' way. It was fun character-spotting, though frustrating that so many favourites have so little to do. Plus, the characters in this comic literally don't know their own minds: She Hulk is Jen Walters, Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel, and so on ... but not really. They're shells of the people we know, pawns of Doom. Logic says that as the mini-series progresses they'll regain their personalities, their spirit, and Doom and co had better watch out. For now, it's a matter of enjoying the show, wondering about the mystery of who tossed a megalodon in the works and waiting for a proper Marvel Universe version of A-Force to emerge once we're free of Secret Wars. Because I'm itching to see the likes of Dazzler, Medusa and the rest interact freed from the neutered personalities they've been left with by Doom. 

Wilson is co-writing with Marguerite Bennett, and their individual voices gel nicely in this well-plotted debut issue. The friendship between Loki, Nico and America convinces, and the presentation of Battleworld is less dry than under event-runner Jonathan Hickman. 
Plus, Bennett and Wilson are extremely well served by penciller Jorge Molina, who's extremely capable of giving us properly differentiated women - if Marvel had stuck a 'one-face' artist on A-Force the book would be a disaster. But Molina draws great people - pretty people, but not zoftig ones. He's also excellent at capturing emotions, and does a mean megalodon. Very mean. Some of the pages he inks himself, some are finished by Craig Yeung, all look great. Colour artists Laura Martin and Matt Milla give us a wonderfully coloured world, but not a candy-coloured land fit only for magical ponies. And Cory Petit does a nifty job with the letters. 

Throw in a rather glorious cover of all the ladies and you have, ironically, a very nice package.