As a whole host of new threats rise across the Marvel Universe baffling even the Avengers, Marvel's latest team, Strikeforce is formed in the shadows as a more lethally proactive alternative to Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The opening issue to the new series, by Tini Howard and German Peralta, quickly assembles its roster in an uneven debut that feels both rushed, out-of-character at times, and overly heavy on expository dialogue as the fledgling ensemble attempts to layout their mission statement within the larger Marvel Universe.
Opening with a top-secret facility containing the world's most dangerous viruses and pathogens being attacked by unseen forces, the Avengers quickly leap into action, discovering the facility in complete disarray, with the new team seemingly responsible. Held in custody, the team gains a leader in Blade who shares with them an unsettling encounter from years past that has implications for the present. Faced with this revelation, the unlikely ensemble is brought together to face the evil on the other side of the world, with horrifically supernatural elements as the team brings its no-holds-barred approach to dispensing justice with extreme prejudice.
There are leaps of logic and inconsistent characterizations that are painfully apparent from the opening pages of this issue. Stilted dialogue runs throughout and numerous attempts at humor come off as ill-timed or just plain not funny. Prominent characters like Black Panther and Bucky Barnes both behave out of character while other figures throughout the story either have their dialogue and actions interchanged with one another with little consequence or come off as paper-thin depictions of themselves. The inciting incident reads like a thinly veiled excuse to bring these characters together under Blade's purview, and then quickly dismissed as the issue begins to pick up momentum at the expense of character and reason.
Howard is no stranger to telling stories within the heart of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of its more lethal heroes, including Thanos and Gamora in her recent -- and excellent -- Thanos miniseries on the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe but here, her writing comes off as a little more forced and rushed, awkwardly thrown together in medias res and moving forward even more clumsily as Blade takes the helm to combat a resurgent threat. There's also little rhyme or reason given as to why they are coming together: Why should an evil that frightens Blade so much should be kept a secret from the rest of his teammates on the Avengers? And yet, the issue is also overburdened with dialogue on virtually every page, throwing off the pacing and action.
Peralta's work here, joined by color artist Jordie Bellaire, excels more in the rendering of the various teams rather than the action itself, which has a tendency of being overly repetitive in this opening issue -- there are a lot of nameless enemies that are effortlessly bisected by Blade and the other heroes which can grow tedious rather quickly. And with many of the settings in this inaugural issue shrouded in darkness, Peralta's visuals focus more on the foreground, with only the occasional glimpse at the wider environments throughout the issue.
Uneven, inconsistent and clumsily handled, the opening issue of Strikeforce is off to a rough start, made all the more frustrating by the level of talent and fan-favorite characters involved. Though rushed and awkward in its execution, hopefully the pacing and characterizations will level out as the series continues but, as far as first impressions go, this title has stumbled out of the gate.