- Writers: Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson
- Penciler: Jorge Molina
- Inkers: Jorge Molina and Craig Yeung
- Colorists: Laura Martin and Matt Milla
- Letterer: Cory Petit
- Publisher: Marvel Comics
- Release Date: 5/20/15
Secret Wars is upon us, and the world just isn’t what it used to be. Marvel Comics is Battleworld now, a wild smattering of different mini series tie-ins to the main Secret Wars title. One of the most hyped Battleworld comics is A-Force, hailed as the first ever all-female Avengers. And while this comic definitely stars all women, there are more than a few stipulations in place. Under no circumstances would I call this an ‘Avengers’ comic.
A-Force is a Battleworld comic, nothing more, and nothing less. It’s a pretty straight-forward tie-in to Secret Wars, operating within the rules of this Big Event. That the comic stars all women is great, but it only stars all women because they live in a Battleworld district where women are in charge. There’s also a Battleworld district where everybody is zombies, and a Battleworld district where the X-Men from the 1990s cartoon series are in charge.
But I’m not here to review A-Force‘s place on the frontlines of diversity in comics. I’m here to review it as a comic, and to that extent, it’s pretty good. It’s a solid adventure with some strong character moments, but it is really, really hampered by its Secret Wars gimmick. Based on this issue, I would say that if Bennett, Wilson and Molina were given a real all-female Avengers comic, with real stakes and real characters, it would probably be amazing.
But just like when Marvel ranked Spider-Verse as more important than their new Spider-Woman series, so too have they sacrificed a potentially amazing comic in the name of promoting their big crossover event.
The basic premise of Secret Wars is that the world has been recreated as a big patchwork continent, where each district is built out of a classic Marvel storyline, and all of it is ruled by the god-king Doom. The districts are all supposed to keep to themselves, and the concepts don’t have to follow any particular rules, so there are probably plenty of repeat characters and themes across multiple districts. A-Force takes place on the island of Arcadia, a beautiful, luscious city-state with a friendly, happy populace. She-Hulk is the baron in charge of this district, and the island is protected by A-Force, a team of superheroes who go around patrolling and keeping the peace.
A-Force #1 sees the heroes battling a giant shark monster that has invaded their waters. And when one of their own hurls the monster into another district, she’s banished from Arcadia for breaking Doom’s trespassing laws. The remaining heroes have to deal with the fallout of losing one of their own.
On its surface, this is a fun comic. Molina’s art is beyond amazing. It’s colorful, action packed and exactly what I want from a comic book. The characters are unique and expressive, and the world of Arcadia looks gorgeous. The characters are also pretty solid. Everyone is on point, their fight is pretty fantastic, and even though we’ve just met all of them, their sorrowful reactions to losing one of their own hit home. Bennett and Wilson are great writers, and they take this concept and deliver a solid, emotional story.
But A-Force doesn’t live up to its potential because it’s stuck in Battleworld. There’s just something artificial about this whole comic that keeps it from truly being something special. One big problem is that the team lacks any sense of unity. You’ve got disco-era Dazzler alongside modern-era Captain Marvel alongside classic costume Spider-Woman alongside female Loki. It’s like someone has created a superhero team out of their action figures, but instead of buying all their figures from a single set, they’re forced to just gather together all the random figures they have from different toylines.
No effort is really made to unite these woman into a cohesive team or alter them to better fit the context of Arcadia or Battleworld. They don’t have any sort of A-Force uniform and none of the characters is designed around the fact that they, presumably, grew up on Arcadia. Ms. America is still decked out in red, white and blue, and all of the X-Men characters still have X’s on their uniforms. This series really is a case of just cramming these characters together with no rhyme or reason beyond ‘female Marvel character’.
A-Force could have been something really special had it been allowed to really exist on its own terms. The writers do a great job with what they’re given, telling an exciting, emotional story with relatively brand new characters. And artist Jorge Molina and his team bring it to life with exciting detail. But A-Force and it’s all-female superhero team are just a gimmick in the larger Secret Wars universe. To call this the ‘first ever all-female Avengers team’ is a disservice to that very idea. Someday there should be an all-female Avengers team, or an Avengers team that’s majority female, or an Avengers team with an equal split of members. But if you’re going to do it, do it in a way that really matters.
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