Monday, August 15, 2016

MARVEL TEAM-UP #15 & 16 (2006)

"League of Losers" 
WRITER: Robert Kirkman
PENCILS: Paco Medina
INKS: Juan Ulasco
COLORS: Marte Garcia (Studio F)
LETTERS:  Rus Wooton (VC)

(part 1)
SYNOPSIS:  At Avengers Headquarters in Manhattan, everything is all peaceful on a sunshine-filled afternoon.
That is until the top half of the tower explodes.  We then see a mysterious villain (who looks like a Kirby's Fourth World fanboy) astride a floating disk, gloating about the destruction.  Chronok, as he is called, gets updates from a subordinate about the multitude of superheroes who have been systematically eliminated in the first strike--Daredevil, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four and multiple X-Men.  Even the Hulk and with this explosion the core members of the Avengers.  Chronok's forces have been thorough.

As Chronok sifts through the debris he hefts Captain America's shield, fulfilling now two of his childhood dreams in one day.  He sends out the order to eliminate all possible resistance, especially from known superheroes.

Cut to Peter Parker and Mary Jane attempting to escape Chronok's forces.  Peter ditches MJ in an alley in an attempt to save her while he takes to action as Spider-Man.  His heroics are shortlived.  Elsewhere Speedball in bouncing around trying to get away from the soldiers.  He manages to duck into an apartment building while the two soldiers discuss not recognizing him from their files.

An attack on the lab of Henry Pym makes quick work of Yelloowjacket and Wasp.  Meanwhile in Harlem, the attacks have been begun on Luke Cage.  The soldiers attempt to melt Luke's unbreakable skin.  A new hero calling himself Gravity leaps into the fray, trying his best to save Luke.  The two heroes manage to knock out the bad guys, but not in time to save Luke's life.

Across the country in Los Angeles, Chronok's visage appears on a television screen.  He addresses the country, letting them know that he is taking control of things and declaring himself ruler.  Nearly all possible superheroic resistance has been eliminated and the rest are in the process of being killed.  One bystander, Chris Powell, bolts from the scene saying that he has to warn Excelsior.  Grabbing his power amulet he transforms into the superhero Darkhawk and takes to the skies.  He quickly finds Excelsior HQ under attack from Chronok's men with fellow hero Ricochet trying to fight them off.  He informs Darkhawk that all others are dead just as he too takes a fatal blow.  Darkhawk escapes but the men are reluctant to pursue as Darkhawk isn't on their list.  However, the take off after him.

A laser blast sends Darkhawk crashing into an alley.  He takes to opportunity to change back to Chris (which heals his Darkhawk persona) and allows him to go incognito, as the men do not have records of Chris Powell.  Chris decides he has to somehow sneak away and get to New York.

(part 2)
Open on a close-up of Terror Inc exclaiming that this whole situation will be bad for business.
As we pan out we see that he is in a alley with Speedball and Gravity behind him.  Terror is very reluctant to help the situation as he isn't a superhero, but events lead him into the fray with the others.  Araña and X-23 both leap into action as well, with Terror getting a blast through the torso while the others talk.  Sleepwalker appears overhead while Terror says he aims to collect a new torso from Chronok's men.  Darkhawk and Dagger also join the group, with Darkhawk quickly assuming the role of leader.

In what appears to Times Square, the assembled group is surrounded by Chronok's men.  The situation looks hopeless, but for some reason they have all stopped firing.  Chronok appears, still holding Cap's shield, and informs the group that they are the last. Every one else is dead.  He has won.

Chronok takes the opportunity to gloat and monologue about his grand plan of coming back from the future to kill all of history's great heroes.  However, mid-monologue Terror takes the chance to try and put a bullet through Chronok's skull.  The bullet bounces off a metal plate, but is enough to enrage the despot.  In the ensuing fray, Darkhawk is again the defacto leader.  Gravity takes a hit and Terror loses an arm.  As the heroes attempt to flee, Cap's shield flies into Darkhawk's head shortly before Chronok slams into the hero.  Before the two can throw down, Speedball slams into Chronok, giving the group enough time to follow Dagger's lead into the sewers.  Chronok discourages pursuit and instead says they should send something called the Seeker.

