THIS REVIEW OF ‘STRIKEFORCE’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Earth’s Sketchiest Heroes? That’s the inference at least in Strikeforce #1. Not reformed villains embarking on a story of redemption. Not anti-heroes. Not an entirely Savage, All-Different, Uncanny, Young, Mighty, Dark, Secret, Unplugged, New or Ultimate team of Marvel heroes. Rather, heroes of “questionable moral fiber”. You know. Those not afraid to, using a quote from the book, “steal, lie, cheat and backstab” to achieve their goals on behalf of the greater good.
The high road isn’t their everyday thoroughfare, and that’s alright. That avenue is already clogged with those Worthy, Noble, and Using Great Power (Responsibly). In the battle against the malicious and nefarious forces bent on humanity’s demise, not all battles are waged on the front line. Not all are stealthy covert ops, either. Sometimes, soldiers and non-comms far from the limelight and using their own initiative, ingenuity, and skullduggery deliver the win.
That’s the sort of assemblage Tini Howard gathers for this new series, and it’s not stale. It has variety in power levels, talents, and age. We know all these heroes; we just don’t see them utilized often enough. Blade, in charge and as cool as ever. Maybe cooler. Spectrum, a personal favorite and a with a nigh-cosmic power set not to be underestimated. Daimon Hellstrom, infernal abilities a specialty. The Winter Soldier, beaten down by forces beyond his control but never bested. The original Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew. Young sorcerer Wiccan, a shaper of realities and the arcane. Angela of Asgard (by way of Heaven) who claims bounties and wields the power of a goddess born.
The appearance of the current Avengers is part of Howard’s storyline, and it smoothly establishes the disparity between the two groups. After an incursion, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are requested by the military to a base where virulent pathogens are stored. They find the culprits, namely five of our future Strikeforce members, who remember nothing of how they went shopping for plague-makings. Evidence suggests mystical subterfuge, and T’Challa consults with Blade to unravel the mystery.
Which the vampire hunter does but insists he and the detainees be allowed to act alone and without explanation. The threat is from an unseelie set, doppelgängers who infect the mind and psyche if they become known. The truth, in their case, will set you in a soul-forged stalag. As Blade and his teammates have already felt their influence and been exposed, they are the best choices to confront the Dark Ones with subterfuge. Daimon Hellstrom, also aware of the doppelgängers, eventually joins the festivities.
Howard’s writing is taut, her humor scalpel-sharp, and her plotting adroit. She revels in the not-shininess of her protagonists and asks only that we trust her, the bard, as she sings songs of their down-and-dirty deeds. There are great pearls of dialogue along this fast-paced, ensemble introduction and Howard seals the bargain. Those unfamiliar with the central members of the team may feel a bit tossed into the mix, but Howard gives enough individual detail within the story. Nifty ‘know your Strikeforcers’ bio card entries also enlighten. This is a book good enough to compel character back issue searches, or Wiki entry track downs, or both.
Germán Peralta brings a clean yet very lived-in aesthetic with his artwork. His carnage, and there’s quite a fount of bullet wounds and cleaving in twain to be had, is stylized so that it never goes ghoulish. His vision of these dark forces grants them a Fae seeming not shared by other shapeshifting entities. Unique opponents for a solitary set of champions.
The palette of uniform colors alone in this premiere issue could distract. Maybe result in subconjunctival hemorrhage. But not when handled by Jordie Bellaire. She defines but doesn’t allow too much dazzle, and her approach fits the story like tailor-made finery.
The story is rich with dialogue originating from many sources. Joe Sabino’s lettering keeps it rolling smoothly and understandably. His sound effects, everything from She-Hulk rampaging to vampire shish-kebabbing to metaphysical feedback, comes in an amazing assortment of fonts and hues. While Bellaire balances the colorization to prevent garishness, Sabino’s wordplay bestows all the dazzle the narrative needs.
Strikeforce #1 reads the way some chip flavor variations taste. Just when you think you’ve heard all the bizarre combos possible, when trying so many has led you to a state of chip burnout, here’s another. One that sounds like the company’s stretching. “Chips with ranch and guac? And dill!? And toasted cheese?!!” Then food additive geniuses capture a right mix, unlikely elements which gel into something yummier than you thought possible. Tini Howard and crew are the taste engineers, and they’ve brought together an exceptional mix that packs a tangy zing. It’s familiar, but with a pleasing difference.
Marvel / $3.99
Written by Tini Howard.
Art by Germán Peralta.
Colors by Jordie Bellaire.
Letters by VC’s Joe Sabino.
8 out of 10
Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Strikeforce’ #1, including a variant cover by Mike Deodato Jr., courtesy of Marvel!