A-Force #2

In "A-Force" #2, A-Force is still reeling from the aftermath of their debut as they try to recover from the actions that led to one of their number being exiled to a life on the Shield. Alongside artist Jorge Molina, writers Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson open up the issue with a mysterious deep sea portal in addition to the appearance of the nebula-shrouded girl.

Alternating calamity with character development, Bennett and Wilson touch base with many of Arcadia's femme fighting force, but Nico Minoru claims a larger share of the spotlight. Nico rebounds nicely from Miss America's exile, thanks mostly to her taking the mystery character under her wing.

To explain, the mystery character is visible and concrete, but she doesn't speak, doesn't have a name and, apparently, brings trouble with her. The members of A-Force are quick to pin the portals on her, others are skeptical of her innocence, but Nico -- stinging from the loss of her friend -- latches on tightly and is thereby defined by Bennett and Wilson. Nico does what many readers would do (and more people should do): she presumes the best of this new person. Wilson and Bennett do a great job of using the circumstance to define Nico and, through that prism, define the other characters of A-Force.

Wilson and Bennett pack plenty of action into "A-Force" #2, from the undersea portal to an attacking Sentinel. The denizens of Arcadia, however, have no frame of reference to the Sentinel, which is clearly from another domain on Battleworld. That's all fine, but either the characters' perception of reality is starting to crack or someone has insight to the threats facing them, as the "unknown android" inexplicably is re-identified as a Sentinel later in the issue, without any prompt. This could be a creator error or a clue, but it certainly seems more the latter.

There is a shift in the art between inkers Craig Yeung and Walden Wong, with Yeung giving penciller Jorge Molina more open shapes on the characters and the backgrounds, while Wong brings his recognizable shading lines. Both inkers are well-suited to work with Molina, and only under scrutiny are their styles distinguishable in this issue. Molina's storytelling is crisp throughout the issue and several of his characters are downright iconic. His subtle adjustments to Dazzler and Nico's appearances are well-considered and smartly executed, displaying a knack for detail. Between the three of them, the expressions on the characters are as descriptive of the story as the flow of Molina's drawings, making this comic quite easily accessible.

Laura Martin's colors are on par with any "Avengers" or even "Young Avengers" palette, giving "A-Force" #2 a bright complexion. Martin's rendering of Dazzler's "sparkles" is fun and energetic, giving credence to the power of the mutant's sound-to-laser abilities. Letterer Cory Petit likewise uses masterful choices in applying his craft. More than once, Petit places a word balloon into the negative space around Molina's drawings; those choices add more impact to the words in the balloons, giving the dialogue equal emotion to match the art.

"A-Force" #2 appears to be a straightforward superheroine adventure on the surface but, as the pages turn, Bennett, Wilson, Molina, Yeung, Wong, Martin and Petit make it quite clear this isn't a straightforward anything. The mystery of the new arrival and whether or not the portals are hers would be enough but, embedded in the policies of Battleworld and the surrounding bureaucracy of it all, this story gets more personal. Easily dismissed as a gimmick, "A-Force" is anything but, packing in strong characters, smart characterization and wonderful artwork.

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