Twice last week, Marvel surprised me. Perhaps they’re now making a concentrated effort to get out of the self-destructive, obsessively grim ‘n gritty cloud that they’ve been desperately living under in recent years, but, much like Strange, S.W.O.R.D. #1 is a surprisingly light-hearted adventure with a solid creative team, a cartoonish tone and a strong sense of the bizarre. Following the adventures of Abigail Brand as she juggles new obstacles from Osborn with hectic space adventures, writer Kieron Gillen quickly introduces readers to the important cast-members, making each distinct and lively without stealing too many pages from the narrative itself.
Steven Sanders’ energetic art is well-matched by Gillen as he draws a bizarre assortment of alien entities with verve, if not with a particularly memorable sense of design aesthetics. The pair introduce a large cast, but they do so entertainingly. Like Strange, the book is not without its flaws, but, like Strange, it is nonetheless an engaging, fun read that offers a reminder of just how expansive, and how weird, the Marvel Universe can be.
The Shield #3
Trautmann’s opening issue of The Shield impressed me. It seemed like it might be a fitting successor to the action-espionage tradition that DC lost when they cancelled Checkmate (or rather, when they gave Checkmate to Bruce Jones) and Marvel lost when they put the two least subtle human beings on the planet, Bendis and Millar, in charge of their world-building. But while Trautmann is hardly a novice at comics anymore, The Shield #3 displayed what looks like a surprising lack of confidence, despite still-excellent characterization and a good use of the arc’s guest star, Magog.
The back-up feature remains relatively forgettable, which was less of an issue when the main story seemed so promising. Jerwa and Scott are hardly turning in bad work, but it doesn’t particularly fit, tonally or thematically, with the book to which their back-up is attached, a bad sign for the book’s consistency (and sales). With one arc completed in the main feature, the book’s grace period is over.
- Cal Cleary