"A-Force" #4 gives readers the camaraderie, compassion and quips that they've come to love and expect from this series. From the mechanics of the plot to the jokes in the dialogue, Kelly Thompson and G. Willow Wilson's script stays deeply grounded in the characters' teamwork, and so each issue makes another, better argument for why the A-Force exists. Jorge Molina and Laura Martin provide expressive, lively pages, including a marvelous climactic fight. Though things wrap up a bit too neatly, "A-Force" #4 is a delight.
At its core, "A-Force" takes a back-to-basics approach to superhero teamwork. Medusa and She-Hulk may bicker over who's in charge, but the story is fundamentally about characters who are good at their jobs and support one other to defeat larger foes. Thompson and Wilson take the time to show the women addressing each other's trauma, advocating for each other's safety and recognizing each other's strengths. Dramatically, this takes the excitement out of the planning and strategizing scenes, as the reader knows they'll figure it out; emotionally, however, it invites the reader to invest and believe in this team. It's refreshing to read a superhero team this full of love.
However, the back-to-basics approach is also this series' recurring weakness. Most problems wrap up rather neatly and expectedly. Nico's multi-functional spells handle almost any contingencies. Most formulaically, Dazzler returns from the dead in this issue, in a truly stock example of the superhero death fake-out. I'd love to be just a bit more surprised in future issues. Since the team itself isn't a source of unexpected complications, Thompson and Wilson just need to throw a few more curveballs at the team from the villains.
Luckily, Jorge Molina injects even mundane scenes with plenty of life. He draws such strong, memorable facial expressions. Curious, irritated, relieved, self-satisfied -- he captures the team in all their varied emotions, and it transforms the dialogue. The way Dazzler rolls her eyes back and juts out her chin as she says, "I think you're BOTH pretty bossy" takes that line from a chuckle to a laugh. Molina is excellent at reinforcing the tone and delivery of the dialogue, so that I got an even stronger sense of these characters as people.
Admittedly, some of the layouts feel cluttered or jumpy. The pages immediately before and after Antimatter explodes don't move smoothly, and -- while they're readable -- the clunkiness took me out of the story. However, the other pages on the moon are exhilarating. Molina captures the velocity, force and scale of all the action, and it's easy to see how the members of A-Force work off each other.
Colorist Laura Martin gets a fair amount of credit for this. Her palette for the moon battle is just ludicrously pretty, with Antimatter's swirling reds and pinks standing out against the Moon's starry, deep blue skies. She has a keen sense for when to get dramatic and when to scale things back, and she repeatedly brings out the warmth in Molina's lines.
In sum, "A-Force" #4 is a solid, rewarding read that makes me laugh and leaves me feeling warm. I can't wait to see what issue #5 brings.