By issue #5, "A-Force" has gone through an almost complete creator shuffle (with letterer Cory Petit last man standing). After co-writing several of the previous issues, Kelly Thompson takes over as sole writer of the title, while Ben Caldwell and Ian Herring step in on art and colors. As the book enters its second story arc, this new team proves the title is in capable hands and hits the ground running.
"A-Force" #5 brings the team to Astoria, Oregon in an attempt to track down another otherworldly invader that Singularity detects. What we quickly get is an encounter not only with a massive dragon called the Countess, but a member of the legion of Thors from "Secret Wars": an alternate universe Dazzler. Even though the team is able to temporarily defeat the Countess when her guard is lowered, a counter-attack threatens to wipe out the entire team.
Thompson's "A-Force" features a team of characters who clearly get along and like each other; they feel very chummy even when they argue, the way friends often do. When we see these characters bonding, it comes across as incredibly natural. The exchange between She-Hulk and Dazzler Thor, which jumps in time about an hour, connects because of what we do see; these are characters who you believe would get along.
Thompson also makes sure to find something for all the characters to do. While not everyone can have a central role in the action, those who aren't in the spotlight always get some dialogue and contribute in some way to the overall story. The two Dazzlers talking is one of the high points of the book, though; not only for how it raises the issue of what it would be like to encounter a very-different-yet-similar version of yourself from another universe, but also in how Thompson shows some of the fears our Dazzler is experiencing. I also appreciate how, just when you think everything is calm, disaster strikes, and it does so by using someone who wasn't front-and-center as a target. It's a surprise, but in a good way.
Caldwell's art looks great here; the redesigns of Dazzler and Nico both come across well (and, in the case of Dazzler, sorely needed). Dazzler Thor is simultaneously very recognizable, yet just different enough that you can see the work put into the character design. The best visual moment in "A-Force" #5, though, is seeing the Countess stretch across a double page spread. Just looking at the Countess is amazing, with the way her serpentine body ripples and twists through the air. The way her scales slide past one another comes across great, and that fearsome look in her eyes (aided by some strong coloring from Herring) is daunting. Once you see just how large the Countess, her body coiled around the bridge and dwarfing the buildings by the Columbia River, the image shifts from incredible to breathtaking. There are a few nitpicks here and there -- the moment where the Countess vanishes is told rather than shown to us, and some stretches of the book are missing backgrounds -- but, on the whole, this is a very attractive comic with great expressions and a good sense of action.
If "A-Force" #5 is any indication, the series is in good hands. Thompson, Caldwell and Herring's first issue together is fun and exciting, even as there are strong character and plot hooks to keep readers coming back for more. I'm firmly on board.