The Union #1 Review

by Charles Martin on December 02, 2020

The Union #1 Review
Writer: Paul Grist
Pencillers: Andrea Di Vito w/ Paul Grist
Inkers: Drew Geraci & Le Beau Underwood w/ Paul Grist
Colourist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Union is a synthetic superhero team, created to defend the United Kingdom by an executive order from 10 Downing Street. The roster: Britannia, Kelpie, The Choir, Snakes, and Union Jack in an adjunct "drill sergeant" role.

Each character is supposed to represent one of the UK's kingdoms (with Britannia embodying the union as a whole), but this issue doesn't quite get around to tying those links. Wikipedia can clarify things for you if you develop a sudden passion for this team. 

I believe such a development is unlikely based on the content that gets onto the pages, though. The Union is introduced with thoroughly competent but cold storytelling. 

This issue covers media reactions to the team, friction with their zillionaire funder Steve Darwin, a "capture the flag" training exercise, and the Everything Is Different Now™ arrival of one of Knull's symbiote dragons.

What's missing from that menu? Any insight into the new heroes. Their character is barely hinted at -- they're all positioned as edgy antihero types who have to be restrained from causing civilian casualties. But this outsider portrayal of the new heroes is unfair and limited, seemingly crafted with the intent to discourage reader-character connection.

Even the training exercise is bent away from the Union, casting Union Jack as the protagonist and the main team members as his mostly-off-page adversaries.

I admit, the chilly presentation may be part of a bigger-picture scheme. This issue includes a main-team fatality, which suggests we may be slated for a "nobody gets out alive" miniseries.

Barring its resounding failure to make the characters endearing, Paul Grist's script is a finely-tuned storytelling machine. The pace is excellent, the prose is solid, and the dialogue sounds like actual words people would speak.

But the writing is as cool on social commentary as it is on characterization. Although the Union is formed to address the UK's contemporary challenges, the script aggressively refuses to bring up real-world problems (e.g. Brexit or COVID). All that we get are a few vague odes to Britons' "keep calm and carry on" resolve. 

On the artistic front, the Union is well-served with a solid helping of mainstream superhero art. Characters and settings are fully detailed, and the panels are well-blocked for smooth storytelling. Nolan Woodard delivers a bright palette that fully embodies a sunny day on the shores of England.

Distinctive looks may be the Union's strong suit so far. The characters are visually interesting even if the script shortchanges them on characterization. These are characters we want to get to know; it's very frustrating that this issue seems to intentionally thwart that goal.

The Union #1 is a talented but distant introduction to a new superhero team. Outstanding art sets the new heroes up as fascinating characters, but the script -- although well-written -- seems perversely determined to avoid fleshing them out. With casualties already mounting, it's unlikely that the Union will stick around long enough to endear itself to readers.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
If Kelpie can develop a personality beyond "wants to kill random dudes with weaponized water," I may become a fan.