A small robot comes down the manhole after them.  As they take off running, the device explodes.  Poor Araña is caught in the blast with only her right arm surviving (something that Terror puts to quick use to replace his missing limb, much to the disgust of the others).
 The assembled heroes take a few moments to all break down from the stress.  Darkhawk tries to help them keep composure and Speedball suddenly remembers that he managed to snag Chronok's time travel device during their early clash.  They take the initiative and decide to travel forward to Chronok's era in an attempt to stop him before he can come back.

Crawling out of the sewer after their trip they nearly cause a car wreck.  However, that isn't the thing they need to pay attention to.  A costumed man wearing mask informs the group that in about two minutes Sentinels will be all over the place so they can stick around or follow him to safety.

MY THOUGHTS:  OK, about a way to revisit a lot of 90's characters about a decade later, eh?  As many of you may or may not know, this is an assembled group from across about three decades of Marvel history.  Dagger (along with Cloak) were a niche market from the 80's into the 90's.  Darkhawk and Sleepwalker each had their own series in the 90's and Speedball was a constant among the New Warriors.  Araña showed up the early 00's, as well as X-23.  What do all the characters have in common?  They are all relatively c-list characters (and this is from a guy who loved Darkhawk back in the day).  Hence the title, League of Losers.  Essentially "What happens when only the last-picks are left?"

So, for the story itself, I actually like it overall.  I bought this four-part story as singles off the shelf.  Luckily I got the first two parts at the same time.  If I had just bought the first one and not the other I would have dropped it immediately because NEXT TO NOTHING HAPPENS in the first part.  It establishes the premise, that's all well and good.  Even for hardcore Darkhawk fans (all five of us) that issue doesn't fulfill the promise the cover attempts to provide.

So what about the plot?  It's good once it finally gets moving.  This is like a movie that is slow for the first 30 minutes and you have to wait for act two to get interested in anything.  If you weren't a fan of the characters before, there's a good chance this will be a total yawnfest for you to read.  However, if you had any sort of passing fancy for any of the assembled group you might find this to your interest.  The characterizations are pretty spot-on.  Can't say I'm a fan of Chris's trenchcoat, but we can discuss art later.  I do like the idea that he has apparently aged slightly since his old series and has matured enough to step into the leader role fairly easily.  Most of these characters were not known for being part of a team, so it's nice to see them work together in a group dynamic.

Really I think this would make a great 45 minute DVD feature.  It's full of action, witty banter and heroics by heroes who normally get shifted into the background.  Would it be a big seller? No.  Would it be fun? Sure!

OK, so let's look at the art.  It takes a while to finally get on model for these characters.  Darkhawk never fully looks like his 90's self, which he had been known for his costume changing from time to time as part of the story, etc.  However, the first issue is entirely inconsistent with how his cableclaw works and how it looks.  Honestly, I'm surprised his powers are even shown correctly (or anybody else's for that matter).  Everybody looks just slightly off what they normally should.  Bodies appear too bulky or too lean more often than not.  Chronok looks like if the Wrecker and Stompa got together in a Marvel/DC crossover and the child was raised on Apokalips.  I just...I can't.  He really feels like he's auditioning for "Kirby'sFourth World vs Marvel U."

The backgrounds, the technology and the explosions look nice, so I guess Michael Bay would approve.  So there's that.  Take it as you will.

I suppose I am being a little too harsh.  I mean the art's not too bad for an early-2000's Marvel story.  I just think a little bit of research or character modeling should have been provided to the art team before things got dealt with.  It's passable, but I find myself preferring the original 90's versions of most of the characters, and not just for nostalgia's sake.

Overall, this is pretty fun.  If you can read it on Marvel Unlimited, find it in the cheap bins or something, go for it, especially if you are fans of any of the team (except poor Araña).  Things get better in the following two issues as Chris steps firmly into his leadership role and develops a slight romance with Dagger.  As much as there is a team dynamic, it clearly becomes a Darkhawk story with Gravity also getting some decent character development.  As I said, fun but don't expect it to be one for the ages.

No comments:

Post a Comment