Strikeforce #1 Review

by Charles Martin on September 25, 2019

Strikeforce #1 Review
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Germán Peralta
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer/Designer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

This is a pretty challenging comic. Right off the bat, it introduces its oddball team through an unusual structure. For the first third of the issue, this is essentially an Avengers story, with the nascent Strikeforce arriving as potential adversaries.

It's a crazy piece of plotting; crazy like a fox. This external introduction to the team is a perfect piece of alienation. It foreshadows the paranoia to come and emphasizes that this will be a story where nobody can be trusted.

Blade serves as the clued-in driving force that takes the team -- Angela, Spectrum, Spider-Woman, Wiccan and Winter Soldier -- in hand. He has some experience with the real antagonists. Angela has a share of knowledge, too, which is why she slots in as the secondary protagonist for this issue.

I don't want to spoil too much about the adversaries, both because the learning process is thrilling and because Tini Howard hasn't revealed too much yet. 

The bad guys are imposters. They're interested in disease, corruption, and infection. And beyond literal and metaphorical plague issues, they are memetically infectious. (If you're a big fan of the SCP Foundation, this is exactly the Marvel horror comic you've been waiting for.)

The idea of them is as dangerous as their presence; that's why Blade sharply cuts the Strikeforce away from the Avengers. To let characters like Black Panther and Iron Man know about these antagonists would cause more problems than their help could solve.

On the visual front, Germán Peralta does a praiseworthy job juggling a huge cast through a lot of diverse settings. The heroes are uniformly recognizable and sympathetic; the places and actions around them grow steadily creepier as they learn more.

This is a pretty violent comic, with effective combat moves tending toward chopping baddies up into small, bloody pieces. Mr. Peralta doesn't shirk from showing gore, but he doesn't revel in it, either. The nastiest spectacles are artfully hidden, lurking in reflections and backgrounds where they can send a shiver down the spine of the attentive reader.

Jordie Bellaire's colours play a big part in making the visuals so gloriously nasty. She slowly ratchets up the lurid end of the spectrum as the story evolves, filling the pages up with unhealthy purples, ominous reds, and undead blues. Her palette also adds finesse to the point-of-view trick played at the start of the book; the shift from shiny-happy Avengers story to creepy horror tale is clear in the colours.

Tini Howard's script would be doing a powerful service if all it did was introduce these wonderfully creepy new villains. But it does considerably more. It has a masterful grasp of the cast, and though there's not space to give everybody a spotlight moment, the fast character work that does come through is entirely encouraging. It seems certain that future issues will be able to show off other team members just as well as this one focuses on Blade and Angela.

The most obvious strings tying individual Strikeforce members to the new threat are already artfully plucked. Spider-Woman and Wiccan have clear connections. What about Bucky and Monica? It'll be a blast finding out how they're linked.

Strikeforce is also shaping up into a very dense comic, in the best possible way. It's not all head-twisting horror, either. Keep your eyes peeled for Spectrum beating Winter Soldier at flick football (via superpower cheating!) while the team is in Avengers custody.

Strikeforce #1 is clever, complicated, and challenging. It's also a rip-roaring "heroes taking care of business" yarn. But it quickly establishes some deadly tension between its straightforward heroics and its new villains with their more "existential horror" focus. This introduction promises things are gonna get Weird in the best possible way.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I have to love a comic that uses a flashback to put Blade in his Super 70s OG costume.