The second issue of “Battle Scars” rectifies one of the bigger mistakes committed in the first, giving Marcus Johnson more of a driving role in the events around him. In the first issue, he was mainly swept up in events beyond his control. Here, we get to see him in action, and it turns out he’s good. Perhaps a little too good.
The problem here is that tasked with making Marcus Johnson impress us, the writing team has accidentally made everyone around him look incompetent. I can buy the likes of Captain America or the Taskmaster breaking out of a SHIELD facility single-handedly, but Marcus Johnson is (we’re led to believe) an ordinary man. Unless there’s an explanation coming for his abilities — one that goes beyond “army training” — it’s tough to swallow him beating four armed SHIELD agents in a fair fight when nothing he does is unexpected or unusual.
It seems probable that Johnson is going to turn out to be the son of a major Marvel character. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably Nick Fury, given the character’s conspicuous absence amidst a line-up that otherwise represents SHIELD’s finest. We can speculate on what Marvel’s plans might be, but at this point, I don’t feel ready to accept the character as the hyper-important individual he’s being cast as.
It’s probably because the series is trying far too hard to convince us. We’re being told he’s important to people we like. We’re being shown that he’s an inexplicably good fighter. But still, he hasn’t done anything heroic or interesting that makes me think I want to read more about him. His importance still feels artificial. At this point, the truth about his nature is the only interesting part of the character, and this story seems designed to tease that as long as possible. So why shouldn’t we just come back in issue #5 or #6? There’s no real answer that I can see.
Also, on a purely technical level, it’s a shame that the writer teased the appointment of “The Mercenary” only for the final page to reveal Deadpool on the cover of the next issue. That’s that twist blown, then. It’s a small detail, but it’s the kind of disharmony that can frustrate readers. I appreciate the need to promote Deadpool’s appearance in issue #3, but in that case, why leave Yost to set it up as a mystery, even one as small as this? By all means telegraph it! Shout it from the hills, if you can. But don’t be coy about it if you’re not going to follow through.
In terms of the book’s components, there’s no major failing of the writing and art. It reads fine and looks great, especially during action sequences. There’s just nothing to the story beyond the question “What’s so special about Marcus Johnson?” and the crushing inevitability that we won’t find out for another few months. I appreciate a good mystery, but a book needs more than that, and in the end, I’m not sure this has anything else going on.