There’s been so much chatter and criticism thrown in the way of A-Force prior to its release that I was curious about what I’d find when picking up the first issue. The detractors didn’t bother me (I’m not going to delve into the Jill Lepore thing, because even before I read the comic, it was clear her article is woefully misinformed), and all of the internet noise didn’t shake the very likely probability I would enjoy the book. If I had any concerns at all, it was over the weird-sounding title, so if that was my worst fear, then I had no real fears at all and every expectation I’d fall in love by the end of issue #1.
Except that I bought it on Wednesday and read it, and I’m left feeling let down despite the fact the issue checks every one of my boxes.
- The premise has great potential, with a female-only team of heroes serving as the protectors of their corner of Battleworld.
- It stars characters I care about, with She-Hulk leading the team, Captain Marvel kicking butt, a spotlight on the often overlooked Miss America, and even includes the amazingness that is femme Loki (so hot).
- The writing from Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson is solid and fun—they deliver exactly what I would expect and want from them, including some great lines (e.g., when describing Miss America: “She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’ll punch you in the face”).
- The art is flat-out beautiful—I didn’t even realize it was Jorge Molina doing the pencils until I went back just now to look at the creator credits, and as usual, his work is a delight.
So, what’s the problem?
It hit me fairly immediately that it’s just not enough story for one issue. I dislike feeling as though I’ve absolutely flown through a comic, especially one I'd been looking forward to for so long and is well-executed. Let me assure you, I am not a fast reader when it comes to comics—I am deliberate in taking my time, making sure I absorb the artwork and enjoy the experience of words plus illustration. Yet I read this book in under a minute.
It's a four dollar title.
I hate using the word "decompressed," and really that’s not even fair because this has only been one issue and I have no idea how meaty the remaining parts of the narrative will be, yet ... that.
Because again: four dollar book.
I’m going to compare this to another $3.99 book I read immediately following A-Force, which was Silk. I went into Silk with minor expectations—in fact, I wasn’t planning on buying the title at all.
What got me to pick it up was my realization that Black Cat is in the first story arc, and I love my Black Cat (even despite her current inexplicable mischaracterization and depressing, far-fetched, unbelievable, utterly contrived turn to villainy). So I bought the first three issues, and wow, we need to talk about this. We need to talk about how funny, adorable, and entertaining this title is, because I’m getting something completely outside of what I signed up for. I came on board for Black Cat, but I’m LOVING Cindy Moon. That’s a little difficult for me to admit, because reading her in her first few issues of Amazing Spider-Man was a turn-off—she didn’t grab me, and I’m just immediately skeptical about introducing yet another love interest for Spider-Man. I was so prepared to hate her, but damn. Under the hands of Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee—neither of whom I was familiar with prior to this (apparently I’ve been living under a rock, but they’ve swiftly won my heart)—Cindy is smart, witty, likeable, and FUN. What’s more, there’s a good chunk of story in each of her three issues. Her book is fulfilling. It satiated me when I read it, and I was acutely aware of the contrast in how I felt after reading this comic compared to A-Force. And when I noticed they were both priced the same, I felt a little cheated.
Is it reasonable or fair to expect the same quality of content from every book? I could safely argue both yes and no. But all of this had me wondering: are there any books still priced at $2.99? It struck me that I actually haven’t been paying attention, so I did a quick bit of research. Saga, Hawkeye, Lazarus, Ms. Marvel—these are a small sample of some quality, story-packed books you can still buy for three dollars. And when you look at a case as dense as Lazarus—that’s significant substance you’re getting for a short price.
Obviously, I am only scratching the surface of what is a much larger issue here. There are many factors that go into the price point of a book, of which we could dissect the ins and outs for a while. But I thought it worth noting just how different two books of the same cost can hit you as a reader as it relates to the larger issue of a comic books’ worth—the kind of worth that can’t be measured. The kind that rests in our hearts as readers.
A-Force. I still dislike that name, but with more issues on the way, hopefully I won’t dislike the title.