Don’t judge this book by its cover.
John Cassaday’s cover is fine — typical Cassaday quality, even if Agent Brand looks unusually short — but the tone of the debut issue of “S.W.O.R.D.” is completely different on the inside than it is on the outside. Cassaday’s cover would have you believe that this is some kind of serious super-agents in space kind of comic, when it’s actually a goofy romp that’s closer to Dan Slott’s late “She-Hulk” than it is Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors.”
Which is all well and good, and Kieron Gillen makes the humor work in concert with the drama, but it’s not what you might expect.
It doesn’t help that artist Steven Sanders hams it up as often as possible, throwing wild gesticulations on almost every page, whether it’s Agent Brand yelling at newly-appointed “co-commander” Gyrich, Agent Brand storming past the Beast carrying a muffin tray, or Agent Brand yelling into her headset.
And that muffin tray of the Beast’s plays no small role in this first issue, just to give you an idea of the hijinx involved. But it’s really the artistic choices of Sanders that hurt this story, choices in which he seemingly bases the frantic mannerisms of Brand on the cartoonish stylings of Cathy Guisewite and draws the Beast to look much more like Oil Can Harry than the furry feline shown on the cover.
It’s a shame, too, because issue #1 features a short back-up tale drawn by long-time Gillen collaborator Jamie McKelvie, and McKelvie nails the understated but humorous tone on every page. He’d be a much better fit for the main story, honestly.
“S.W.O.R.D.” #1 is a lively opening issue, setting up a variety of conflicts in a comic book version of that Heather Locklear show about L.A.X. but in space, with super-heroes, and fondly-remembered Marvel U.K. bounty hunters. Gillen could have a lot of fun with this premise, and he seems to be setting things up well. And with less Sanders and more McKelvie, the comic just might work.