A-Force #3

"A-Force" continues to move slowly, leaning on the likeability of its cast and novelty of its world to compensate for the pacing. There's heart and drama aplenty in Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson's script, and inkers Jorge Molina and Craig Yeung craft rousing action sequences, but this series feels burdened rather than freed by its "Secret Wars" origin. Though issue #3 has the strongest reveals and developments yet, "A-Force" needs a touch more momentum in the coming issues.

Whatever else, Bennett and Wilson create a great team dynamic. Though few of the team members get a great deal of page time, they do feel fleshed out, as if they've got plenty going on off-panel. However, I can't quite tell whose story this is. At times, it seems to be She-Hulk's; at other points, it's more like Nico's. Now, there doesn't necessarily need to be a "hero" or main character, particularly in a team book, but -- when "A-Force" also has multiple storylines and no central conflict -- it makes the book feel slower. Big reveals and events read more like treading water than they should. Issue #3 does most of the work toward solving this issue, establishing the central problem of a traitor in Arcadia and tying that to Nico's new friend, but it will need to move those plots forward decisively in issue #4.

Plot aside, as with all of the "Secret Wars" tie-ins, part of the fun is seeing the alternate-universe versions of the characters. There's no small pleasure in watching the Sif, Valkyrie and Gamora Thors smash their hammers and swing their swords against the A-Force, and Molina and Yeung draw them with old-school superhero heft.

Molina and Yeung clearly know the detailed, strongly defined visual language of traditional superhero comics. Their splash pages really do make a splash, from Gamora's thunderous landing in Arcadia to the last-ditch, arms-flung-wide escape effort on the last page. That these powerful images are paired with small cries like "Hide," and measured reflections like, "By little things, we lose empires" only makes them more striking. Letterer Cory Petit even keeps the captions and word bubbles small, so that the reader feels the heft of surrounding image.

Even outside of the splash pages, Molina and Yeung excel in capturing weight and confidence. The issue's punches, face-smashes and lightning cracks all have momentum behind them. Colorist Laura Martin adds to the excitement with emphatically colored backgrounds and cityscapes where the colors match the linework detail for detail. However, there are a few awkward moments. In some panels, the Thors hold their swords at unnatural, un-athletic angles, and the characters' runs and jogs often feel static. These are small missteps, but they did take some of the oomph from the big fights.

Altogether, "A-Force" still has a lot going for it, but the pacing is compounding the problems of its large cast. Luckily, issue #3 takes many of the necessary steps for ramping the pace back up, and I'm optimistic for issue #4.

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