Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Force Works #17

Force Works #17, "Cybermancy!" Cover Date November 1995
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Pencils by Jim Cheung, Inks by Rey Garcia

Force Works 17 Cover

We begin this issue, as you'd expect, in the "Dong Nai" Province of "Viet Nam," where a few teenage boys ride their bikes. The narration spotlights "Kim," apparently "the greatest kite-maker in the world," although it's not clear if that's an official title. Kim is described as "16 years young," with his raybans and his "mountain cascade chuckle." How does this kid afford raybans? We'll never know, as his bike-assisted kite-flying gets too close to a strange monk, who tries to tackle him, but in the confusion, both the monk and Kim disappear, leaving only the kite. Kim's friends find the kite, but have no memory of their amazing kite-making friend ever existing.

Force Works 17 Kite
What's a "mountain cascade chuckle" even sound like? Do teenage boys even chuckle?

In California, newcomer Cybermancer is training against Iron Man and U.S. Agent. Agent creepily calls her "sweetmeat," but she blasts him with his own energy shield. He tries to sneak up on her, but she blasts him again, killing him. At this point the real U.S. Agent shows up, and is understandably annoyed that someone is killing hologram doubles of him, and that people have programmed his double to be a lecherous creep. Iron Man explains that Cybermancer (Suzie Endo, of recent Force Works and Iron Man issues) is here to replace Century while that guy is in space. Scarlet Witch appears, asking if Iron Man has any more surprises for them.

The team assembles in a meeting room where Iron Man announces Cybermancer joining the team, which other members balk at. Moonraker points out it took two months for him to become a full member (is this a lie or does he believe it?). Iron Man explains the reason for this... there's been two murders at Avengers Mansion, and surveillance footage has identified... Hawkeye! Iron Man wants to track Hawkeye down and get to the bottom of this, but Scarlet Witch says she doesn't believe it. She volunteers to send U.S. Agent in to meet with Hawkeye and see if he's willing to turn himself in. Iron Man reluctantly agrees.

Force Works 17 Hawkeye U.S. Agent
The silliest part of 90's costumes might be the chin strap. Gotta hide that cleft to protect your identity!

At a bar in San Diego, Hawkeye is playing pool when U.S. Agent, in costume but wearing a bomber jacket, comes in. Agent explains that there have been two murders, and word is it's Hawkeye. Hawkeye's so shocked he misses his shot! Agent says he doesn't believe Hawkeye's guilty, but that they need to sort it out. They don't get any further when Iron Man appears, ignoring the plan. Hawkeye responds by smashing the pool cue over Agent's head and running off. Cybermancer cuts him off though, easily knocking him out with a blast of... electricity? I don't know what her powers are. Is she some kind of web 2.0 Scarlet Witch?

Force Works 17 Vietnam Viet Nam Scarlet Witch Spider-Woman Iron Man
"The What-nam" war?! Never heard of it..."

Back at the Forge, Moonraker appears to be in a trance, as he starts shouting nonsense while at a control center. Julie Carpenter's daughter Rachel sees his freak-out, and runs off, wondering why nobody believes that this guy just popped up a few days ago and has history with all of them. Wanda sees Agent come back in a sour mood, and sees Iron Man wheeling in an unconscious Hawkeye. Suzie explains she stunned him with a "synaptic disruptor." Iron Man justifies himself by saying Hawkeye tried to run, and Scarlet Witch flips out and says Tony's off the team. They're told by Plato (their AI) that Moonraker has collapsed, and continue to bicker as they check up on him. As the team finds Moonraker, he explains that there's a big gaping hole in Southeast Asia. The country of "Viet Nam" has... disappeared! Hilariously, the rest of the team doesn't remember "Viet Nam" ever existing. Now you know how it feels, Moonraker! The team splits up, with Wanda, Spider-Woman and Moonraker heading to "Viet where?" as Iron Man puts it. Iron Man decides to report back to the Avengers, as Scarlet Witch simmers at him. I don't think she should get to throw too many stones after her behavior awful characterization by John Byrne a few years earlier. U.S. Agent sits at Hawkeye's bed, and when Cybermancer comes in to presumably apologize, he just shouts "Get out!" at her until she leaves.

On their hex ship, the team is over Cambodia when they see an energy bubble. Going through it, they lose control, as thousands of black creatures fill the sky. To be continued!


Kind of an odd time to introduce another new character, albeit one that actually has appeared as a civilian before, as Cybermancer doesn't get much time to shine- it's odd that the issue's named after her, since she doesn't do much or get much focus. Instead, the focus is on Iron Man apparently making a full heel turn, as we get another new subplot involving "Viet Nam" disappearing. I have no idea why editorial is spelling it that way, either. I guess to be slightly more politically correct, since the Vietnamese spelling has two words? After being confused and still basically good in Iron Man, it's jarring that D&A are writing him as completely evil. Everyone's too big a jerk to even try to talk things out, but considering U.S. Agent, Hawkeye, and Iron Man are three of the biggest jerks in Avengers history, that actually makes sense. I did think it was weird that Agent is the one that gets sent in to talk Hawkeye down, considering Wanda and Hawkeye joined the Avengers together, have known each other far longer, and Hawkeye had a huge crush on her until she married a robot. The scene in Vietnam is really bizarre, in part because the narration insists that this is a 16 year old, but Cheung's art would seem to indicate we're dealing with a 12-13 year old at most. I guess maybe some Vietnamese kids don't hit puberty until 16?

Cheung's art is still very lively, as he draws a lot of action despite not a lot of actual plot development occurring. Sometimes on wide shot scenes he doesn't draw faces on characters, but I think I'll blame the inkers and everyone else for that occasionally looking bad.

One of the best parts about reading comics during this time period is how fresh all this feels. There really is a sense of this being the end for Iron Man's relationship with the team, and we've had two new characters in two issues. I've always thought that comic company's incessant focus on ideas that have never worked is a stupid idea, so I'm all for trying new things. I mean obviously Moonraker and Cybermancer aren't home runs, but they're new, and they help to keep things fresh.

Of course, as far as the Crossing story, there's some indication that what's going on in Viet Nam might relate to this storyline. And considering there's exactly one Vietnamese Avenger in the team's history, fans had to be cringing in anticipation of hearing Mantis call herself "this one." Serious question: had anyone other than Steve Englehart ever written Mantis into a story before this?

90's Fashion: Cybermancer wears a purple outfit with what looks like silver armor over parts of it, including silver boots with articulating knee pads so she looks like an action figure. Her most prominent feature is a Star Trek style visor that covers her eyes completely. Presumably so she can see all the invisible bits and bytes floating around.

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